Taking the “Dis” Out of Disability

STM Studio Supplies is a company that works closely with all things performing arts, from professional performance companies to our local dance schools;
we try to keep an eye on as much as we can in the field. We also have a presence in New Zealand and are members of Danz Aotearoa and so receive their
quarterly magazine. Check it out here https://danz.org.nz/

My movement experience has been in performance and later teaching and Dance Movement Therapy, so I read with particular interest in the latest issue, no
53 Spring 2018, an article by Lauren Sanderson entitled “Taking The ‘Dis’ Out of Disability”

Sanderson speaks of the power of dance to encourage and empower those who have barriers to self expression by other means. She goes on to say that,

“It has the ability to transcend barriers and become a vehicle for social change”

New Zealand has a thriving dance community and this sector isn’t overlooked. The article goes on to recount interviews with the Artistic Directors of three
dance entities that cater for those who are challenged in the mainstream dance world, and is well worth a read.

Perhaps the most cogent quote in the article comes from Lyn Cotton, Artistic Director of Jolt.

“Accessibility is more than physical support, it is a culture of mutual respect and openness where teacher, director, choreographer and dancer are willing
to engage and be shaped by their interactions with each other”

Movement is fundamental to life and dance is its expressive manifestation. It articulates feelings and emotions, it communicates ideas, it celebrates,
it grieves, and explores all facets of human emotion. Dance is available to us all and Australia also has a wealth of such companies fighting the good
fight and making a positive difference to so many lives. STM Studio Supplies has great respect for the work that they do and the benefits achieved

We have recently collaborated with Higher Spaces, https://www.higherspaces.com.au/ who purchased a number
of our Mylar rollaway mirrors. When it was found that one of the panels was less than ideal for their intended use we suggested that it be passed on
to a worthy cause. I contacted e.motion21, https://emotion21.org.au/ and we have organised a donation.

A big thanks to Josephine at Higher Spaces and Jane at e.motion21!

Hopefully we will soon have some photos to show of the dancers using their new mirror and showing the joy of the freedom of movement reflected in their
new mirror!


Timber or Vinyl Dance Floor?

Many dancers trained on the strip timber floors of their local church, scout or masonic hall.

Generally, these floors gave adequate, if inconsistent, shock absorption and injuries were limited.

Performance stages were generally of similar construction, and with the exception of hard spots caused by trap doors, dip traps, and revolve machinery,
slipperiness was an ongoing issue. From the 1970s on when Tarkett Dansflor or Marley became available touring with a PVC overlay “dance mat” became
the norm.

Timber has its advantages; it is aesthetically pleasing and remains the preference for ballroom, folk, and social dance. Timber floors lend themselves
to multi-purpose use, high traffic by the general public, and percussive dance such as tap, clogging and Irish. There may also be heritage and aesthetic
considerations, which they will appease.

On the down side there is the risk of splinters, unevenness, and protruding nails. As pointed out in the excellent Ausdance Safe dance floors article,
https://ausdance.org.au/articles/details/safe-dance-floors, they
also require a high degree of maintenance and regular recoating. This and the need for consistent slip resistance treatment is the reason most professional
dancers defer to a vinyl overlay on top of the wood.

Where timber is used Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_surface tells us;

“A wood surface is ideal for social dancing if maintained properly and is also standard for many indoor sports. Engineered wood is normally used nowadays
for wood flooring as it is less liable to warp or shrink and is more economic. Tap dance is especially punishing and a tough hardwood surface like
oak or maple is preferred for any regular use. Vinyl is generally a better choice for other types of dance or more general community use.”

In the absence of standards and tests which relate specifically to dance floors, and due to the fact that

sports floors share the same requirements of a dance floor in encouraging optimum performance and safety, dance floor installers, if not governed by, are
at least guided by the German standard DIN 18032 part 2 and more
lately EN14904. These standards concern themselves correctly with force reduction
(shock absorption), vertical deflection, area deflection, and resistance to a rolling load. However it is a common misconception that a sports floor
will suit the needs of dancers.

In their “Guide to Architects” https://aus.harlequinfloors.com/uploads/3/downloads/Architects_Guide_-_AUS_-_LR2.pdf Harlequin a world leader in dance floors point out;

“here are two differences: in the construction of the sprung sub-floor and the performance surface. Many think that dancers have the same requirements
as athletes when it comes to floor criteria. Sprung floors for sport are tested for adequate ball bounce and athletes require a high degree of energy
return – i.e. spring. Evidently, dancers have little interest in ball bounce and are focussed on a combination of shock absorption and energy return.”

The same guide points out that conventional wooden floors have inconsistencies of area and point elasticity, which are unavoidable owing to their construction.

It is not by chance that the majority of studios not primarily concerned with percussive dance styles or ballroom choose a sprung floor option with a vinyl
overlay. The choices within these are numerous and a Reference Guide can be found at http://www.stmstudiosupplies.com/pdf/Vinyl Quick Reference.pdf

The decision is ultimately yours and effectively comes down to appearance and high maintenance over practicality and ease of performance.




Navigating the ordeal of music licensing for class, performance, and competition

A chance conversation between Martin and Christopher Wheeler from APRA AMCOS prompted an investigation of the music licensing regulations for dance schools
in Australia.

Christopher provided some helpful information and links, recorded below, but I wanted to get a bigger picture and work out who these bodies are and
what they do. A quick internet search soon became a research operation worthy of at least a master’s thesis! So many acronyms, so many different bodies,
so little time! The things that need to be considered range from; are you using live music, or recorded music, how many days/week are classes to be
held, to a list of the music used.


