As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the
past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
- June 3, 2001:
Since I travel a lot for work, I've picked up some travel hints that I
thought I'd share with you. Some of them are obvious while some aren't.
- If there's a non-stop flight to your destination, take it. Every
plane change is an opportunity for the airlines to lose your
luggage. US Airways lost my luggage twice in a row when I was
going through Philadelphia to get to Minneapolis. I changed to
Northwest after that.
- Which reminds me: Philadelphia is a really bad place to make
connections. Most of my travel problems began or ended in
Philadelphia. Imagine landing on time and missing your connection
because there were no gates to let us off. Imagine getting off
a plane at the *end* of Terminal B and running to a plane at the
*end* of Terminal C. That's US Airways between Minneapolis and
Boston. And they close the doors to the jetway 10 minutes before
the scheduled take-off time.
- Pittsburgh is my favorite connection. That is a really nice airport
and it's a great place to go shopping while waiting for your flight.
- The airline clubs are a much better place to wait for your flight
than at the gate. Coffee and newspapers are free, and it's a lot
quieter. However, they haven't put in showers, as I suggested.
- The white hot chocolate at Caribou Coffee is a great reason to
make a connection in Minneapolis. Northwest has an annual special
where you fly to Minneapolis, get on a bus that takes you to the
Mall of America for a day of shopping, get on a bus back to the
airport and then fly home.
- The best benefit for flying on the same airline all the time?
Getting their "preferred status" at 25,000 air miles. You get to
check-in in the First Class line and you get on the plane first
so you get first dibs on storage space, AND they reserve the seats
up front for their preferred frequent fliers. I have Silver status
on US Airways and Northwest this year; I'm trying to see if I can
also get United, too. Northwest will bump you up at check-in if
you have Elite status and there's an open seat.
- Checking the airplane floor plans is not necessarily a crazy idea.
How else would you know that on a Northwest Boeing 757 the best
economy seat is Row 10 (physically behind Row 4 in First Class) and
that Row 12 is really bad (the lavatory is right behind you so the
seat doesn't recline). The rows in front of the emergency exit
over the wings do not recline.
- Check at the counter or the gate and ask for the exit row seat.
Those have extra legroom. Again, check the floor plan. If there's
a double exit, the seats in front don't recline. I don't like
bulkhead seats because there's no under-seat storage in front of
- If you don't have a connection and don't have a special status,
take a seat towards the back of the plane. Some people will dump their
luggage in the bins near the front if there's no room in the back.
Get on the plane before all the luggage space is gone.
- Take things you really need on the plane; don't check them. My
boss lost a box of presentation handouts on the way to a sales
presentation to a potential customer.
- I like aisle seats; it feels roomier. There's no one on one side
and there's also no wall. And you don't have obstacles on the way
to the lavatory.
- Bring all your mail with you. Do your bills while flying and read
all the magazines and catalogs on the flight. Leave behind anything
you don't want to keep. You might want to tear off address labels
so people won't know that you're on the road.
- Get on every possible airline frequent flyer plan. Even if you
don't get enough miles for a free flight, those miles are liabilities
for the airlines and they'll do whatever it takes to get those
liabilities off the books. Sometimes they offer free one-year
subscriptions to magazines. I'm receiving a lot of magazines
- Save your miles for long or expensive trips. Each mile is worth
about two cents to the airline and most domestic flights are
25,000 miles each. If the ticket is under $400-$500 dollars,
it might be worth saving those miles instead of using them for
- If you use a credit card alot, you should consider getting an
airline affinity card. Charge a ticket and you get miles for the
ticket and miles for flying. I like the irony of using my
airline-associated card to buy tickets on a rival airline.
If you charge less than $2,500 a year, it's probably not worth
getting the card (because you have to pay for it).
- Many of the newer airplanes have power ports, including the Boeing
737-800 and most of the planes from Airbus. Getting an airplane
power supply might be a good investment if you fly a lot (around
$100). I watch movies or play games on my laptop while flying,
not to mention working on this website.
- I like the Boeing 757 because it seems to have a good power-to-weight
ratio. I like to guess how little runway we'll need when flying
on that plane. If you've ever stared a 747 nose-to-nose, you'll
always wonder how that huge plane ever gets off the ground.
- United uses carry-on size regulators on their x-ray machines while
US Airways does not, to make sure your luggage will fit in the
overhead bin. We missed a flight to Hawaii because my boss's carry-on
was too packed (remember those handouts?) and extended out about
a half inch too much.
- Packing hangers in your suitcase is not a bad idea.
- A bunch of bean-counters must have planned the car rental places
at SFO (San Francisco) and MSP (Minneapolis). Who would put all
the rental car places in one building and have only one exit ramp?
Plan extra time when picking up a car in those places.
- There's absolutely nothing in Kokomo, Indiana.
- I heard they once closed the airport in Phoenix because the summer
heat made the runway too soft to land planes.
- Take the effort to write in to the airlines when things go wrong.
I've gotten plenty of vouchers and upgrades from US Airways for
the hassles I've gone through. I once got 2000 frequent flyers
miles for mentioning that my seat didn't recline on a cross-country
- If you have to fly for work, make the most of it and grab every
- June 10, 2001:
Today's advice is on personal computers. For some reason, some people
think that I know something about them and somehow manage to get me to
help fix them. If some of these people whom I've helped are any example,
some of you might be able to use this information.
Here are some suggestions for those who use MS/Intel types of machines.
- Understand how your computer works. I helped someone
clean up his computer by moving all of his data off his C: partition (about
1% space left) and onto his D: partition (completely empty). I also moved
a couple of applications over to free up some space, not to mention deleting
the desktop icon, so I could defrag the drive. He didn't know enough about
the computer to find the
data files or the applications in their new location.
