December 21, 2016

Fifteen

Having looked back through a few previous entries in preparing to write this, I'm going to start linking them together. Not that it's hard to find the old ones, given they're all on the same date, but at fifteen years it's starting to build a collection of music that shows what I'd love to have shared over the years, and how that changes. So, from this year... previously.

Two tracks this year.

BADBADNOTGOOD's "In Your Eyes" (feat. Charlotte Day Wilson). More of a laid-back summer groove, but one I've listened to lots this year.

And then a more recent addition. Julia Jacklin's "Don't Let the Kids Win" is more reflective but similarly fantastic.

There's also a great even more stripped-down acoustic version.

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November 03, 2016

Life and the Liverpool Tech Scene

This was originally a long (as you'll see) rambling response to an email on the DoES Liverpool discussion group asking where all the local tech speakers are for the upcoming GDG DevFest Liverpool. Given that it ended up with a potted "what I've been up to" and some general ruminating on the local tech scene, it felt like it might be worth posting here too.

(And if you want any more of my recent writing, it's mostly been ending up on the Indie Manufacturing blog.)

tl;dr - a long ramble about me being busy, then 3 suggestions. Skip to the ###### to find the suggestions :-)

I'm extrapolating wildly from my experience here (so, y'know, it's all speculataion and probably wrong, but that doesn't usually stop me ;-) but... it might be that they're all busy and aren't sure how the event fits into what they do?

I did get asked about it a while back and haven't replied or done anything else about it. Sorry about that, it's nothing personal, I just get too many things like that in my inbox and my far-from-perfect method for deciding which ones I can respond to is that I do them in roughly priority order (which is a whole different can of worms to unpick...) and get to as many as I can. Which ends up appearing rude to anyone else because they just don't get a response :-/

I try to pass on any that others could do instead and where it's more obvious that I'm a bottleneck otherwise, but I think the GDG request looked more like a general request (not an impersonal one, but one where me not replying wouldn't stop you finding other people).

I've also recently ignored the chance to go to Poland and speak at some big dev conference there, and go out to Texas for Dell launching their IoT strategy. Which isn't to show how important I am or how successful I am, but to show the level of opportunities that I'm annoyingly passing up.

So I've missed out on those, but what I have done is... DoES is still here and functioning better than ever (there's still a load of "organisational debt" to work through, but there are a load more people involved in helping make epic shit happen - last Saturday's Make:Shift:Do being a great example - without me being involved, which is great and freeing me (and the other directors) to look at longer-term stuff), and yesterday I sent off the PCB designs for the Ackers Bell which is my bootstrapped startup side of things as I build IoT product.

Alongside all of that, I have to find enough consultancy work to actually provide any income to fund the rest of this stuff :-D And work that will fit in and around that (and take precendence at times, obviously, as that's the only way I get any money while I'm still in the product development side of the startup...).

Right now that side is getting a bit more focus, as the big project I was expecting to do with Museum in a Box which would've paid the bills for the next few months has fallen through and so I'm in the hustling to find things to replace that shortfall (so if anyone has any paid projects... give me a shout :-)

All of which is a rather long-winded me, me, me...

So some thoughts that aren't just "sorry, I'm busy"...

Firstly, in case anyone is hanging back thinking "oh, one of the usual suspects will step up in a minute" - we won't necessarily, and so you should offer to give a talk. The only way any of us get better at speaking and get better known for our speaking is, guess what, by speaking at things :-D If you're worried that GDG DevFest is too big a leap for your first talk (and I don't know how big a thing it is, so first off ask Paul [who's organising the Liverpool DevFest]!) then find a meetup where your experience would fit and offer to speak there. Or an even easier first-speaking step would be to speak at Ignite Liverpool sometime - that's more varied in the sort of topics we cover and it's only for five minutes :-) That won't all solve Paul's immediate problem but will mean there are loads more people to speak at next year's ;-)

Paul, who is GDG DevFest aimed at? I'm assuming it's for Android devs, with a touch of doubt that it's maybe wider than that? I don't pay much attention to what Google are up to, so don't know anything about it. It's tricky to then think about how I'd frame a talk at it, as I don't know who the audience is. I don't have a standard talk that I dust off for all my speaking gigs - each one (maybe as can be seen for how not-polished they are ;-) is written specifically for the occasion.