Please do contact APRA AMCOS directly for information regarding your particular situation as the details provided below are just a starting point and should, by no means, constitute the complete picture.


So a quick history lesson!

APRA Australasian Performing Right Association Limited, was established in 1926 to manage the performance and communication rights of
its members. This covers music that is communicated or performed publicly including on radio, television, online, live gigs in pubs and clubs etc.

AMCOS Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society Limited was established in 1979 to manage “mechanical royalties”, that is, the
reproduction or copying and storage of music in different formats. This covers copying of songs and compositions by record labels or other parties
to sell them on CD, DVD, online, for use as production music and for radio/TV programs.


PCCAPhonographic Performance Company of Australia Limited, established in 1969, is a national, non government, non-profit organisation
that represents the interest of record companies and Australian recording artists to safeguard the rights of Australian recording artists and labels,
ensuring that they receive a fair return for their music. In January 2017, PPCA, together with ARIA and APRA AMCOS,
introduced a new blanket licence solution to cover the use of sound recordings and copyright music at eisteddfods.


ARIA Australian Recording Industry Association is a national industry association proactively representing the interests of its members.
It provides licences on behalf of participating sound recording rights holders (ARIA Licensors) to individuals and organisations who wish to make legitimate
reproductions of sound recordings for some specific limited purposes (such as commercial background music suppliers). Through our licensing services
you can access a wide range of sound recordings from major record companies and independent labels. for those interested in the reproduction of sound
recordings for the purpose of their dance school, there is also a joint ARIA / AMCOS agreement for this which is administered by AMCOS.
Please call AMCOS on 02 9935-7900 for further information.


ABLIS Australian Business Licence and Information Service, is a free online service that will help you find the right local and Australian
government licences, permits, registrations, approvals and codes of practice you need to operate a business. https://ablis.business.gov.au/about 

The ABLIS site is probably the easiest place to start for independent information regarding APRA AMCOS and the licence requirements, click here to see
what I mean


You can also check the ABLIS page on Dance School Music Licences,
and the Copyright Council’s information sheet on music licensing.

We have been advised that you may also require licensing from the PPCA to cover the rights of recording artists and
record studios (APRA AMCOS licensing covers the rights of composers, songwriters, and music producers).

In big news, APRA AMCOS will be launching a combined licensing service called OneMusic Australia, due in 2019.
Drafts of the new licensing structures are being made available for review and consultation here.

Now for Eisteddfodau……………………………………….



Rejection & Juju

Rejection, commonly known as the Silicone Effect is a pullback of a coating applied to a substrate. With Juju this is often manifest as a snowflake like dandruff as the coating delaminates. Rejection
is caused by the presence of contaminants, either in patches, or all over the floor surface.

The most common contaminants which can cause a timber floor finish to fail are:

  • Timber extraction (resin, wax, oil)
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Food spillage
  • Silicone contaminated equipment
  • Strong solvents getting under existing coatings

It can also be a result of disparate materials having a negative interaction, as in the case of some 2 packs.

Unfortunately, in most cases it is not possible to predict rejection on a floor prior to the coating application. Signs of rejection normally occur
after application of the first or second coat during the initial drying process and evaporation of the solvents. A contaminant may be picked up
in an isolated spot on the floor during the sanding process and could be spread all over the timber or cork surface.


Another problem can occur when the strong solvent xylene used in Juju is able to get under the edge giving a “fried egg effect”.

The chemistry of rejection involves the surface tension difference between the coating and the substrate. The surface tension of the applied coating
must be equal or lower than the surface tension of the substrate otherwise the coating cannot wet and pulls back from the surface.

Toby Flow Add is a specially designed additive
to reduce the surface tension of all Toby Polyurethane cork and timber finishes. We have also had success with Urethane Coatings Flowmax. Generally an addition of less than 0.5% (5ml per litre) is sufficient
to overcome rejection problems. The best thing of course is to start with the recommended amount and work up from there with small test pieces.

When additives are used in a coating, the next applied coating should also contain at least the same quantity of because of the reduced surface tension.

Always properly clean old floors in order to remove contaminants
including grease, oil, wax etc. before the sanding process is started. Toby Polyclean in warm water or Toby Reducer Thinners on problem floors
will do the job in most cases, as will white spirit. Plenty of clean rags should be used when cleaning the floor to ensure that contaminants are
removed and not spread all over the surface. Care should be taken with disposal of these rags as they remain highly flammable.

It is better to throw away equipment like sandpaper, screen backs, or rollers if they were used on a problem floor as contaminants may be transferred
to following jobs.

Silicones can be a serious problem, therefore always check if such
materials were used on or near the floor. The removal of contaminants from the floor prior to the coating application is critically important.
Even when a floor has been cleaned and is free of rejection, a high concentration of certain contaminants remaining on the floor may weaken the
bond between the coats and later cause delamination.

Feel welcome to call and discuss further with one of our friendly sales staff.



Happiness Hunter

Along with a myriad and already dodgy resolutions for 2018 I decided to be a “happiness hunter”. This does not mean discarding being a “Wisdom Warrior,
(yes really!) that remains a lifelong quest, but does seem to be a better pursuit than sheer accumulation of monetary wealth something I don’t
appear to be particularly good at.

It turns out that accumulating bucket loads of money can in fact go a long way towards happiness, as can I am told does living in Denmark, Singapore
or Costa Rica.