- Don't be in a rush to upgrade to Windows Me; from what I've heard, many programs,
especially games, work better in Win98.
- I suggest at least two hard drives or partitions on your computer.
I try to dedicate
a separate ~4 Gigabyte drive just for the operating system and keep all
of my files and programs on another physical drive. Why? If I mess up
my drive and have to rebuild/reformat the system, I can wipe out Windows
and not affect my other files. While wiping out the operating system
messes up the registry and requires reinstalling the applications, this
technique protects your data. Since your data is in one place, it is also easier to
back up that data.
- Defrag your hard drives on a regular basis. This speeds up accessing
of your files on the computer. I use *three* partitions on my main computer:
one for Win98, one for data, and one for the applications. My data partition
is the one that needs to get defragged regularly; the others don't need it
as much because their files don't get moved around much. This decreases
the amount of time I spend defragging my drives.
- Make sure you have enough disk space. If you have 1 partition with 1% space
free, it can take you *days* to defrag that hard drive with Norton SpeedDisk.
It can also interfer with the expansion and contraction of your swap space.
That slows down your computer. Disk space is cheap these days so there's no
- Buy more memory. More memory usually gives the biggest return on
investment when improving your computer's performance.
Memory prices are fairly low right now. I bought
128Meg at $70 a couple of months ago; I just bought the same one again
at $60. Remember the days when 16Meg cost about $1000?
- Don't just get an antivirus program; get the whole maintenance program.
I use Mcafee
AntiVirus on one computer and Norton Antivirus on the others; however,
I have Norton SystemWorks on all of them. Use SystemWorks to fix software
problems and diagnose hardware issues. The store price is anywhere from
$50 to $90; I've found this software for $30 at surplus stores (cheap
enough to buy a copy for each machine). I consider this a *best* and *must*
- I prefer SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) CD-ROM devices instead of
the cheaper EIDE versions. Why? Because I don't want a CD-ROM taking up
one of the four EIDE device slots (where your hard drives plug in). If
I have an EIDE CD-ROM, I can only have three EIDE hard drives. If I have
a SCSI CD-ROM reader/burner, I can have four EIDE hard drives on my
computer (SCSI is also faster).
- Having said that, I do suggest an internal ATAPI/EIDE ZIP drive. They're
much faster than their parallel port versions and they're useful for
making "rescue disks" with Norton SystemWorks. This is *great* for
solving problems when your computer doesn't want to boot up. Also, if you
use Quicken software and you have a lot of data in that finance program,
a ZIP drive allows you to back up your data on one ZIP floppy instead of
several regular floppy disks. (the SCSI and/or USB versions
also are faster than the parallel port ZIP drives).
- I rebuild my machines (reinstall Windows) typically once a year
(actually more often). I do this
to get rid of all the junk that's accumulated on my computer. You end up
with a clean operating system and you install only those programs that you
really need. You also get rid of files/applications that you didn't know
you had (perhaps you forgot to uninstall them?). My computers always end
up working better (and booting up faster) because I have only the files
I really need. My laptop
flipped out recently and I had to rebuild Win98 on it. Because I had to
reinstall the applications anyway, I deleted all the installable applications
and ended up with 2 Gigabytes extra disk space after reinstalling only the
- Keep your copies of reusable files in one place. I have an "emergency CD"
in my organizer with all the files I'll ever need, including all the device
drivers I've ever downloaded, not to mention all the sounds, icons, cursors,
fonts, and screen backgrounds I use. I never have to worry about not having
access to those files when I work on someone else's computer or rebuild my own.
- Think about copying your Windows (98) CD-ROM onto your hard drive.
If you change your computer or add something
new, and the computer asks for files on the Win98 CD, you'll have those files
at your fingertips on your computer. This works
best if you reinstall Windows from these files because it'll go there directly
for files it needs without asking you for the CD.
- And lastly, and most importantly, back up your data regularly. You never
know when your hard drive is going to fail. The 200 Megabyte Maxtor hard drive
that came with my first computer in 1992 is still working (I finally retired
it). I've had a brand new hard drive fail within a couple of months. Others
fall between those two extremes. Don't wait until a disk failure to think
about backing up your files.
- June 17, 2001:
Gee, it's Sunday and no Soapbox this week. Everyone must be behaving these
It's pretty interesting to see some of the Lindy dancers going out for
West Coast Swing. Does this say that West Coast Swing is going to come
back? I hope so. I think that WCS was getting stagnant for a while
because the genre wasn't very welcoming to beginners. I think that
the lessons have been learned and many of the venue promoters have
figured out that much more effort needs to be put out to attract and
*retain* the beginner dancers. I hope this keeps up.
At the same time, I hope some of the hardcore WCS dancers would consider
checking out the Lindy side of things. Some dancers do only one of the other
at a dance, regardless of the music (perhaps the fault of the dance organizers?).
The ones with a foot in each of the environments are the ones who get the most
out of a dance: they dance whatever the music tells them to dance.
I hope to see more cross-pollination out there.
- June 24, 2001:
I'd like to welcome
Tempo Dance Center in Brighton Center (Boston, MA) as the latest
sponsor of this website.
Tempo is one of the few venues that offer regular Hustle dancing in the
greater Boston area, not to mention one of the few places that even offered
Gail Rundlett has been running Tempo since way before I started
dancing and it's good to see her dance business thrive through the years.
She runs the annual Commonwealth Classic ballroom dance competitions
in Lowell and focuses her dance activities on being "inclusive". I was
impressed with the fact that she opens her studio for classes by teachers
from other studios or for dance practice. Tempo is unique in that it is an
independent studio that has stayed in the same commercial rental space all
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