Monday, October 5, 2009

Momo Kadous Seminar and Show

I admit that I took too long to post this but I was tired.... and then it was my birthday, and then I went to Mexico for a week, and then I was tired again. I then I got it done but needed to upload the pictures... you know how the story goes.

Momo Kadous was sponsored by Turquoise International with Shahira and Sabylla being the local hostesses. We had a hafla on Friday night at The Mirage. I was very happy that Ali (from Turquoise) and Momo were able to attend. We had some great dancers from all over Tennessee and the surrounding area.

Me, Laura and Jessica with Momo

If you have never taken a workshop with Momo, I have to warn you...his English is not very good. He also tends to go back and forth from English to French to German. I attended a workshop with his last year and this year I was prepared and that made it easier for me to understand. Several fellow attendees said by the second day they were doing much better.

Both choreography's he taught were incredible. I dream at night that art like that will ever come from my mind. I was also flattered that he thought enough of us on the first day to give use a second, long, complicated orientale piece.

He allowed us the film the class (just not him) which is great since our notes were all filled with things like "Opa, opa, hep, hep, step". You would think it would be hard with a language barrier to be funny but Momo is a laugh a minute. If the class doesn't look like they are getting it he will say "Do you understand?...Say no" or "say yes" if he is ready to move on. The jewel sound bite of this workshop was, "Is beautiful, yes? Then why you no dance it good".

If you ever have a chance to study with Momo, take it! I can't put into words the masterfullness (which is not even a word) of his choreography's. Even of you never danced them, the technique and ideas for creating your own choreography are endless.
The only possible complaint about the workshop is that the materials said that the last afternoon of the seminar would be folklore and instead Momo taught the same Oreintale choreography before and after lunch. I don't know when he changed his plan and surely hope no one was really disappointed. I hate it only because having danced one of his folk numbers, I know how great they are.

The show on Saturday was amazing as far as performance but attendance left something to be desired. The show competed with a UT Football which, around here, is like church.
Unfortunately, I spent most of the night in the dressing room and got to see very few numbers. My husband and friends were astounded by Raksanna, Linda of Nashville, and Mahsati Janan among others.

Both my troupes danced Momo choreography's that we learned on his 2008 circuit. Here is Shahira's Troupe Hyetti doing an oreintale piece

and BellaBelly with a Bedouin Folk number.

I think it is safe to say that this number stole the show!
Momo himself ended the night with a great performance.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This is it!

Okay, I know it is not the best quality picture you will see today but see the bridesmaid leaning against the column? That's me. And see the blur? That's my friend's cousin dancing at her wedding.
This is it. A picture of the actual moment I decided to start bellydancing. It's not the moment I became a bellydancer, that is another story.
I am happy that Maryam decided to get nostalgic and post some wedding photos so I could share this moment with everyone.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Review: Coastal Scents Cosmetics

So thanks to Google Readers new "Send To" Feature rather than putting up a link and hoping my readers click and read, I can pull across the whole post. So read this! What a great make-up for performances. Also, read one or more of Manolo's Blogs. I got started with Manolo for the Bride and am now committed to Manolo for the Big Girl (where the following post is from).

Review Revue: Coastal Scents Cosmetics (ZOMG an actual positive review!): "

Until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of Coastal Scents, a small cosmetics company based in Florida, and when I visited their site on a whim I wasn’t especially impressed. The site was a no-frills online store, the photographs weren’t professional beauty shots and the menus less than intuitive. But I was intrigued.

Coastal Scents, unlike traditional mascara slingers, caters to a combination of mad-scientists and professionals; make-up artists, resellers and people who want to make their own custom blends. They don’t just sell makeup, they sell makeup components, including pure pigment.

Ultramarine pure pigment

I am constantly on the hunt for intensely pigmented matte colors.

MAC is great and I heartily recommend them, but I have a hard time justifying dropping $15 for a shadow pot I might use once or twice a year. As far as drug store brands go, I’ve had good luck with the L’Oreal HiP line and Milani, which is marketed towards women with darker skin tones and generally contains more pigment, but they’re almost always too sparkly and their lasting power leaves a good deal to be desired. Plus I can’t use their cream-based products because of my eyelash extensions.