Happiness is not as straightforward it seems, as walking around with a big grin. You have to first allow yourself to be happy. However, “like a candle
to the wax of the hardest heart” the potentially imbecilic smile, however it is induced, is a useful thing for both yourself, it uses less muscles
than a frown, and for others; all of whom get a little blast of oxytocin when they return the favour. More about the chemicals later.


Seems I had unwittingly started travelling this path earlier last year when I started reading “Stumbling on happiness” by Danial Gilbert. Dan is a
very funny guy and a Harvard psychologist, he addresses some fundamental questions including “Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners
for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?

Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight? It is actually quite a serious work and well
supported with scientific studies pretty much about why we make bad decisions and yet I regularly laughed out loud. That made me happy and it seems
that Dan is pretty happy because the book made the New York Times best seller list has been translated into over 30 languages, he got to make a
TED talk and won a Royal Society prize for science books.

I also recently listened to an interview with Gretchen Rubin . While Gretchen doesn’t seem particularly
happy this may be because she mostly lives in New York. In December 2009 The academics — Andrew J. Oswald, of the University of Warwick in
Britain, and Stephen Wu, of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. created a guide
to American happiness and on the smiley scale, New York State landed on the bottom. Yep dead last. Without even moving to the scenic and lifestyle
delights of Boulder Colorado Gretchen still has a lot to say on the subject of happiness, and managed to create the happiness project and, happily
has had a New York Times best seller. She has a regular blog and if you don’t find that stuff too cheesy will send you a happy thought every day
if you care to ask.

The more I hunt the more I find has been written on the subject. Marion Gropen tells us there are literally dozens published each year with a probable total of tens of thousands in total. These are probably written by people
like me who want to scratch their own itch by writing on the subject. Committed hunter that I have now become I still don’t want to read that many
books. The wonderful and ridiculously well-read Maria Popova gives a short cut at Brainpickings including one by the Dalai Lama himself which includes the remark: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy,
practice compassion.” All about oxytocin once again


This takes us to the chemicals.


Our bodies it seems are their own Doctor Feelgood, generating personalised eight balls in combinations of Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and of course
Endorphins, something that absurdly always makes me think of Flipper.


Dopamine is the reward chemical the one why all the naughty stuff makes us feel so good.

Dopamine is a motivator for action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them says Thai Nguyen.

Sometimes called the “pleasure” Nuero-transmitter, happiness and pleasure are , as Happiness Hunters are well aware not the same thing.


Meanwhile the very busy and popular Dopamine also increases response to sex,
, and rock and roll. amongst a host of other things I tend to like. All abused drugs, from alcohol to cocaine to heroin, increase
dopamine in this area in one way or another
, and many people like to describe a spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure.” But that’s not quite it. Really, dopamine is signalling feedback for predicted rewards. If you, say, have learned to associate a cue (like a crack pipe) with a hit of crack, you will start getting increases in dopamine in the nucleus accumbens section of the brain in response to the sight of the pipe, because your brain predicts the reward. But if you then don’t get your hit, well, then dopamine can decrease, and that’s not a happy feeling

The whole body especially the kidneys, pancreas and intestines benefit from Dopamine “holistic happiness” as it were and inevitably it has been bottled
and it can be bought as a medication sold under the trade names Intropin, Dopastat, and Revimine, among others.

Too much of a good thing as always, isn’t a good thing, Dopamine problems are implicated in ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, bipolar disorders,
binge eating, addiction, gambling, and schizophrenia. Overly high amounts of dopamine can cause euphoria-which sound good, aggression-which doesn’t,
and intense sexual feelings I am told. Hmmm…


Serotonin is nature’s own anti-depressant and for those watching the waist line is known to decrease
appetite, possibly because 80-90% hangs out in the gastro-intestinal tract. It aids the liver,cardiovascular system, muscles, and various elements
in the endocrine system.

Sufficient serotonin in the brain allows you to feel calm and optimistic and provides a sense of well-being, while serotonin deficiency has the opposite
effect. Low serotonin levels (or abnormal serotonin function) is the most recognized underlying cause of depression.

Your body makes 5-hydroxy tryptophan, or 5-HTP, from tryptophan, and then converts it into serotonin. And once again you can buy supplements including
Saint John’s Wort,

Serotonin is also found in mushrooms, fruits and vegetables and especially (Yay!!) in chocolate.

Kindly even insects as well as plants get to enjoy it

Serotonin release is supposedly triggered by feeling important or significant so it is relevant who you hang out with. Sunshine is pretty helpful as


Cuddly old mate oxytocin is also very much about your buddies. Both a neuro –transmitter and a hormone it is produced in the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary
gland at the base of the brain Oxytocin is the reward buzz when you do a good thing and is happily viral even buzzing those that see the good thing
happen. Oxytocin then impacts on group behaviour generally and in a good way including happy group memories and like serotonin social recognition.
Unfairly females usually have higher levels of it than guys, this may be simply that their nipples are more sensitive, the stimulation of nipples
is known to trigger serotonin release.


More likely though is its important role in childbirth and breastfeeding which are pretty fundamental to our future as a species. That glimpse of immortality
is a happy place for me. As bottled happiness Oxytocin is used as a
prescription drug under the brand name Pitocin.

Giving, at any level is a great trigger for serotonin and receiving even more. But the best and most available is a great big hug.Doctor Paul Zak the “love doctor” is an oxytocin expert and recommends 8 hugs a day.