Finally, where /are/ all the Liverpool techies? There was a BBC report into tech clusters across the country and according to that Liverpool has more tech jobs than Cambridge (20k vs 19k). As someone who's lived in both cities that's either (a) ludicrous or (b) I hardly know anyone in tech in Liverpool.

I suspect it's mostly down to differing definitions of "digital tech job". Liverpool has a load of agencies whereas Cambridge has lots of tech startups, and the latter require more engineers. I know a load of people running the agencies in Liverpool, but I don't seem to encounter the techies working in them enough.

There are loads of events going on round the city now, but lots of them seem to be more general and/or aimed at the business side of tech. There's nothing wrong with them at all - they're /really/ useful - BUT they don't attract developers (IMHO). I think there's a gap in the community for the meetups where you find out more about how to do load balancing on a database cluster or the lessons learnt in building an app to talk to the Facebook API, etc.

I think. Am I just not getting along to enough of the right meetups? Is there a demand for that sort of thing beyond me?

I suspect the regular GDG does fall into the sort of meetup I'm talking about, so this half-rant isn't aimed at that. However, I don't get the same visibility of what talks it has, or when the events are happening, as I do with Baltic Schmooze or Creative Kitchen (for example). Is everything hived off in its own silo of meetup.com group? How can we cross-promote things without giving everyone more work to do in running a meetup or requiring everyone to sign up for loads of meetup.com groups? I guess the Startup Digest used to provide that sort of coverage, so maybe there aren't enough events out there?

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June 17, 2016

Bewildered.

This evening I spent a fantastic time at the latest Folken event. It was a great mix of all ages, races, genders having a robust yet civil barney about money, grass-roots organisations, independent businesses and value. It was a panel discussion - of which I was a member - but it was free-flowing between us and the audience, and there was a full-on section in the middle where we didn't get a word in as an impassioned and eloquent debate went on between a few members of the audience.

None of it is at a scale where it will change the world right now, but I came away with a growing sense of a sense of possibility, of a gathering momentum in the city. Groups like DoES Liverpool, Homebaked Anfield, Granby 4 Streets, Friends of the Flyover... with Folken helping to amplify it and providing some of the making connections that I talked about earlier in the year.

Then I got back home and looked at twitter. It wasn't immediately clear what was going on - my feed was a strange mix of travel chaos and talk about an MP. As I worked out what had been going on in the rest of the country, this tweet from my friend Jenny summed things up perfectly:

I've been trying to ignore the referendum debate - I'll be voting, but both sides campaigning seem to be engaged only in scaremongering and negative tactics. Neither side has any view on how voting for them would make things better, just that voting for the opposing side would make things worse. Richard Cable does a good job of explaining what they should have done, but sadly our political class are too busy trying to focus-group their way to clinging to power.

That said, the vote leave campaign is playing a particularly nasty, racist tune. Charlie Stross lays it out better than I can.

That's not the sort of country that I want. I had hoped that we'd muddle through in that seemingly very British way where we don't seem to veer too extremely in any direction, but I'm scared that that won't be the case.

I know that it's hard to remain open and welcoming to others when you're fearful for your job, for getting by; yet I also believe that we need to do just that, in spite of our fears, for the best route to a better society.

I'm not going to cede my country to the nationalist extremists, just as I don't think we should be quitting Europe just because improving it looks like it might be a bit hard.

The world is in a mess, and we need to sort it out. Yet it's not the immigrants, nor those on benefits, who are the cause of the problems. It's the bankers and the elites shuffling things round their tax havens. It's all mis-direction to stop from holding them to account, and now it's resulted in the murder of an innocent woman.

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December 21, 2015

Fourteen

Fourteen years and still this time of year feels a bit dislocated. Moments like the one on Thursday night when mid-Christmas-party the club we were in played The Smiths' There is a light that never goes out... Which always makes me think of Karen and Stewart, it just jars more set against the festivities. Not that there's anything wrong with the feelings.