Coastal Scents sells their pigments by the half-teaspoon, teaspoon, ounce and pound. I ordered teaspoons of several oxides and micas (at a dollar each!) which is what they call “sample size”. Sample size it may be, but for the recreational user, a teaspoon of pigment is a LOT of makeup. They arrived packaged neatly in teensy zipper bags. Each bag was labeled with the color, approved uses –eyes, lips, face, nails etc.– and the ingredients.

I popped each pigment into its own five gram jar ($3.49 for 10) and started experimenting.

Sifter Jar

Using their excellent 13 piece brush set ($16.95 including roll) which is by far the best brush set for the money I’ve ever come across, I began monkeying around with applications. First I applied some pigment with a very wet brush and got a lovely, even wash of color. Then I added a drop of fixative (I think mine came from a N.Y.C. loose powder kit) for a full-on intense look. The color payoff was tremendous as good or better as anything I’ve used including the MAC pro colors. It blended like a dream and although there was a good deal of fallout on the dry applications, that’s to be expected with any highly pigmented powder, especially since I forgot to use a primer the first time.

13 piece brush set from Coastal Scents

Using a primer is always a good idea with powders, especially if you’ve got deep set or oily eyelids, because powders as a species tend to “travel”.

Primer gives the powder something to grip, making your application last longer and stay where you damn well put it. The nice folks a Make Up Forever sent me a sample of their HD Microperfecting primer in Neutral the other day which is what I’ve been using and I highly recommend it, but historically my trusty old Rimmel Fix and Perfect primer has never steered me wrong and would probably work almost as well.

My only complaint with the Coastal Scents pigments was they don’t offer a really screaming yellow, which I’ve needed for a particular look for ages. I finally caved and bought Make Up Forever’s Pure Pigment #2, which is good, but not the Holy Grail yellow I’d been searching for, especially not for $20, which was nearly as much as I paid for the entire Coastal Scents 42 Color Double Stack Matte Palette ($24.95).

42 color matte palette

I am way, WAY gun shy about inexpensive palettes. Too many years of cheap Christmas sets with chalky colors meant for little girls playing dress up have left me with a fear and loathing of the multicolor pack, so I can’t tell you why I ordered this.

Maybe it was because the colors were matte –once you’re past the glitter and gloss stage, mattes are a much cooler look than shimmers which tend to look cheap even if they’re not–or maybe I was hoping for that Holy Grail Yellow (close but not quote) but I wasn’t expecting much.

I’m glad I was wrong.

This is by far the best big palette I’ve seen for under $100. It’s a great combination of neutrals and brights, plus some killer blushes and bronzers. The browns are almost exact duplicates of MAC mushroom and bark, which are great browns I use for eyebrow powders (apply it with an angled brush) and the pressed colors have the same ease of blending and almost the same intesity as the wonderful pure pigments.

Next week I’ll have a review of their mineral foundations and veils, plus I’ll reveal The Greatest Cosmetic Brush Ever. Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Race for the Cure Haikus

As mentioned previously, I am team captain for our Race for the Cure team, Bellydancers Shimmy for the Cure. For the past 3 years our troupe has performed at this event as well. At our last rehearsal we were discussing the staging of our number and someone said the groups were 5, 7 and 5. Oh, like a haiku!
So of course we had to write some. Here they are in no particular order.

walk, run, dance, do it
I cannot breathe through this veil
Time to go one, NOW!

five k or short walk
ok if we're stinky? ick
we will do our best

hipscarves will be on
raqs africa is the bomb
shimmy for a cure

Fierce flair warriors
African dance moves, double
head rolls, my neck hurts

United we dance
to entertain and support
where is my lipstick??

We sparkle and shine
With a shimmy and a shake
Have another Crunk!!!

we, many will dance,
from the heart for others' lives.
we will not quiet.

Seventeen dancers,
Stage is collapsing - OH NO!
Hey Y'all Look at us

And a bonus in Iambic Pentameter

To dance on stage with friends, it is a gift
Until the underpinnings start to shift
We'll arabesque and spin and pop and lock
And show the crowd how fun it is to rak

Please submit your own in the comments

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sometimes we have to admit defeat

Remember the costume I was working on? I worked on it a lot and you know what? It didn't fit.