Just be careful of any resultant testosterone increases fellas, it apparently negates good old oxy.


Endorphins the gym junkie’s addiction and are in fact an opioid. No wonder Flipper’s career
crashed and burned. The main activity of endorphins is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals
and happily in the process they also produce a high very similar to that produced by other opioids such as morphine. Equally happily for the fitness
industry endorphins are currently, now at least, not a controlled substance. Laughter is also a great trigger and currently only banned in North
Korea. The smell of vanilla and lavender has been linked with the production of endorphins and studies have indicate that dark chocolate and spicy foods can lead the brain to release endorphins as do sex and good music. Even alcohol gets a nod but then so does stress and pain which
are not high on my happiness barometer.

Whilst excess Endorphins are linked with schizophrenia and manic depression the risks seem pretty much worth it

On the opposite end of the marathon running spectrum it seems doing very little may also be the key. Having spent the equivalent of a 3rd world nation’s GDP on psychotherapy; podcaster designer and all around creative Debbie Millman has
decided the key to being happy is accepting yourself just as you are. So much for all those self-improvement books. Tara Brach tends to agree. Although she does write self-improvement books she “radically accepts” Debbie’s position on the subject.

As a good Buddhist however, she takes it one step further. I love her guided meditations and just this morning I heard her say “accept this moment
exactly as it is”

Reminds me of those simple words of wisdom from Paul Mc Cartney to just “let it be”


Whilst totally determined on a beatific inner reserve of peace, serenity and compassion

I am an Alpha male and a little overly driven to external activity.Inevitably I have come up with yet another to do list, this time detailing some
of the bounty from the hunt so far.

For the moment, my list of things to do includes:

Make my bed in the morning,

Have sex (yes please)

Eat dark Chocolate (got that covered)


Make shit loads of money

Exercise more

Work less

Sleep more,

Laugh more

Be more social- while carefully monitoring the 5 people who I spend the most time with who after all, are the ones I will become the average of.


Just as I begin to get happy all about this and cosy in Rumi’s thought that “what I am seeking is seeking me” Kyle Maynard one of the mast amazing athletes on the planet raises the bar “Thinking of what makes me happy doesn’t give me the same clarity as thinking about
what gives me bliss”


Maybe a “happiness hunter” can be a “bliss beneficiary” as a by-product?


I will keep you informed as to my progress


Martin O’


Feb 17 2018

Slippery Shoes

I’m of an age, (ancient!) where the rosin box was a permanent and vital feature in all studios and side stage. Great stuff, can still remember the smell!
Crushing those crystals was sometimes a ritual, sometimes a chore and often cathartic! Used for giving some grip on slippery floors but you had to
get the ratio just right. Too little and you still slipped, too much and you stuck to the floor with the very real danger of serious damage as you
pirouetted and your ankle didn’t!

Also good when crushed finely and mixed with a judicious amount of spit, you could glue your shoes to the back of your heel! Those babies were never coming

Downside, well, sticky and powdery and got into everything. When combined with the dust and dirt that accumulates on a floor it left a residue on your
shoes that would morph into a blob that could swallow a small dancer alive!

I was reminded of this today when speaking to a client about a chronically slippery floor. They had cleaned the floor very well, still slippery. Had used
Rozzie, still slippery in spots. I had to ask if the student’s shoes were clean. “Of course! We don’t allow street shoes on the dance floor and everyone
has to change shoes before leaving the studio!” It wasn’t until I mentioned the build up of residue from the dance floor that the penny started to
drop. I had an instant flashback of all the stuff I used to schlep about everywhere I went!

Along with the usual assortment of various style of dance shoes, tights, leos, leg warmers, jumpers, bun nets, hair pins and hair elastics, band aids,
toe pads, strapping tape, (pain killers and anti inflammatories!) sewing kit, Stanley knife (for paring down pointe shoe soles), a good book, (for
the tour bus journey), and of course, a small wire brush. The brush was a lifesaver at times and was used to scrape off the accumulation of grime and
goo, it’s not just rosin that builds up on your shoes, anything from dirt, body lotion, hair spray can accumulate and cause trouble. If you left it
too long you had to use a Stanley knife to lift the slip inducing layers away. Clean soles and miracle of miracles, no more slip!!

Tip for young players, always check your shoes for loose ribbons, floppy tap plates and accumulated dirt! To paraphrase Ford Prefect, “Always carry a wire




After over 50 countries and some pretty rough travel including top to toe Amazon and Nile Rivers. The length of Africa and Badlands of South America here
is Martins list:

Take as little as possible!!!!!


Buy local.

Do include: Passport, Tickets Travel Insurance, Visas. Vaccinations, Prescriptions.

Take several passport-size photos of yourself to attach to visa applications – again, it saves you running around looking for a photo machine at the
last minute

I am not going to get into the clothes too much other than to recommend concealing in the waistband of the 3 pairs of the pants you have (two long
one short) a heat-sealed packet containing 2 x US $50 a copy of your passport and an emergency contact list. This naturally includes your Mum and
Dad but also a list of the numbers of your bank, credit cards etc. that you need to call to cancel. Also have copies in your internet email account.
A quick way to do this is lay out all your cards and documents face down and take a photo with your cell phone.

Should you lose everything its probable you will have one of these pairs of pants on – 1 of the $50 is for a bribe the other to get you to the consulate.
You can always access this money if funds run super low.