This year it would have been great to share my discovery of Outfit. They've had a reasonable amount of radio airplay, although not as much as they deserve. I first properly became aware of them when I went to their second album launch gig at the Kazimier in the summer - I recognised some of their first album when I heard it, but couldn't name it beforehand.

I've since bought both albums although I think the second one is the stronger of the two. My favourite track is Smart Thing, although the whole album sums up the summer for me.

And in another quirk of fate, a couple of hours before I was in a club listening to The Smiths on Thursday, I shared a karaoke booth with Outfit's lead singer...

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December 29, 2014

Winter Stroll Around Scammonden Water

In the run up to Christmas I was meant to catch up with one of my mates, who lives over in Yorkshire. Luckily, in hindsight, for a number of reasons that didn't happen, and got rescheduled to the Saturday between Christmas and New Year. That meant that we headed out onto the hills for a walk the day after the snow had swept across the country.

I'd found this walk around Scammonden Water which turned out to be almost the perfect route: up on the moors but easy to get to from Huddersfield (which is easy to reach by train from Liverpool), not too strenuous or long, and - apart from a short stretch alongside the M62 - lovely views.

There were a good three or four inches of snow, which made everywhere look fantastic and provided good yomping. A perfect way for us to catch up on life and build our appetite for a trip to the curry house later. Recommended.

There are a few (not particularly great) photos in my Scammonden Water walk album.

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September 28, 2014

Speaking at TEDxLiverpool

I started an entry hear to link to the talk I gave at TEDxLiverpool back in July, but then decided it made more sense, given that it's entitled The Internet of Nice Things, for it to live on the MCQN Ltd blog. So it's over there, if you'd like to watch.

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August 10, 2014

Moderately Messed Up

In some ways this is a long overdue blog post, but in other ways I'm not 100% sure of the conclusions I'm drawing. I guess I need to take my usual approach of writing about it, and see where things go.

Getting on for the past year, life has been hard.

Some self-inflicted and some just unfortunate combinations of circumstances and events that on their own wouldn't really be much of a big deal.

At the same time, there have been lots of examples of life being great, like having my book published (I still haven't written anything about that here, have I? I don't have "all the words need to go in the book" as an excuse now...) - and actually, the Italian translation: L'Internet delle Cose was published recently! - given talks in Bahrain and Ireland and at TEDxLiverpool...

As Sam Altman alludes to in a recent blog post Founder Depression, it feels like I've spent most of 2014 living with the cognitive dissonance of life that seems on the outside to be going fantastically, while privately that's far from the case.

I don't think I'm depressed, although lots of this honest and touching blog post from Ethan Zuckerman rings true. His comment that "smart friends counseled me that publishing a book often leads to feelings of loss and mourning" seems amusingly appropriate.

I'm sure depression is a spectrum rather than a binary state, so there's probably an element of that in there; however, it feels more like a combination of exhaustion and stress. This passage from Ethan's post sums up how things have been of late:

"My guess is that my depression is significantly less visible to people who know me only professionally. I’ve never missed work or another professional obligation. I teach classes, give talks, advise students, attend meetings. The difference is almost entirely internal. When I’m my normal self, those activities are routine, easy, and leave a good bit of physical and emotional energy for creativity and expression. When I’m depressed, the everyday is a heavy lift, and there’s little space for anything else. The basic work of answering email and managing my calendar expands to fill any available time in the day. I’m far less productive, which triggers a voice that reminds me that I’m an unqualified impostor whose successes are mere happy accidents and that my inability to write a simple blog post is proof positive that I’m in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, in need of walking away from my life as currently configured and starting over. It’s an exhausting dialog, one that crops up for moments at a time when I’m well, but can fill weeks and months when I am not.

Everything scales until it doesn't. And in retrospect (and stupidly obvious when written down in black and white), writing a book alongside being CTO of a startup, continuing work on my own startup with a rather sizeable side project was always going to be asking too much.

Partner that with GNL stretching my cashflow to near breaking point and a an approach to consulting that's far too principled for my own (financial) good, and I think that neatly sums things up.

Rev Dan Catt does an excellent job of explaining life when trying to do the right thing by your conscience. I battle the same issues, and look for ways that I can prosper at the same time as making the world a more equal place and leading the Internet of Things into more open and better territory. At least, unlike Dan, I don't have any dependents...