The belt and skirt fit like a dream. The bra was too little. I knew it was but thought it was the sort of too little I could fix. Alas, it was not. I thought about hiding it in the back of my closet until a time when I became a couture genius or got a magic lamp but that would get me nothing.

I listed it on Bhuz. I am hoping I can recoup most of my money and then get a not as expensive costume to replace it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Special Request

I am captain of the Bellydancers Shimmy for the Cure team in the Komen Knoxville Race for the Cure. It would mean the world to me if you gave a donation. Even if it is only the cost of Venti Light Caramel Frappuccino ($5).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pardon my dust

Just ignore me, I am playing with my blog. Will be done in 24 hours...I hope.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Book Review: Dancing, The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement

I found this book at my local used book store. I make it a habit of quickly browsing the dance books and looking for anything that references Middle Eastern Dance.

This book is a really great primer on the evolution of dance. It starts with the Europeans discovery of dance in Polynesia, India and Greece. There are some very detailed sections on dance in Africa and Asia. A chapter called Lord of the Dance is an introduction to dance and religion including some of the very first dance stage shows depicting Salome (great photos). I especially liked the sections on dance and religion.

The largest section on Middle Eastern Dance is in the chapter on social dance. It is interesting to see how social dance differs from culture to culture. This chapter also details how MED was introduced to Europe and the Western World. In the chapter on modernizing dance, I loved the section on Ruth St. Denis. She is someone I would like to read more about.

Ruth St. Denis in 1904

In no way is this book just about ethnic dance, there are sections on modern dance and contemporaries such as Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp.

I am really glad I found this book. The pictures are incredible and it would make a good coffee table book just for photo flipping. I recommend this book to anyone with any interest in dance.

The very last photo in the whole book is Michael Jackson
from the Smooth Criminal video

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fun Photo

Somebody posted this on Bhuz. I love it too much not to share.

Costume Storage & Cleaning

How do you store your costumes?

Some things like skirts that hang are pretty easy. But want bout bedlahs, coin scarfs, errant choli tops and all those bits that get tied on to a Ghawazhee coat?

My house lacks closet space. My next house will have a walk in closet as opposed to my current walk in and back out closet. The closet in our home office is the sliding door type and my costumes share their space with our formal wear and random crafting supplies.

Everything that can hang does. I have a crate on the floor full of all my bits. Hip scarves, cholies, tie on scarves, tummy covers and a few other odds and ends. I would like to keep it organized but it stays a pile because I am always digging through it. I dug last night for a worn black bra I wear under my black dress costume.

As for bedlahs, I store them in a hanging shoe rack like this.
Each compartment holds one bra or belt. I can get both in one space if it is like my orange and pink one that really has no fringe or coins. I also shove my turquoise Lycra beledi dress into a compartment. The dress is stretchy and heavy and if I hang it up, it grows in length. I don't want anything else to get hooked on it so I fold it up nicely and push it into a compartment. This system is nice because you can keep the accessories with each costume. To keep them smelling fresh I fill an old sock with baking soda and place it in the back of each compartment.

And speaking of smelling fresh... How do you clean your costumes?

When I get home I make sure everything is hung up on the door and I lay bras and belts out on my sewing table on an old towel. I use vodka in a spray bottle to give things a refresher. It evaporates quickly and works like Febreze type fresheners without leaving a scent or residue. I am wondering what other methods dancers use on costumes that are not conducive to being laundered.

What about polishing dull coins? I am going to do a test on my American Icon to see if vinegar will shine up the coins.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Costume Alterations

So why haven't I been blogging? or reading the book I am writing my next review on? Because I have been sewing. Blech.

I know my profile says I love sewing, and I do. I like to make pillow, little crafty dodads, I make this rice bags that you can microwave and lay on your face for a sinus headache. I do not like costume alterations. Mostly because it stresses me out and I hunch my shoulders and then I have a headache.

But it is unavoidable. In my off the rack purchases, I have had one dress need nothing, one need shortening and two bedlahs that needed a small extension in the belt. I could custom order every costume. I admit my custom coin bedlah from Dahlal fit perfectly. There is just something about buying from a vendor. Touching it, seeing it, trying it on. I bought an awesome costume from Sadiia of Memphis.