In your toiletries conceal empty tube of chap stick/lipstick to make a secret money stash.

Equally a Berrocca tube with a couple of tablets on top is a slightly larger version of the same.

Roll, don’t fold clothes. Stuff clothes inside other objects. Space is limited.

Put loose cables such as ear bud’s, charger leads etc. in an old sunglass case.

I also recommend keeping your passport and credit/debit cards on your skin at all times- except maybe in the shower or swimming! (airports and embassies
are generally ok to have them in the hand) you always know where they are then, and an underarm around the neck pouch with a slash proof strap
is perfect. Reinforcing existing straps with fishing braid(not Mono) will keep it airport security scan friendly. Another good trick is to have
a cheap cloth version around your neck. This is basically a decoy with a small amount of handy local currency and a “non-wallet” with dead credit
cards in it. This can also serve as an extra pocket for cigarettes etc. if you are silly enough to smoke.

A very basic first aid kit can consist ofsteri-strips a bottle of betadine a couple of Elastoplast and a few disprins, plus some anti diarrhoea
such as Imodium, Kaopectate 1-D, Maalox Anti-Diarrheal, or Pepto. Any more than medicine than that, see a local doctor or pharmacy, do however
take a good supply of any prescription medicines you require and or contraceptives. Asian countries have notoriously small and poorly made condoms.
Girls may consider a Diva Cup – a menstrual cup that can be reused throughout your trip. Places like the Kalahari
desert, outer Mongolia and the upper reaches of the Amazon are hard s to source Tampons but that shouldn’t mean you don’t go there.

Have an up-to-date copy of any prescriptions before you leave.

Sunscreen, toothpaste shampoo, soap, disinfectant etc. get local and discard. Good heavy zip lock plastic bags are perfect for these and also for a
designated washable cloth. It is less bulky than toilet paper and many 3rd world toilets won’t even have a tap let alone tolerate toilet paper.
Disinfect often. Wash your hands often and well.

Quick Dry Towel– Super lightweight and non-bulky can double as a neck pillow on a bus

A torch is a good idea either a cheap headlight type which equally works by hand or something super bright (heavy and expensive) which doubles for

A hardcover notebook.

A Swiss army knife or Leatherman is a great thing but if you are all about carry-on luggage (the ultimate goal) then you are better to buy a cheap
utility knife on the ground and chuck it when you board a plane. The same with a cup or bowl. The spork has a good rep but I haven’t used one. They make sense for hygiene in not too sanitary eating places.

Typically some of the best local food is from roadside vendors but……

 if you like books, a Kindle is an absolute godsend while travelling.

A water bottle- Nalgene is a good brand. Be very fussy about what goes into it. Sterilise often. I got so used to the taste of Iodine –the cheapest
available purifier back in the day that water tasted odd without it. There are a number of UV systems available now but I haven’t tried them. Remember
fruit with its high-water content can easily have the nasties that live in the water-watermelon being an obvious one.

Be careful but don’t be too exclusive as you do need to build up your natural tolerances.

A roll of electrical tape can mend all sorts of things.

A short length of heavy cord such as venetian blind cord makes for a washing line and is generally useful.

So are carabiners.

Garbage Bags will protect your backpack and you in the rain and be generally useful for dirty boots/washing and the like.

Luggage padlocks are Ok, zip ties will do the same job as well, but may piss off the customs dude. A padlock though can secure lockers, doors, and
your belongings when needed.

Make sure you have a suitably rugged case for you cell phone which means it can withstand being dropped and splashed with water. Otterbox provide some excellent ones, not pretty but tough as.

A personal safety alarm is something I have never bothered with, but something to consider particularly for solo
girl travellers. They are small and easy to walk around with, and make a very loud noise if you press it in an emergency.

Assume the worst of people, including fellow travellers, but not much so that it affects your enjoyment.

Avoid those people that are most anxious to be your newest best friend. These particularly include those that hang around bus/ train stations and airports.

Above all enjoy what are probably going to be the best times of your Life.


Tim Ferris

-1 featherweight Marmot Ion jacket (3 oz.!)

-1 breathable Coolibar long-sleeve shirt. This saved me in Panama.

-1 pair of polyester pants. Polyester is light, wrinkle-resistant, and dries quickly. Disco dancers and flashpackers dig it.

-1 Kensington laptop lock,
also used to secure all bags to stationary objects.

-1 single Under Armour sock, used to store sunglasses

-2 nylon tanktops

-1 large MSR quick-dry microfiber towel, absorbs up to 7 times its weight in water

-1 Ziploc bag containing toothbrush, travel toothpaste, and disposable razor

-1 Fly Clear biometric travel card, which cuts down my airport wait time about 95%

-2 pairs of Exofficio lightweight underwear. Their tagline is “17 countries. 6 weeks. And one pair of
underwear.” I think I’ll opt for two, considering they weigh about as much as a handful of Kleenex. One other nice side-effect of their weight:
they’re much more comfortable than normal cotton underwear.

-2 pairs of shorts/swimsuits

-2 books: Lonely Planet Hawaii and The Entrepreneurial Imperative (the latter comes highly recommended. Check it out)

-1 sleeping mask and earplugs

-1 pair of Reef sandals. Best to get a pair with removable straps that go around the heel.

-1 Canon PowerShot SD300 digital camera with extra 2GB SD memory card. God, I love this camera more than words can describe. It is the best designed piece of electronics I have ever owned.
I now use it not only for all of my photos and videos, but also as a replacement for my scanner. I’m considering testing the newer and cheaper SD1000.

