Archive for January, 2009

25 random things

Recently on Facebook there has been an application running around where people post 25 random things that you may not know about them.  I’m not going to post my list here but I will comment a bit on the concept.

What happens is you write 25 things and then you tag 20-25 of your friends with the idea that they will also write something.  Somebody tagged me so I figured I’d do my own list.  I tagged 20 other people but then removed the tags because I thought twice about forwarding chain mail.  As a spam analyst, it made me feel dirty.  Removing the tags made me feel clean.

I really like reading lists like these about other people.  I will usually read through each person’s list a couple of times and try to make mental notes about some of the line items.  They are definitely things I never would have known about them and learning interesting tidbits about others is a hobby of mine.  Maybe I can bring it up in a conversation and allude to it later on, or maybe I can ask them about an experience that was particularly important about it.

So rest assured, if you’re on Facebook and you make one of these lists, I will read it.  And remember it.

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With regards to my currently empty condo, all sorts of people keep giving me free advice.  It’s been sitting empty for a while now, and everyone has solutions for me:

  1. Move into it myself.  This is the most common one, I should move into it myself and live there for a few years.  Furthermore, I should take in a roommate and save money (so that I can buy a nicer place later on).

    As I have explained on this blog over and over and over again, I am not going to this except as a last resort.  I started investing in real estate in order to learn how to invest in real estate.  If I move into the place, how does that bring me closer to achieving my goal?  It just means I’m living in a place that I bought.  Furthermore, it’s in a location that had I decided to buy a place for myself, it wouldn’t have been my first choice.  That’s another piece of advice people give me (unsolicited advice, of course) – I should have bought the place such that I would want to move in there.

    So assuming I did move in, like I explain, I am still not being a real estate investor.  I’m just a homeowner.  The idea was to start a real estate investing business and have it produce passive income.  That goal is not going to pan out, it’s kind of like the US going into Iraq and not finding WMDs so they shifted the focus to spreading freedom and democracy in the middle east.  I would still have to eventually find another place to invest in which would bring me closer to my goal of producing passive income.  I admit that I made some mistakes by paying too much for this place, but moving into it myself is only a fail-safe backup plan.

  2. Take in a roommate.  Uh, no.  I like living on my own.  It’s private, I can watch TV as late as I want and other than the idiot neighbors living beneath me, it’s quiet.  I don’t have to worry about anyone else and living alone is nice (perhaps that explains why I am single?  Hmm…).  As I have said to others, if I were to get someone else to live it, it’d be a cat.  They’re quiet and create only small messes.  And they don’t whine a lot, either (except for my former cat from back in Winnipeg).
  3. Fix it up with tons of little things.  It’s been suggested to me to put in granite counter tops, replace the lights, do a sweeping overhaul… I estimate the cost of that between $5000-$10,000.  For a place where I am charging less than $1000/month, the additional expense of this doesn’t make sense.  If I make $50/month cash flow (which I won’t), it would take me forever to recoup that.  Doesn’t make sense financially.
  4. Cut the rental price.  This one makes the most sense and it comes from my property manager.  If I cut the rental price to $850 per month, I estimate that over the course of a year I would lose a little less than $10,000 (for 2010; for 2009 it would be $7500).  Now, that sounds like a lot, and it is.  But with some of my tax deductions it would be less than that.  The advantage of this is that I can price it in to my costs and figure out the budge.  Yes, it’ll suck but over time with capital appreciation I’ll gradually start making it back.  I think that if I can hang in for a couple of years and absorb the losses, then I can refinance later on and get a lower interest rate.

    I figure I’d have to hold onto it for about 8 years to start making money.  By that time I’d be 38.  But I figure that with this lousy option, at least I’d have a plan that is closer in alignment to my long-term goals – learning how to invest in real estate.

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Markets update

On this blog, I used to post a lot about the stock market.  This is because at the time, I was doing a lot of stock research and I enjoyed putting my thoughts down on cyber-paper.  I’ve been writing about the market since I first started trading in 2004.  Below is a chart of the SP-500:


The market is in a clear downtrend, but it looks like it may be bottoming.  But I digress, the reason I haven’t been posting about the market is because I haven’t been in the market since September and actively trading since early 2008.  In trading, I have three goals:

  1. Protect capital.
  2. Consistently make money.
  3. Hit the occasional home run.

That first bullet point is the most important one.  I have (had) fairly tight stops and I get out of the stock when it goes against me too far.  But not only that, the current market is very difficult to make money in for me.