It has a chiffon panel skirt alternating black and turquoise and the top (belt area) is ruched lycra. It is very flattering on my shape. I am usually a bedlah girl because skirt costumes accentuate my belly.
The skirt fits perfectly except for needing to be shortened which is part of life when you are 5'4" and I don't even count that as an alteration anymore.

Here is the bra laid out on my "work table".
The bra needed some work. The cups are a tad too small and need to be reoriented. I first decided I would attached a stretch black Turkish vest. I like my back covered. I used simplicity pattern 4484. I laid the pattern out on brown craft paper, traced it in pencil and then altered it to be more like what I wanted. I made it smaller because I intended it to stretch and I cut it shorter because I only wanted an inch below the bra. I made the vest. It was still too big. I cut down the pattern again. I made the vest. The fit was great but the arm holes were too big. I recut the pattern with smaller armholes. I made the vest. It fit!
I removed the halter strap from the bra and used it to trim the bottom of the back of the vest. I put it on and....I didn't like it. The vest is super cute! but not with this costume.

So, I sewed the halter strap to the underarm side of the cups. I always have side boob issues. I also pulled the cups together. I did this by cutting a piece of lining and sewing it to both cups so they fell in the angle I wanted, now the point on the cups where the strap is attached is directly up. Doing this also changes the angle the sides come out and get rid of the side boob problem. I am pleased with this. All thats left is to add and "upper wire". I am going to put a piece of wire similar to the under wire across the tops of the cups to form them to round shape. Otherwise they flatten and I get a boob roll.

Once I got my vision down (i.e. stopped making the vest over and over), I did all this in a few hours. I still need to add the wire and then start on the skirt. It will be easy but tedious. The fringe is sewn between the ruched belt and the chiffon. In order to take the chiffon off and shorten it I have to first go through and sew the fringe on to the belt so I can cut the stitching. This is not complicated to me because hand sewing it my thing. I will post some pictures when I get started so you can see what I mean.

For more tips and tricks see Carrara Nour's post here.

And finally I leave you with my favorite picture ever. This is my cat Snoopy aka Fat Boogas reading the directions on my pattern to make sure I am doing it right. Cats make excellent Quality Assurance Consultants.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Do you like blogs?

If you like blogs about bellydance and use google reader you can add my Middle Eastern Dance Bundle. It includes all the MED related blogs I read. If I find anymore cool ones and add them they will automatically be added.

"Middle Eastern Dance" bundle created by 'Azraa
Description: Blogs about belly dance
A bundle is a collection of blogs and websites hand-selected by your friend on a particular topic or interest. You can keep up to date with them all in one place by subscribing in Google Reader.
There are
15 feeds included in this bundle (as of posting date)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Review: Ancient Egyptian Dances

Ancient Egyptian Dances by Irena Lexova

Because Amazon and other vendors list the publication date of the English translation (1999), many people don't realize this book was actually published in 1935. It is a true academic treatise on Ancient Egyptian Dance.
The book started out really dry but if you can get past the academic writing style there are some very interesting descriptions of how and why dancing was done. I particularly liked the explanation of how movement was performed. One of the first descriptions of leg movement describes the Saidii style of kicking up one leg into a 90 degree angle as the weight bearing foot bounces off the heel.
The illustrations are reproductions of actual ancient art. The most difficult thing about reading this book is that the illustrations are all appended at the end of the book and you spend a lot of time flipping back and forth.
This book, even though thin, is by no means a light read. I had to sit down with great intent to make it all the way through. I think any dancer interested in the ancient history of the dance should add this book to his/her bookshelf.

Contest Voting

The polls are open over at the Bellydancing Diva. I am honored for everyone to read my submission and both and awesome. Head over there and vote (in the right side bar).

So whats your inspirational belly dancing story. Leave a comment.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Do you have an inspirational story about dancing? The Belly Dancing Diva is sponsoring a contest here.

Stories are up. Go read them here. Mine is included.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bellydance Plus!