-1 coffee harvesting hat to prevent my pale skin from burning off.

-1 Kiva keychain expandable duffel bag

-1 Chapstick, 1 Mag-Lite Solitaire flashlight,
and 1 roll of athletic tape. The last is a lifesaver. It’s as useful as duct tape for repairing objects but gentle enough to use on injuries, which
I am fond of inflicting on myself.

-1 Lewis and Clark flex lock (for luggage, lockers, zippers, or whatever I need to lock down/shut/together). Standard mini-padlocks are often too cumbersome to thread through
holes on lockers, etc.

-1 Radio Shack kitchen timer, which I’ve been using to wake up for about five years. The problem with using a cell phone alarm to wake up is simple:
the phone needs to be on, and even if you use vibrate, people can call and wake you up before you want to wake up. The second benefit to using
a kitchen timer if that you know exactly how much sleep you are — or aren’t — getting, and you can experiment with things like caffeine

This is now pretty dated

Rolf Potts

1. Don’t check luggage. If you’re bringing that much stuff with you, you’re doing something wrong.

[TIM: I second this and encourage you to take things to extremes. Here’s exactly how I travel the world with 10 pounds or less.]

2. Instead of doing a TON of stuff. Pick one or two things, read all about those things and then actually spend time doing them. Research
shows that you’ll enjoy an experience more if you’ve put effort and time into bringing it about. So I’d rather visit two or three sights that I’ve
done my reading on and truly comprehend than I would seeing a ton of stuff that goes right in and out of my brain. (Oh, and never feel “obligated”
to see the things everyone says you have to)

[TIM: Need some inspiration? Here are my highlight lists for Tokyo and Buenos Aires.]

3. Take long walks.

4. Stop living to relive. What are you taking all these pictures for? Oh, for the memories? Then just look at it and remember it.
Experience the present moment. (Not that you can’t take photos but try to counteract the impulse to look at the world through your iPhone

5. Read books, lots of books. You’re finally in a place where no one can interrupt you or call you into meetings and since half the television stations will be in another language…use
it as a chance to do a lot of reading.

[TIM: I strongly suggest that non-fiction bigots (which I was for 15+ years) read or listen to some fiction to turn off their problem-solving minds.
Try The Graveyard Book audiobook or Zorba the Greek.

6. Eat healthy. Enjoy the cuisine for sure, but you’ll enjoy the place less if you feel like a slob the whole time. (To put
it another way, why are you eating pretzels on the airplane?)

[TIM: If you want to follow The Slow-Carb Diet, my default cuisine
choices in airports are Thai and Mexican food. Also, keep a *small* bag of almonds in your bag to avoid digressions in emergencies.]

7. Try to avoid guidebooks, which are superficial at best and completely wrong at worst. I’ve had a lot more luck pulling up Wikipedia,
and looking at the list of National (or World) Historical Register list for that city and swinging by a few of them. Better yet, I’ve found a lot
cooler stuff in non-fiction books and literature that mentioned the cool stuff in passing. Then you Google it and find out where it is.

[TIM: I like to spend an afternoon visiting hostels, even if I’m staying in an apartment or hotel. The hostel staff will know which free and low-cost
activities get the best reviews from the non-museum-going crowd.]

8. I like to go and stand on hallowed ground. It’s humbling and makes you a better person. Try it. (My personal favorite is battlefields–nothing is more eery or quiet or peaceful)

9. Come up with a schedule that works for you and get settled into it as soon as possible. You’re going to benefit less from your
experiences if you’re scrambled, exhausted and inefficient. Me, I get up in the morning early and run. Then I work for a few hours. Then I roll
lunch and activities into a 3-4 hour block where I am away from work and exploring the city I’m staying it. Then I come back, work, get caught
up, relax and then eventually head out for a late dinner. In almost every time zone I’ve been in, this seems to be the ideal schedule to a) enjoy my life b) Not actually count as “taking time off.” No one feels that I am missing. And it lets me extend trips without
feeling stressed or needing to rush home.

10. When you’re traveling to a new city, the first thing you should do when you get to the hotel is change into your work out clothes and go for a long run. You get to see the sights, get a sense of the layout and then you won’t waste an hour of your life in a lame hotel gym either.

11. Never recline your seat on an airplane. Yes, it gives you more room–but ultimately at the expense of someone else. In economics,
they call this an externality. It’s bad. Don’t do it.

12. Stay in weird-ass hotels. Sometimes they can suck but the story is usually worth it. A few favorites: A hotel that was actually
a early 20th-century luxury train car,
a castle in Germany, the room where Gram Parsons died in Palm Desert,
a hotel in Arizona where John Dillinger was arrested,
and a hotel built by Wild Bill Hickok.

13. Read the historical markers–*actually* read them, don’t skim. They tend to tell you interesting stuff.

14. Add some work component to your travel if you can. Then you can write it all off on your taxes (or better, be paid for the whole

[TIM: Here’s how an entire family moved to a tropical paradise in Indonesia and continued to earn income.]

15. Don’t waste time and space packing things you MIGHT need but could conceivably buy there. Remember, it costs money (time, energy,
patience) to carry pointless things around. (Also, most hotels will give you razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries.)

16. Go see weird shit. It makes you think, shake your head, or at least, laugh. (For instance, did you know that there is a camel buried in the
soldier’s cemetery at Vicksburg?)