Back when I did piles of research, I made some calculations.  During bull markets, the market is up 60% of the time and down 40% of the time.  During bear markets, the reverse is not true.  The market is up 45% of the time and down 55% of the time.  In other words, the market is choppier and less predictable.  It is much easier to make money during a bull market because the historical patterns work better.  In bear markets, they don’t work as well and getting into positions is more difficult in terms of timing and the jerky market motions shake me out.

Worse still, the current market is extremely volatile.  The market moved 15% in two weeks.  It used to be unusual to move 15% in a year.  Furthermore, 5% swings are not unusual these days and violent contramovements are the norm.  The market doesn’t trend very nicely and whipsaws are to be expected.  The market is not conforming to historical market conditions and therefore any research I may have done in the past to make money in a bear market is not reliable.

Thus, the volatility and unpredictability of the current market environment makes it too difficult for me to achieve goal number 1.  Thus, I have opted to stay out of the market until stops acting crazy.

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As I reflect on my upcoming dance performance next month, I thought I’d reflect a bit on my choice of dance.

I didn’t pick the dance I wanted to do and then select the music.  Instead, I selected the music and then figured out what dance would fit with it.  Many of the people down at the dance studio recognize the music as the soundtrack from my Dancing at Microsoft video.  They initially think that the reason I want this music is because I work at Microsoft and I’d like to translate the experience over to an actual performance.  That’s not the reason; in fact, I wasn’t even planning on using that song from my Microsoft video.  It was actually my backup song.  That video had no influence on my decision.

No, the reason I selected that song goes much deeper than that.  For you see, nearly three years ago I stumbled across the website http://www.wherethehellismatt.com.  It’s a site where a guy by the name of Matt Harding made a video where he traveled around the world doing a goofy dance (if you go to that site, it’s his 2005 video).  I thought it was one of the best videos I had ever seen on the web and I really, really enjoyed it.

Later that year, I planned my own trip to Australia and Fiji.  I thought to myself "Hey, I should make my own funny dancing video!"  And so I did.  On my tour, I got various people on my tour to shoot a video of me dancing in various locales.  It was a humorous video and it was a video memento of my trip down under.  And, it’s also the trip that inspired me to get into actual ballroom dancing.

After I completed the video, I said to myself "That was fun, but one day I’d like to learn to dance for real."  So, the video and the accompanying song is where I first got the idea to learn how to dance.  So, that’s the reason I picked this song to do a performance to — it’s what first got me started in ballroom dancing.  The song has an emotional context for me.  I think it only natural that I select the song from my first dancing video it for my first performance.

That’s what I tell people down at the studio when they ask why I picked the particular dance I am doing (Samba) or the song.  But there’s one more reason I selected it, and I haven’t revealed it to anyone down at the studio.  You, my readers, should feel lucky because unless anyone were to ask me directly I’d probably never say anything.  This isn’t a secret or anything, I just don’t bring it up.

In my Australia video, right near the end of the video there are three clips of me in Fiji.  One is in Malomalo village, and right after that is a clip of me in a river in the Namosi Highlands.  30 minutes after I shot that scene, I had my accident and nearly died. 

In the time since that accident, I have had hip surgery.  I had to take time off from dancing to recover from it and quite frankly, I still haven’t completely recovered.  I still have pain in my hip and I wonder some days whether or not I will ever get better.  But I have decided not to let it keep me back.  For you see, I guess in a way, this performance is kind of like my comeback special.  Consider the irony:

  • I create a video and there is a scene that I associate with nearly dying.
  • I add a soundtrack to the video that has meaning to me.
  • I need to go in for surgery to correct a problem that originally occurred "in" that first video.  I return to dancing (albeit with some discomfort) several weeks later.
  • Rather than letting the results of the incident "in" first video stop me, I take that very soundtrack and perform my first choreographed routine to it.

I kind of feel like it’s my own Hollywood feel-good movie, overcoming odds.  And that is the real reason why I selected this particular song.  It has a particularly special meaning that really has context only to myself.

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I wasn’t going to listen to the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.  I cynically said "History making election?  Pfft, you know what’ll be history making… when I get elected president!" because since I am a Canadian citizen, I am ineligible to run for the United States’s highest office.

Yet I went into physical therapy today and they had it tuned on the radio.  I found myself so intrigued that I couldn’t help but listen to the speech.  I have always had an interest in politics, ever since I was 10 years old.  I have no idea whether or not President Obama will be able to accomplish anything that he set out to accomplish, but I wish him nothing but the best of luck and will support him.