"So that's where I am now. Toughing it out in the freelance world, sometimes turning down opportunities because I can't reconcile my own feelings while at the same time running out of money and wondering if it's more or less morally responsible to make sure my kids get fed vs working for an org where I'd feel uncomfortable."

I think the end is in sight. DoES Liverpool has been going through growing pains for a while now, and we seem to be getting things in place for that now (mostly thanks to Steve, Andy and John, rather than me).

Another of Rev Dan Catt's blog posts, detailing how he spotted, and dealt with, mild depression helped keep things on track, as I spotted a similar cause-and-effect in myself. Getting stuck into writing code, and making things, definitely helps keep me sane - so I've been indulging my interest in that, outside of client projects and whenever I've felt that I needed a break.

Even within paid work, the coding is always good, and that's been part of the problem this year - I've had lots of small projects on, and plenty of speaking gigs, and while I enjoy all of that, it's meant the creative-work-to-admin ratio hasn't been very good.

This blog post isn't a cry for help, as I say, things are mostly fine, and definitely headed in the right direction. That said, if you've got creative paid projects that I could help with, as always, get in touch. I've got some great family and friends, who are all very supportive.

I'm writing this more for future-me to refer back to, and because I always appreciate similar blog posts that I read from others. And to acknowledge that life is hard, and we don't all have to pretend it's wonderful all the time, despite what the advertisers want us to believe.

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December 21, 2013

Twelve

The past couple of years have been quiet ones for new music, which is why you have to go back to 2010 to find the last time I had something to share on this day. I'd almost started to wonder if, despite my continued listening to new music on BBC 6Music, this was part of getting older.

However, this year has thrown up two choices. Rather different styles, but both tracks I've been much enjoying of late.

Pharrell Williams' Happy doesn't exactly match the mood of the day, but any other time is an upbeat and uplifting slice of pop. The companion 24hoursofhappy.com website is superb too, with a non-stop full day of different videos for it. The last link is one of my favourites of the versions starring Pharrell Williams himself, but this one is also pretty cool.

And more in keeping with my current state of mind, there's London Grammar's Strong...

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August 04, 2013

Who is Adrian McEwen

It's far too long since I last updated the "about me" section on this blog, and plenty has changed since I wrote the last one. Time to remedy that.

So, who is Adrian McEwen?

I'm a geek and entrepreneur who lives in the centre of Liverpool, in North-West England. I'm a technologist who understands that it's really all about the people, not the technology. It's always the people.

This website - mcqn.net - is my personal home on the Internet. McFilter is where I blog about anything I'm interested in that doesn't fit anywhere else. That has been cakes, but I've been quite slack on my baking of late, or cars, or wherever I'm living.

These days there's a lot on tech communities and encouraging more startups (because that's something I'm trying to encourage here in Liverpool) and also cities and regeneration (for want of a better word). I have a keen interest in how technology can help make life better, which sounds rather like the "smart cities" movement. However, buy me a coffee or a beer (or hire my company) and I'll explain how Dan Hill, Adam Greenfield, Usman Haque et al have the right approach on that topic. You can get a flavour of it in this piece I was asked to write about Smaller Smarter Cities for part of Watershed's work for Capital of Culture 2012.

Work and the Internet of Things

On the work front, I've spent my career working with the Internet and the Web as raw material, bringing it to low-powered devices. In the 1990s I played a major role at STNC Ltd, where we built the first web browser on a mobile phone, and then had a few years at Microsoft when they acquired us in 1999.

More recently I've been working in what's called the Internet of Things (or IoT for short) - bringing the Internet to bubble machines, or radios, or lamps.

I founded MCQN Ltd in 2005. We advise companies about the Internet of Things; write IoT software for them (such as the Xively Arduino library); build entire IoT devices for them (like the Perceptive Radio for BBC R&D); and also develop products of our own (such as Bubblino, the aforementioned bubble machine).

Most of my Internet of Things-related work can be found on www.mcqn.com, the MCQN Ltd website. Get in touch if you've got an interesting IoT project.

Publisher Wiley asked me to distil my Internet of Things knowledge into a book, and along with my co-author Hakim Cassimally, I'm currently finishing up Designing the Internet of Things, which will be published in autumn 2013.