Shira of fame has a website focusing on all things Bellydance for the plus sized gal. As an apple, I find it highly informative and useful. Check it out here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Yousry Sharif presented by Alexia

Jessica, Jen ('Azraa), Yousry Sharif and Laura (Laziva)

Where to begin...maybe with the pain in my outer thighs. That was a very intense workshop but I loved every tiring minute of it.

I will start at the beginning. It is safe to say that anything Alexia does is professional. The biggest hiccup with any workshop is usually check in, registration and any administrative detail. Alexia's team was well organized and had everything in order. They handled any slight confusion calmly and professionally and kept things on track. The workshop started and ended on time (relative to bellydance time, we get an automatic 15 minute grace period).

Mr. Sharif as an instructor is truly phenomenal. He uses a watch and repeat method but rather than showing the class once or twice, he drills it until everyone is dancing the combination correctly. I was sweating and ready for a break by the time we began the choreography.
The space for the workshop wasn't exactly small but due to the high participation it was quite crowded. Mr. Sharif regularly switched the rows and split the class into two halves to run the dance completely through.
While any dancer should be falling over them self to study with Mr. Sharif, I would not have recommended his workshop for beginners. The choreography moved very fast and no technique was addressed. Any student needing clarification beyond footwork or transitions would be easily lost. I remember being that lost at my first workshop but it did not require the time and financial commitment of one of Mr. Sharif's workshops.

On to the show, as I started by saying anything put on by Alexia Productions will be professional. There were guest stars from New York, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta and Chattanooga. Aside from Alexia and her Troupe, Shahira and Caryn of Troupe Hyetti represented Knoxville in the show. Knoxville has a huge a dance community and I would have liked to seen it showcased along with guest stars.

Of course, due to the restrictions on flash photography I couldn't thoroughly document the show. The picture of the grand opening number did come out very clear although small and demonstrates the orchestration of the show (sorry about that person's head).

This whole week-end was amazing. Mr. Sharif said he will come back to Knoxville and I am already looking forward to it.

Use a checklist when packing for a performance

A post today over at Princess Farhana had some tips for performing. Some were about entrances, staging, and etiquette but the post opened with reminders about packing.

I am CDO (which is just like OCD but in alphabetical order like it should be) and have lists about what lists I need to make but in the heat of the moment I still forget things. At a recent drumming workshop I forgot my drum!

I have drafted a ready made list that includes the most common things needed when performing as well as room for additions. The Performance Checklist is available online here. I suggest printing it and checking the boxes as you pack something. When packing up to leave your venue mark through each item so you make sure everything you brought comes home with you again.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to the Stanley Mobile Workstation or man box as we call it. When I bought mine it was only available at Home Depot online. It has two big compartments, little bins on top perfect for keeping handy things like lipstick and safety pins, and a great rotate out tray that I use for jewelry (originally designed for nails and screws). Unlike a suitcase it has large rugged wheels that can handle some of the fields, parking lots and other unorthodox locations we dancers drag our belongings.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Poem

I was just looking a nice photo on Belly Dancing Secrets and it reminded me of my Profile photo. The photo that made me pick ScarlettDancer as my e-mail address (red hair, red top, I am from the South). It was taken by a guest at Knoxville Zoo's Boo at the Zoo in 2007. She posted it online with the following poem.

by Jude Cowell
October 21, 2007 12:41 AM EDT

Belly dancing is a pleasure
benefits too full to measure
shaking up the lady hips
just as fun as tango dips
bells and scarves with skirts a-twirling
makes a woman of a girling
if you like to spin and prance
try a little belly dance!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blog Redesign

So this blog may be relatively new but that doesn't mean I can't change it already. I wanted to give credit to the sources I use.

To get 3 columns:
Background image:
And because it still wasn't perfect:

Dance Pet Peeves

Don't we all have them. I can tell you one of mine.

Dancers who wear a jingly jangly hip scarf to a workshop. I have experienced two kinds of workshop facilities. One is LARGE and that makes it hard for people in the back to hear, and the other is SMALL and this makes the acoustics horrible. Both of these problems are only exacerbated by the noise of a coin scarf.

I found a great post here about basic workshop etiquette.