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Magic and meaning

One of the themes I sometimes explore during my magic acts is that of fate vs free will.  What is the nature of the future?  What is it about the future that we find so intriguing?  Is it the opportunity for riches and fortune?  Is it the desire to learn our destinies and our attempts to change them?  Or is it simply the fear of the unknown?

What if the future were knowable, how could we go about determining it?  What type of person would be able to peer into the future and then report back on it?  And would reporting the future change it?

These are the themes I like to explore.  If we believe in free will, then the ability to see the future is impossible because while there are a fixed (near-infinite?) number of possible futures, none of them are pre-determined.  By definition, free will means that the future cannot be determined because our choices will change the outcome of what happens next.  Free will requires that our wills be unconstrained from outside sources and a fixed outcome would therefore mean that our wills are, in fact, constrained to an actual outcome rather than merely a selection of possible ones.

But if the future were fixed, then it would be possible to foresee the future.  All one would have to do is peer into it and report back the events.  However, consider the conundrum: would reporting back the events give the people who heard the results the ability to change them?

This is one of my favorite philosophical themes, and it is this theme that every once in a while I like to wrap into the magic that I perform.

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I remember last year, President Bush pushed through Congress and the Senate an approximately $200 billion economic stimulus package.  At the time, many people criticized the move saying it wouldn’t work or do anything to stimulate the economy.  It was not nearly enough money, or it was going to the wrong people in society, or people would only be paying off bills and not spending money in the sectors it was needed, or some other excuse.

The President’s opponents (naturally) were criticizing the move.  Of course, in politics, that’s what you do.  In public, you criticize your opponents but privately you readily agree to spending taxpayer money.  At the time, we all thought that it was a lot of money.  But at the same time, it was a year ago.  It was before every financial company on Wall Street went under.

Now that Senator Barack Obama is about to take office, we’re now talking about an $825 billion stimulus package!  That’s quadruple the original!  I’m starting to get a little concerned about where all this money is coming from, and worse still, where all this money is going.

AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and now Bank of America… everyone needs a bailout.  GM and Ford… they need one, too.  Will it ever end?

I remember a few years ago, a friend of mine in the financial industry was telling his views about why investing for the long term was a good idea.  "The Great Depression can never happen again," he said.  "There are mechanisms in place to prevent that."  Now, I don’t think that we’re going to go into a depression.  That sounds too extreme because at its height, there was 25% unemployment during the depression.  However, we are certainly seeing wealth eroded at a rate worse than any we have seen since then.  I think that this market crash is probably worse than the 2000-2003 bear market.  Think that one sucked?  This one is worse.

I have been out of the market in my personal trading account for 4 months.  I haven’t been actively trading for over a year (just buy-and-watch-and-finally-sell).  The markets are just too crazy right now.  We see 5% swings in a single day.  In years past, 5% swings in a month were considered big months.  Eventually, though, the market will finish correcting, things will get back to normal, and I can get back into the market.  I hope it’s soon, I’m starting to get bored.

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The other day, myself and a bunch of co-workers went out for lunch.  It was a team meeting and there was 14 of us.  I brought along a deck of cards like I always do.  When it comes to being a magician, you always have to be prepared.  I have a deck of cards in my jacket pocket, one in the car, and one at work.  I really should have two in the car and two at work, but at this point I do not.  The point is that always need to have some material ready, and I do.

At this team meeting, they were introducing some new people to the group and while we were waiting for our order, the others said "Terry, do you have your cards?  Perform a trick for us!"  I obliged, because that’s what I do.  I proceeded to perform Any Card, wherein my volunteer picked the King of Diamonds and the number 10.  I handed him the deck, he counted out 10 cards and the tenth card was the King of Diamonds.

I then went to the other end of the table and performed The Ambitious Card.  The Ambitious Card is a routine where a selected card is buried in the middle of the deck and pops back to the top over and over and over again.  At the very end, I use three cards and put a paperclip on the selected card.  Yet mysteriously, the selected card somehow jumps back to the top of the deck.

After I completed my performance, people asked me the usual question — "How?"  I never confirm nor deny anything.  But then they started talking… it’s all about causing a distraction.  I caused them to look over here and in the meantime I was doing something else.  After all, that’s how magic works.  You need to cause a distraction and in the meantime, you do sneaky stuff.