The other big project I'm working on aside from running MCQN Ltd is as Chief Technology Officer for Good Night Lamp. It's an awesome Internet of Things startup, building a family of connected Lamps. Find out more about it at goodnightlamp.com.

Not Quite Work

Providing a place for me to work and helping with the encouraging-the-Liverpool-tech-and-maker-scene that I mentioned earlier is DoES Liverpool. That's the home for tech startups and makers in Liverpool, and runs a hybrid makerspace/co-working space in the city centre. A group of us set it up back in 2011, and have been steadily collecting more people who want to Do Epic Shit.

And once a season (i.e. roughly every three months) you'll find me helping to put on the latest Ignite Liverpool. Often as compere, introducing the 20-slides-in-five-minutes format talks where people tell us about their passion in life.

Talking About Things

Aside from compering Ignite Liverpool, I'm often asked to speak at events or conferences. Usually that's on some aspect of the Internet of Things, "smart cities", makerspaces or technology in general. I've spoken at the Royal Society for the Arts, the V&A, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, the University of Liverpool, at events in the UK and abroad, and at numerous meetups.

I've also shown up in the press from time to time - I've been interviewed on the BBC Radio 4, appeared a couple of times in video on the BBC News website, and also in the Liverpool Post - which listed me as one to watch in their Leaders 2012 report.

As the slides tend to get spread around the Internet these days, here are a few selected highlights...

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December 21, 2011

Ten.

Ten years. A decade. There's everything to say, to tell, yet at the same time no words.

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November 05, 2011

Songs of Life

Way back in the distant past of this blog (and probably before most people knew what a blog was), I embarked on a project to write about a song each day for the entire month of December. It was inspired by Nick Hornby's book 31 Songs, and you can still read through the posts over in the 31 Songs section of the archive.

I really enjoyed it, though in hindsight picking the month that also contained the busy-ness that is Christmas was a rather stupid idea. Another problem with it was how to share the music itself. I skirted over into illegality by including mp3s of each song so that people could have a listen, but then took them down a month or so after the project finished because that wasn't really what it was about.

These days, I'd have included a Spotify playlist, or embedded YouTube videos, and this morning I've been playing around with something that makes it even easier to share how songs litter your memory. You don't even need a blog.

Lifetuned is a lovely website, that makes it easy to look through YouTube and explain what memories are triggered by the songs you choose. If you head to lifetuned.com/amcewen you can see my musical memory box, and as it doesn't (yet?) have a way to easily embed my songs into the blog, I'm going to do this kludgy iframe option (so it not looking perfect will be my fault, not Lifetuned's :-)

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December 21, 2010

Nine.

Although this song has been out for a year now, I was reminded of how lovely it was recently, and it struck me that it would be the sort of track that Karen would've loved. Indie was her preferred genre, but there was always space for the lightly-constructed acoustic ballad and she had discovered Kate Rusby just before she died.

It's a delightful track, and quite appropriate at the moment. The snow does make everything look beautiful - just take care if you're travelling around in it.

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November 07, 2010

Mo' Facial Hair

Despite sideburns being a pretty permanent fixture of my appearance for my entire adult life, I've never sported any facial hair beyond a few days-worth of stubble. I've never been all that bothered one way or the other about growing a beard or a moustache. I've gone without shaving for a few days from time to time out of curiosity, but never been curious enough to persist through the unkempt look and itchy annoyance.

Towards the end of Movember last year, I pondered the idea again, but it seemed a waste not to take part and have my curiosity at least be of some benefit.

Movember? It's an annual charity drive to raise awareness and funds for research into prostate cancer. As the Movember about page states:

"Movember challenges men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache. The rules are simple, start Movember 1st clean shaven and then grow a moustache for the entire month. The moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health, the means by which awareness and funds are raised for cancers that affect men. Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, the men of Movember commit to growing a moustache for 30 days."

So, although I'm a bit late in writing about it here, I wasn't late with joining the fun. I spent last week looking increasingly stubbly, and yesterday there was enough growth that I could have a shave and fashion it into what turned out to be a slightly lop-sided, rather threadbare moustache.