What is your pet peeve when it comes to dance?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Black Orchid Danse Retreat, Altlanta, GA May 15-17

I need to start this by saying that if Cheryl Bolden has a party, y'all best go. The 2009 Black Orchid Danse Retreat gets two thumbs up. The accommodations were nice, the workshops spaces were nice, etc. My only complaint was she chose a hotel without a Starbucks in it or near by.
I was not able to attend Friday's workshops due to "other" life commitments and in the end didn't attend Sundays but I will get to that in a minute.
My experience started off with checking in Friday evening. Everything was well organized and even though workshops were under way, there was someone to greet me and show me around.

I am getting in the zone before the show starts

I performed in Friday nights Hafla show. There were some minor musical technicalities but all were resolved in seconds. The stage was very nice but carpeted which I had not planned for. This is a lesson learned. I have smooth lyrical sandals for dancing on carpet but they stink and I don't pack them unless I know need too. From now on the stinky sandals go, because I got a bit tripped up on the carpet.

Besides my own grand performance, my highlight Friday evening was Jim Boz who came out onto the floor to dance with the audience including... My Husband!

Saturday's workshops got off to a late a start. I always get there early for a good spot so I wasn't willing to give it up and use the extra time for shopping. I heard some participants complaining about instructors starting late and then going over to have a full two hours. I would have complained otherwise. I paid for two hours of teaching and I wanted two hours of teaching.

My first class was Sagats with Karim Nagi. I have taken this workshop before and will take it every chance I get. Zills are me weakness and not only is his method different from other ways I have been taught he teaches ambidexterity which is key. Someday ladies we will dance on the left.

The second workshop had options and I chose Sultry Sharqi with Ava Fleming. This class focused on slow movements, energy, mood, being sexy, emoting. In other words I got an A!

The first thing she did was ask us to improv so she could see what she was working with. Everyone groaned. WTF? If you aren't ready to improv then don't take an advanced workshop. I enjoyed this workshop and my shoulders got an excellent work out.

Third session I went to Slow Moves and Textures with Jim Boz. Jim is a fun guy to take from. Everything in his class was about food, cocktails or ass. There is a difference in a "Big Ass" Circle and a Big "Ass Circle". We did some nice combos, talked about inserted a feeling section with no count in the middle of a piece, combining slow with fast, and the main elements of a sword routine.

Finally, Drumming and Saidi rhythm with Karim. I had taken his basic drumming last fall, but never practiced once. I like his teaching technique and the way he pushes you to do it simply. He also makes you do it individually until you get it right. I think some people would find it frustrating but it helped me a lot. Right at the end of this class I started to have a crazy eye allergy attack - so random.

Finally, the big show Saturday night. It did not disappoint. Some highlights included Mahasati Janan, Amir Haddad, Aziza Nawal and of course the featured instructors.

Ava & Karim Improv to end the show

I had plans to attend 3 workshops on Saturday but I woke up and Pink Eye (pyscho - screech, screech, screech). Even though it didn't look super gross or hurt that bad, I wasn't willing to risk my reputation and be the person who infected the entire Southeast Bellydance community with pink eye so I decided to pack it up and come home.

I enjoyed everything about all 3 instructors and the organizers of the Black Orchid Danse Retreat. More info on Black Orchid Danse: here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I see you have a blog

"So, 'Azraa, um, I see you have a blog. The thing is, well your blog
it doesn't have any content. It is just sort of a nice template."

That is correct. I have a blog and it is content free at this time. See
I love blogs. I read them. I have written one good one and one sporadic
One of the topics I read about regularly is dance. Dance workshop reviews, DVD reviews, a blog of video clips and a blog of ugly costumes.
I have been attending more shows and more workshops and it seemed like
a good idea to start my own blog similar to some of the ones I read. The
plan is to review workshops, shows, music and anything related to dance.
As well as, bring you some links and news from around the blogosphere.
I will be tweeting from The Black Orchid Danse Retreat this week-end (time permitting)
and when I get back I will blog reviews, highlights and replay some of
the best moments.

My blog previews on my web page and auto updates as a new note on my
facebook page so you don't have to go directly to my blog to keep up
with me. If you can't wait for the new post, you can always follow me
on Twitter.