I am loathe to diverge my secrets, but magic most decidedly is not all about causing a distraction.  To begin with, the proper term is a diversion.  The magician must divert attention away from the prestige while doing something sneaky.  But diversions or distractions are not what make a magician magical.  There is so much more to it that simply writing it off as a distraction doesn’t do it justice.

In magic, there is technique, showmanship and psychology.  Technique is about doing things smoothly even while people are trying to detect it.  I was performing magic for people literally 18 inches away, if that.  I was performing sleights right in front of them, in plain sight.  Unless your technique is (nearly) perfect, all the distractions in the world won’t help you.

I’ll skip showmanship and move to psychology.  Another word for this would be the intangibles.  The psychological element involves moving certain ways, making eye contact certain ways, using certain words, using a certain tone of voice… and it’s all tied to the performer’s character.  These intangible elements are what enable the performer to make use of diversion because without these elements, a magician would not be able to convince an audience that looking away is the natural thing to do.  This is especially true for close up.  How will I possibly be able to divert attention unless I could convince you do so without arousing suspicion?

Magic is so much more than distractions; it takes a lot of skill in order to pull off a convincing demonstration of the impossible.

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So quite interestingly, during the dance practice sessions I’ve been having lately, I’ve done some things that I never thought that I would do.

My hip still hasn’t completely healed from surgery.  It’s gotten a lot better but there are still a lot of motions that cause me discomfort.  I have discovered what those motions are and avoid them, and the ones that used to be bad are a lot better.  Also, the cold weather back in Winnipeg/Ireland last month didn’t do me any favors and Seattle’s warmer climate is much easier on me.

While practicing my dance technique at home, there have been many times when I started to move really quickly to the side and caused my hip to give me a shooting, pinching pain as if to say "Stop doing that!"  I quickly say "Ok, ok…" and take a quick rest.  I know that I shouldn’t be pushing myself such that it causes too much pain because that would delay my recovery.

At the dance studio where I take lessons, a strange phenomenon occurs.  Normally, the lesson isn’t too intense and while rehearsing my hip usually feels alright.  Thus, when the teacher asks if I’m alright, I can almost always reply in the affirmative.  Nothing too intense as I practice harder at home.

But I’m not always fine.  Sometimes, there are certain movements or motions that I do awkwardly that cause a quick, darting pain in my hip (usually in the groin, actually).  My teacher again asks, once in a while, if I’m okay.  And when that happens, a strange thing happens.  What I should say is "That hurt a bit, let’s not do that move."  Yes, that would be the smart thing to do but it’s not what I do.  You see, instead and without my conscious decision to do so, my macho male ego takes over.  The testosterone starts to flow and I don’t want to look weak in front of the attractive teacher.  So what do I say?  I say "I’m okay" even though I’m actually not.  I then think to myself "Why did I just say that?"  Actually, I know exactly why I say that, I just explained it in the previous couple of sentences.

Well, I never said that it was logical.

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In a little over a week, former Senator Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States.

Originally, I have to confess, I wasn’t really a fan of Obama.  I thought that there was too much hype and not much substance.  The substance I did see, gleaned straight off his website (maintained by people other than him, of course), I didn’t really agree with.  However, now that he has been elected, I have to flip my tune.  The reason is that nothing he says on his web site are actually being implemented in his current policies.

Take his choice of cabinet.  He is retaining Defense Secretary Robert Gates, President Bush’s current defense secretary.  For those of you who missed it, Robert Gates took over from Donald Rumsfeld in 2006.  In fact, since 2006, Bush’s entire foreign policy is vastly different from the previous few years.  Obama’s NSA advisor is James L. Jones, the supreme allied commander of NATO.  Jones has warned that things are not so clear-cut in the world of national security, ie, I take his comments to mean that seeing the world as black and white doesn’t work.

His Treasury Secretary is Timothy Geithner, currently the head of the New York Federal Reserve.  He’s a guy who also worked on many of the current adminstration’s bailout policy.  He’s also someone who Bush could have picked (the current Treasury Secretary is Hank Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs and Geithner’s background is different).  His chair of the Council of Economic Advisors is Christina Romer, who has warned that tax increases can inhibit economic growth.  He recently appointed Austan Goolsbee, professor of economics University of Chicago Booth School of Business, as staff director to and chief economist of a new federal panel.  The Chicago school is known for conservative policies, at least with regards to tax and monetary policies.

Seeing as how I am in agreement with a lot of these appointees, how can I be anti-Obama?  My guess is that he’s trying to broaden his appeal to people on the right; he’s trying to get elected again in 2012 so he can’t implement any of the policies the left wants him to implement.