The next question is what kind of moustache to grow? If you look at the gallery over in the Movember Lodge (click on the picture frame on the desk on the left to bring it up) there are a fair few possibilities. At present, mine is somewhere between "the rockstar" and "the trucker", but "the business man" is also a possibility.

If you want to influence the 'tache that I finish the month with, you'll have to make a donation. You can donate over on my MoSpace page, and include your suggestion in the comments.

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May 26, 2010

Sefton Park and Riverside Circular

Out for another bike ride today and I've found a much better route that runs to just over six and a half miles without lots of to-ing and fro-ing in Sefton Park. It still takes in both Princes Park and Sefton Park, and adds in a lengthy ride along the bank of the river. It's the first time I've been along that stretch of the river - the marina and housing is all very nice but it's just one huge soulless housing estate isn't it? Are there any shops or things that aren't houses or offices down there?



Click here to see the map in the full window

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May 24, 2010

Exercise and Sefton Park

A couple of things lately have reminded me how little exercise I've been getting, and how much I enjoy it.

A few weekends ago John McKerrell and I threw our bikes onto the train and headed up to Southport. From there we set off down the Trans Pennine Trail to see how far we could get in the day. Having not done any training, and having only just gotten my bike back on the road (the gear cable had stuck, giving me only one gear - resulting in hardly any cycling over the winter) I wasn't expecting to get too far. In the end we made it all the way down to Widnes, and then cycled over the bridge to Runcorn station to catch the train back. When I checked my bike computer at the end of the day I was rather amazed to find we'd done 38 miles.

And then over the weekend I spent an enjoyable couple of hours throwing a frisbee round with some mates in a park in London. I haven't played frisbee since I used to head down to Parkers Piece in Cambridge to play ultimate frisbee in around 2005.

This afternoon I decided to get out of the flat and get a bit of exercise. So I headed through Princes Park and into Sefton Park. You can see where I went on the map below (although the orange trail isn't that easy to see against the map)



Click here to see the map in the full window

Both parks had plenty of people out enjoying the weather and jogging, walking and cycling, and there were the odd games of football or rounders. I even found the boating lake on Sefton Park but didn't spot any boats out on it - maybe it hasn't reopened yet after the refurbishment of the park.

So this summer I want to get back into being a bit more active. The only problem is finding some people to play sport with. There are plenty of five-a-side leagues and such, but I'm not looking for anything so serious. What I want is the sort of groups I knew in Cambridge - people who are up for a regular, friendly, anyone-can-play game of football (anything from 3-a-side through to 10-a-side), or game of ultimate frisbee. Rounders or softball would even be a possibility. A social trip to the pub afterwards wouldn't go amiss either, but isn't an essential.

Does anyone know of anything like that in the centre of Liverpool? Or is anyone up for joining me to start getting out to enjoy the summer and get some exercise?

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December 21, 2009

Eight.

It's been a rather tumultuous year. I feel like I'm running out of useful things to say in these posts, but it also feels important to still write them. Like last year's, there hasn't been a lot of new music for me to recommend, but then just this morning, whilst listening to Steve Lamacq's latest show, I heard the Lancashire Hotpots' Christmas single for the first time.

Perfect. A mixture of St. Helens, childhood folk memories, and lyrics that seem to sum things up pretty darn well.

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June 07, 2009

An Awesome Cornish Group Holiday Destination

We're just back from a fantastic week's holiday on the north Cornwall coast. A group of thirteen of us (ten adults, two kids, a baby and two dogs) rented Trelawny, a gorgeous big old house right on the coast in Widemouth Bay.

Apart from a day-trip to the Eden Project, the furthest we ventured all week were the ice-cream parlours of Bude, a couple of minutes drive up the coast. The rest of the time was spent chilling out at the house, over the road (literally) on the beach, or indulging in a spot of sea-kayaking.

The house swallowed us all with ease, even though Rebecca and I were on the sofa-bed in one of the lounges, and there was still plenty of space for people to do their own thing without it getting at all claustrophobic.

Highly recommended if you're looking for somewhere for a big group holiday.