[TIM: If you go to Japan, don’t miss the incredible Ghibli Museum, made by animator Hayao Miyazaki and
located in Inokashira Park.]

17. Ignore the temptation to a) talk and tell everyone about your upcoming trip b) spend months and months planning. Just go. Get comfortable with travel being an ordinary experience in your life and you’ll do it more. Make it some enormous event, and you’re liable to
confuse getting on a plane with an accomplishment by itself.

18. Regarding museums, I like Tyler Cowen’s trick about pretending you’re a thief who is casing the joint. It changes how you perceive and remember the art. Try it.

19. Don’t upgrade your phone plan to international when you leave the country. Not because it saves money but because it’s a really
good excuse to not use your cellphone for a while. (And if you need to call someone, try Google Voice. It’s free)

20. Explore cool places inside the United States. The South is beautiful and chances are you haven’t seen most of it. There’s all
sorts of weird history and wonderful things that your teachers never told you about. Check
it out, a lot of it is within a drive of a day or two.

[TIM: Here are 12+ gems of the Pacific Northwest,
encountered on a road trip from San Francisco to Whistler, Canada.]

[TIM: 21. OK, this one’s from me, just because it’s so much fun. Take pictures of yourself jumping in different places! It
can turn a boring “adult” afternoon into a giddy kid-like experience. The below is from Burning Man 2010.]

Burning Man 2010


Particle Board V Plywood


Recently I did a Facebook post in which I assumed a fairly high ground and stated that;

“ At STM Studio supplies we constantly come across people planning to use particle board for their dance floor. I cannot emphasise strongly enough what a bad idea that is. There is no international supplier of performance flooring that will recommend particle board as a sub-floor. By manufacture and intent, chip or particle reconstituted material is very dense and in comparison to plywood “dead” with a much-reduced energy return. Since this energy return and shock absorption is the reason why we are building a sprung floor in the first place, it defies reason to use a material that is going to lessen that.

Plywood, strand-board, sprung battens, or a combination of them are the only way forward. The labour component is the significant cost and this remains largely unchanged. The effective return on the investment in plywood is more than rewarded with the improved quality of the finished floor”


Please listen to those who know rather than builders who profess to.


This created a bit of a fuss, as many studio owners and dancers, pre-committed to particle board flooring, were naturally defensive and requested I support my claims a little more scientifically.

This created more of a challenge than I anticipated. It seems there is little incentive out there to compare the deflection or bending characteristics of the two different materials in a direct comparison. As a bit of background to all this are the relevant standards, or lack of them, relating to dance or “performance floors”.


Australia and New Zealand have no specific guidelines for performance floors but AS 1702.2 relates to timber properties as being discussed here, as does NZS 3604:2011.Both require a KPa of under 3.

kPa refers to the pascal (Pa) or kilopascal (kPa) as a unit of pressure measurement and is widely used throughout the world In this instance as a measure of ground pressure.



So far neither plywood or particle board is offending if it is supported at a minimum of 450 centres as per table 5 In the excellent EWPAA “Commercial and Industrial Flooring Design” article.




The closest we get to a performance floor standard is the Din Standard 1083 part 2 which is the mother of the now widely applied European standard EN1904. As these standards are for sports floors we are only concerned with the elements that directly relate to dance.

One is the area elasticity of the floor which is to do with the area around the point of impact which will, for example affect your partner. Another is shock absorption with a force reduction of between 25% and 75% and in common acceptance regarded as “good” around 53%. Add to this “point load” which is defined as the deflection of a point force only at or close to the point of application of the force. Most relevant to this discussion is “vertical deformation” which indicates the ability of the surface to deform under load.


Obviously as a desirable dance floor is a combination of several factors including thickness, hardness and uniformity of supports but specific to the plywood vs. particle board debate is this issue of vertical deformation.


When tested by the EN 14809 methods, in a general sense, both plywood and MDF fall well below the vertical deformation limit of 5mm. I say in a general sense because there a big range of variables within those two materials. Obviously thickness and composition are part of that difference, however for this application, as dance flooring, we can pretty much limit ourselves to 15-17mm interior plywood and 19mm Yellow tongue flooring whilst not excluding
the excellent birch ply products supplied by both Harlequin and Stagestep.


Information on particle board behaviour wasn’t as difficult as plywood, with an article on shelving properties containing most of the required information. Particleboardalso known
as chipboard and as yellow tongue when used in flooring, is an engineered wood product manufactured from wood chips, sawmill shavings, or even sawdust and a synthetic resin or other suitable binder which is pressed and extruded. Particle board is cheaper more dense and more uniform than conventional wood and plywood and is substituted for them when cost is more important than strength and appearance. A major disadvantage of particleboard is that it is very prone to expansion and discolouration due to moisture. The denseness in this application is also not necessarily a plus as has a lessened ability to return the energy imparted to it.

Particle board is governed by Australian Standards (AS/NZS 1859 Parts 1 and 2 and 1860 Part 1). with testing carried out by Timber & Wood Products Research Centre of the University of Central Queensland, results below were rechecked and updated by additional research projects carried out by the Caulfield Campus, Monash University.


Particle board flooring has a nominal deflection of 1.8mm under a uniform load of 21 KPa.

With the human footprint of a 1.8m male being around 55Kpa this will increase but not necessarily proportionally.

This study also mentions that in tropical areas, with material exposed to the interior effects of weather cycles of temperature and relative humidity, the creep factor is three times initial deflection. If particleboard is exposed to severe tropical weather conditions a creep factor of four should be used. Flooring grade improves on these figures but is still subject to creeping.