And that brings me to the left-wing hippies.  All I can say to them is… "Ha-ha-ha!"  What are they going to do?  Support a Republican?  They have no other choice, they have to stay with Obama!  Those are the breaks, my friends.  Republicans thought they were getting a conservative in 2000 and instead we saw national spending increase at unprecedented levels.  Welcome to our world.

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Just call me Tweak

Ack!  Too much pressure!

In the past week I have been rehearsing the moves for my upcoming dance performance next month.  At home, I’ve been doing them on my own in an attempt to get the rhythm, timing and technique down.  I have practiced each move, quite literally, 500 times.  That’s one of my secrets of magic sleight acquisition and I do the same for dance (well, now I do).

I thought that I had gotten the moves down pretty well; what I didn’t realize was how much doing them on my own would differ from doing it with a partner.  For you see, today I went back to my dance studio and they played two songs that you can do the same dance I’m going to perform (ie, the dance I am doing, Samba, can be done to a variety of songs).  Earlier on in the evening, the first time, I partnered up with my first instructor.  I suddenly found myself very nervous, having to dance with my teacher.  I proceeded to start the dance and when it came time to do the moves… I flubbed them.  Oh sure, I got the first part down pat, but the second part… not so much.

Curses! I thought.  Okay, okay, okay.  That’s only because I wasn’t warmed up.  It was early on in the evening and I had to get the creative juices flowing through my legs (?).  The next time would be different.

The next opportunity would be the last dance of the evening.  I specifically requested a Samba; I can guarantee you that had I not, that earlier performance would have been the last one.  Anyhow, there I am, I go up to my other instructor (the one whom I am working with) and asked her to dance.  Right before hand, I said (a little sarcastically) "Uh-oh… pressure’s on!" What I meant was, the pressure was on me.  Would I get it right?  For you see, I was quite confident that I would have no trouble executing all of the moves I practiced during the week flawlessly.  I had to build in a little bit of tension — that’s what good performers do.  I had to plant the seeds of uncertainty in my teacher’s mind with the goal of doing everything impeccably.  I had forgotten that earlier in the evening my moves were not flawless after all.  My hippocampus had failed me.

I began the dance supremely confident in my abilities.  And it started off perfectly fine.  I started doing some of the more complicated moves in a forward step and did a very nice turn out of them into a backwards stepping move.  She looked at me and said "Nice.  That was smooth!"  And it was; I had practiced it 500 times.

And then the pressure got to me.  No sooner had I gotten into the backwards step that I started screwing up.  My timing completely got lost and I had to restart.  Curses! I thought again.  It’s happening again!  I restarted, which is what I always do when I screw up the timing.  I decided to try another move.  It started up well and then I tried to do a different move which led into yet another move.  The first one went well; the transition into the second move did not.  I messed it up again.


I started it up again and decided to try my original routine over again, the one that initially went smooth.  I led into the forward-side-step and prepared to execute the transition into a backwards step.  Okay, Terry, I thought, just do it the way you practiced.  Step forward, turn around, and then step backwards.  I stepped forward, turned around… and then stepped forwards for some reason.  That’s exactly what I didn’t want to do.  Terry! I shouted silently.  You’re not listening!

As it turns out, the pressure did get to me.  Despite all of my practice, I discovered that with a partner when the music was playing, I couldn’t get it right.  And it happened every time.  I could get the move done very nicely at first and then mess up the second half.  Or, I would do a very sloppy lead-in to it and then perform the second half beautifully.  It was very annoying.

Ack!  Too much pressure!

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A reprieve

So as I wrote about earlier, a couple of weeks ago I received a notice in the mail from my insurance company.  It was a bill for $6700.  "Holy flirking schnitt!" I shouted when I saw it.

But, this past weekend, I received another bill.  This was from the hospital where I had my surgery.  But this bill was lower; it was only $932.  I got a bunch of discounts and I guess they heard me shouting a couple of weeks earlier.  I phoned them up and asked them "So, how much do I have to pay?"  They confirmed it was the smaller amount.  "Whew," I said.  "Thanks."

So, I sent away payment to these guys content that the operation cost what I thought it would when I first made the decision to go through with it.  It turns out that I saved about $5500.  I feel pretty good about that.

Now if only I could offload that condo.

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I have sometimes referred to my real estate investment purchase as a steaming pile of failure.  After all, it’s sat vacant for 4 months now with nothing to show for it other than burning a big hole in my checkbook.