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April 13, 2009

An Easter Stroll Up Moel Famau

On Easter Sunday we took a trip over the border into North Wales. Our destination was the hill Moel Famau, just past Mold on the A494. It seemed to be a pretty popular place to visit, quite understandably because it's a reasonably gentle walk with great views over Snowdonia, the Irish Sea and the Liverpool Bay.

You can see our route below, the way up was along part of Offa's Dyke and is a broad, easy-to-follow path that's never particularly steep. The first part of the way down, however, was quite a bit steeper (although never mountainous) but there is an alternate route for that top section - simple to find on the way up, and I assume it links up with the Offa's Dyke trail; there was certainly a route off from the Offa's Dyke path that looked like it would link up.


Click here to see the map in the full window

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March 21, 2009

A Walk In the Peak Distrcit From Crowden

On the way back from Makers and Hackers in Sheffield the other week, I stopped off in the Peak District to get out on the hills with a couple of mates.

As I had my phone with me, I fired up Mobile Trail Explorer and traced our route as we tramped round the peaty terrain. Now I'm back, I've pulled down the GPX file and can show you exactly where we went (and how close we got to the Pennine Way and still didin't find it!).


Click here to see the map in the full window

It also lets me show some of the benefits of using OpenStreetMap data for your mapping. This is the cycle-map view of the data, which includes the contour info, and so gives a better view of where we've been. If you click on the little "+" symbol to the right of the map, you can flip between a couple of the different stylesheets available. And if none of them look quite right for your application, you can always create your own.

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December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Christmas card showing us in front of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool

Once again, rather than spending money on cards and postage I wanted to do something more worthwhile with it. Rather than just donate it to charity, once I've got my PayPal account sorted (they coped very badly with me living in Italy, and I haven't sorted it out since getting back) I'll be loaning $25 to the Vilma Maura Aguilar Fernandez Group.

They're a group from a village in Peru who will use the loan to help pay for their children's education and to invest in their businesses. The loan is arranged through Kiva.org, and the great thing is that once it's repaid I can loan the money to help someone else.

Best wishes to everyone for Christmas, and I hope we all have a great 2009!

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December 21, 2008

One More Year

Well, as soon as I claim that something is a tradition, I then go and break with the tradition. It's been another year since Karen died, but not an outstanding one for new music. I still have music on almost all the time I'm awake, but I'm in a bit of a lull when it comes to really appreciating it or liking new songs.

So, no music this year (for you at least - Marvin Gaye is wondering What's Going On? in the background as I write this)... just contemplation of how much has happened in the past seven years.

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June 23, 2008

Implementing RFC1149

It's been twelve years since I started writing TCP/IP stacks (the underlying protocol that governs how all the computers on the Internet talk to each other) and finally I've had the opportunity to create an implementation (albeit parital) of RFC1149.

This will be of little interest to almost everyone who reads this blog, but it made a small part of me disproportionately proud. However, a quick search on google shows that I wasn't the first and their implementation is much more complete than mine.

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June 04, 2008

Experiments in Mapping

When my mobile phone was up for renewal recently, I plumped for the Nokia N95 8GB - mainly because of the built-in GPS. We're planning a cycling tour round some of Italy next month, and I figured it would be cool to record where we've been.

It arrived just before our trip to Modena (thanks for the courier service Andrew :-) and I downloaded the Italian maps into it, which made it pretty handy for finding our way around the variety of supercar manufacturers and museums, but there didn't seem to be any way to pull the GPS data out from the phone.

Yesterday, Russell pointed me at the missing apps I needed to get things working properly. Location Tagger will add the GPS location info to any photos you take, and Sports Tracker will let you record where you go and then export it to Google Earth.

So when we were out for a training ride earlier, I tried out Sports Tracker. I couldn't get it to record data for very long, so I'll need to play around with it some more. I'm hoping that mounting the phone onto the handlebars might give it a better view of the GPS satellites than it gets in my pocket.

Still, it's a start, and it means that I can show you a short section and an even shorter section of today's 20-mile ride (I'll be continuing to rely on the bike computer for proper distance recordings I think...)

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May 14, 2008

Cars, Cars, Cars...