Whilst this increased deflection may seem desirable, remember that, what this is describing includes swelling, softening and a non-returning deflection or slump.

Conversely and significantly, interior grade ply flooring plywood manufactured to AS/NZS 2270 because it’s natural wood structure is maintained during manufacture, all moisture movements for practical purposes can be considered reversible.

Plywood is a sheet material manufactured from thin layers or “plies” of wood veneer that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another All ply woods bind resin and wood fibre sheets to form a composite material. This alternation of the grain is called cross-graining and has several important benefits: it reduces the tendency of wood to split when nailed at the edges; it reduces expansion and shrinkage, providing improved dimensional stability; and it makes the strength of the panel consistent across all directions. There is usually an odd number of plies, so that the sheet is balanced—this reduces warping.

Further, plywood’s cross laminated construction makes panels highly resistant to edge and impact damage.
The ability to relocate a plywood floor is also enhanced for this reason, plus the smaller sheet size, weight, and reduced moisture retention.

Additionally, fatigue from cyclic loads is not a problem.


Annoyingly, what deflection information is available was substantially limited to structural plywood, but we could glean that with a uniform load of 3kPa on 17mm radiata plywood had a nominal deflection of 2mm. Once again there is untested proportional decrease in efficiency but suggests there is potentially a 7x gain on the performance of particle board.

 Since we didn’t believe this we ran some tests of our own.

Essentially we supported our materials on the perimeter of a 1200 section maintaining a 1m span.
On this stood a 74kg man and we measured the change in level.

– 18mm radiata ply: 18mm
– 19mm yellow tongue: 4mm
– 15mm ply with 5.5mm masonite: 14mm

Significantly, the plywood sprang back into position immediately. Remember that, unlike in this test, the floor is supported at 300mm centres so that dipping is not going to occur.

I reached out to Dr Luke Hopper the ballet dancer turned Biomechanist about this issue. He rightly pointed out that more conventional sports floors do not use particle board and tend to use hardwood strip timber. Those of you that have a church hall or similar know well how satisfactory that can be.

Cost is always going to be an issue. In Australia using Bunnings as a national supplier and as at March 2017, Yellow tongue flooring will cost $13.88/m2 and an equivalent ply $26.04/m2. Although this is roughly double the price on an average 80Mm2 floor this is an added cost of $972.80. Even if the floor should only last 10 years, and expect 20+, then this is $1.87 a week. The other costs such as sprung pads, vinyl and most importantly labour
remain constant across the exercise.

The choice is of course yours but here is what a builder in the UK who does know had to say: “Although you may be enticed by the cheaper chipboard flooring, I have to strongly advise you not to be. Chipboard really doesn’t cut the mustard.” He goes on at length and has a good Q &A as well

Finally may I leave you with this thought from Benjamin Franklin;

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”

Happy Dancing

Martin O’Neill



The Three Legged Horse

I recently reminded my good friend Peter Gillespie of the adage “quitters never win”.

He was in a bit of a bleak landscape at the time but I thought his rather erudite reply was worth sharing:


For the record Martin, I’m more of a Spartans Last Stand at Thermopylae guy, than a quitter.  Sometimes calling it quits is a wise move, but I never learned how to make detached assessments. So I have a long career as last man standing. Not all human stories have happy endings and I remind myself that I have done a lot better in the past than I have recently. Why? Probably just odds on. Not all human stories end happy ever after.” 

 Why you still out there racing that 3-legged horse PG?

 “Well, it was a great horse, it loves to race and it still wants to race and I’d feel like I let it down if I stopped now. So eventually it breaks another leg and they must shoot it and there you are again still on your own two legs, wondering about the justice of it all that a horse couldn’t make it on two. Next trick is to not just back any old horse just cos you miss that one.  No sir. But I never learned the trick of that either.”

 Ok PG you got yourself another horse. Did you count the legs on it this time?

 “Aww shit…. “




This week one of my best friends died.

Waves of darkness kept dimming my optimism and energy.

They tell me gratitude, along with exercise, is one of the keys to escaping despair and depression.

That makes sense to me. After all, thinking about things that we are grateful for is a one-way ticket to our happy places.

But hell, what is to be grateful for about death?

It isn’t fair, is it?

Fairness doesn’t get to play here, although it does remain a recurring conundrum for me. What does work for me is reversing the perspective and realising that I am very grateful for the good times I shared with, and the person my friend was.

I am grateful for being best man at her wedding, for the shared houses and travels, for her beauty of spirit, generosity of self and extraordinary empathy and kindness. I am grateful that she didn’t suffer any more than she did and how she remained unflaggingly optimistic until the end. I am grateful I knew her as long as I did.

As my friend was dying she was constantly saying how lucky she was. Lucky that the diagnosis was early, lucky that a new medication was available, lucky that she could get to her favourite location to finally leave us.

My friend was a giver and a carer. She always saw the good in people and was discreet with the bad. If gratitude is truly exemplified in the readiness to show appreciation and return and give kindness, then my friend was a master.

JFK famously said “as we express our gratitude we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them”, that was my friend.

Reciprocation is the key. Not the writing of or lip service to some morning or evening affirmation, although here is no harm in that practise, it’s the giving back.

To make that your default setting is one of the noblest goals.

As Elaine St James said,  “the more gratitude you have the more you have to be grateful for”