But was purchasing it really a mistake?

Hindsight bias is when we judge previous decisions based upon their outcome rather than on the conditions they were made at the time.  So, was my decision at the time the wrong one?  Possibly.  But consider that when I bought it, the market was down 20% and historically, that’s a big correction.  Furthermore, the market had been in a correction for almost a year.  Most bear markets don’t last that long so statistically speaking, I was betting on the fact that I was closer to the end of the decline rather than near the beginning.

I misjudged how badly things would fall apart, but so did everyone else.  At least I didn’t overleverage myself like AIG, Merrill Lynch or Lehman.  So was my purchase a mistake?  I now wish that I had done more market research about the rent and taken the claims of recession more seriously.  But overall, the decision at the time, while not my best, was certainly not my worst.

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So, at the dance studio that I regularly go to, they regularly have performances.  Well, not regularly, more like once every 3-4 months.  These are specially choreographed numbers that a student and a teacher work on together over a period of several weeks.  Or, they are a number that two students work on together and the teacher works with them, setting up the routine.  Then, at a special theme party (Valentine’s Day, Hallowe’en, Christmas), they have a regular dance party but they interrupt it for about 45 minutes and have their special showcase.

I have decided that I would like to perform at the next one coming up.  I’ve been taking lessons for a while and I think that private lessons culminating in a performance is a natural step (I also like to perform… and this would be one of my rare performances in which I am not doing magic).

There are three instructors at the place I go to whom I could potentially work with.  I was planning on trying out all three but due to time constraints (I only have six weeks from now… that’s not enough time to check out all three) I can really only try out two.  I have had two private lessons so far so I’ve done part of the evaluation.  However, I also had a sit-down chat with both of them, separately, to gauge their experience level and whether or not they would be a good fit.  I conduct interviews all the time at work at Microsoft, and this is no different.  I’m merely doing my due diligence.  I decided that I would write my thoughts down and this blog is as good a place to do that as any (maybe one of my readers will email me with advice).

  1. Instructor 1 – After talking with instructor 1, I came away with the impression that she is fairly experienced with doing choreography for dances, though not so much for the particular dance that I am planning to do.  She definitely has a way of doing things in the structure of the dance she sets up.  I definitely see her as more authoritative a teacher in this case.
  2. Instructor 2 – I relate Instructor 2 because of the way she contrasts with Instructor 1.  Instructor 2 has less experience choreographing a routine, and a little less experience doing Samba (my dance of choice… so chosen because the music I want to do the routine to is a natural Samba).  The major contrast is her more passive approach.  Instructor 1 has a definite vision for how the dance should be performed and a "fire" determination about wanting it to look good because she’s on stage.

    Instructor 2, in response to my comment that she’s the captain of the ship, pushed back and insisted that I was the captain and she was there to guide me.  The general impression that I got was that she was not the authority figure that Instructor 1 was. 

So at this point, you may think that I am leaning towards Instructor 1 as my preferred instructor.  If I want to look good I need someone who can take charge and has done it before.  But wait, I have not told you about the intangibles.  For you see, I think that both instructors are perfectly capable even though Instructor 1 would probably create more structure in the dance practices.  However, I could definitely relate more to the creative vision of Instructor 2.

When it comes to a magic performance, the beginning must be low and the routine must build, BUILD, BUILD!  In other words, there has to be a steady crescendo of effects that gets progressively stronger.  There are definite waves in the performance, but each trick’s climax must get stronger as time passes.  That’s how you create a good performance in magic; you have to do things with a stronger psychological impact.

Instructor 1 disagreed with that vision.  Her view was that you need a strong start, a strong finish and the middle can be "forgettable", that is, the audience remembers the start and finish but not the middle.  I can see her point about that.  Ergo, she disagreed with me about how the routine should be structured.

Instructor 2 was much more open to this.  In fact, she agreed with my vision (perhaps she wasn’t taking a stand and telling me what I wanted to hear).  But in essence, Instructor 2 would be open to choreographing a routine that "tells a story", but Instructor 1 would not (she said that’s not really the way she sees routines).  My best magic tricks, like Sam the Bellhop, Twins and The Invisible Deck, all tell stories.  The way I see my dance performance best being a reflection of me is to "tell a story."  I don’t know how to tell a story in dance, but if there is a way, that’s the way I want to do it.

That’s my current thoughts.  I have one more practice session each with both instructors, so I will have to make my final decision then.

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