Well, it's been a busy few days, but an extremely enjoyable few days. Since Sunday I've seen old cars, new cars, slow cars, fast cars, prototype cars, race cars, model cars, rare cars.... plus a couple of tractors, and the man responsible for my sticker collecting as a kid.

There are a lot of photos, and plenty of stories, but it's going to take a while to get them all sorted and posted up here. Partly because we managed to visit so many places, but mostly because I've got a huge list of things to get done before Friday.

And on Friday I'll be heading back to the UK to attend the geeKyoto conference and some of the items on the todo list involve something I'm hoping to announce around the conference.

Until I get back next week, you'll have to make do with this sneak preview of part of one of the five car-related venues I've visited in the past four days.

Panorama of cars from the Trilogia dell'Automobile

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May 06, 2008

More Thinking By Doing Needed

A friend one commented that some people think by doing, whilst others do by thinking. By that he meant that some people work through their problems in their head, thinking through all the options and possibilities before acting, whereas other people have to start playing with things in order to map out the problem-space and help them to understand what they think about the problem.

Both approaches have their merits, and I definitely fall into the "doing by thinking" camp. The problem with that method is that sometimes you don't have enough information to be able to reach any conclusions.

Of late, all the projects I'm involved with seem to be suffering from that problem, but I hadn't quite put my finger on it until I read Gordon's post about practising more of what he preaches.

I don't have any problem practising what I preach, my difficulty is practising things that I'm not confident to preach, and similarly talking about things when I don't have all the answers (or at least, a lot of the answers). Some of that is because I don't know enough about the subject (like marketing, or the hardware I'm hoping to finish before geeKyoto 2008), and some of it is because there aren't any hard and fast answers (marketing again, and the "best" business models for these projects).

So I need to let myself, and encourage myself to, think more by doing. This blog post is a start.

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April 04, 2008

I'm Now More-than 25% More Productive

The first quarter of 2008 is over, which means that I've just received my quarterly Productivity Report from tedium.

I can't make a direct comparison just yet because the last report was for a whole year, but if I maintain this rate of completing tasks for the rest of the year, I'll have done more than 25% more things in 2008 than I did in2007. Of course, I'm still managing to add new tasks faster than I can complete them, but you can't have everything...

Tasks are also spending less time in the "system" before I complete them. In 2007, on average it took just over a month for a task to be completed, but so far in 2008 I've almost halved that time.

Anyway, that's enough retrospection. I need to get back to doing things to keep my completion rate up for the next report!

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January 25, 2008

Annual Report 2007

Productivity Report 2007 picture
I don't really do New Year's Resolutions, and I prefer to do my longer-term dreaming/planning as an ongoing background process rather than picking some fairly arbitrary date. However, the start of a new year has happened to coincide with developing a major new feature for tedium, and I've learnt some interesting things as a result.

At the end of each quarter, tedium now compiles a report showing you how much you've achieved and how you've achieved it. The report at the end of the year looks back over the entire year, rather than just three months, and so I can now show you my Annual Productivity Report 2007.

Over 2007 I completed over 700 tasks, although I replaced each of them with something new and a hundred or so more for good measure. Still, that's only a 12%-or-so rise, which doesn't feel too onerous.

If you look at the graph of new tasks over the year, there's a clear peak at the start of November which matches the start of my 30-in-30 challenge but isn't matched by a similar rise on the graph of completed items. I'm quite pleased with how flat both of those graphs are - I'm just steadily getting things done.

The biggest bump in the completed tasks occurs in July, which is when we were getting things finished on the house and organising moving to Italy, and you can see that reflected in the tag clouds. House and Italy are two tags I used to track everything we needed to fix up before renting our house in Cambridge, and things we needed to do for our move to Turin. The other big tags hyperfocus and thisweek show a different way that I use tags - when I'm reviewing what I need to do, I use those tags to flag the tasks that are a priority for me to address.

The main thing that the punctuality section shows is that I don't assign dates to my tasks very often. It's generally only things like dentist appointments and things that have to happen on a particular day. Fifteen tasks out of seven hundred isn't very many.

Things get more interesting in the productivity section. My productivity seems to steadily decline over the week - starting strongly on Monday and Tuesday before fading on Friday and Saturday before a suprise resurgence on the 'day of rest'. The hourly breakdown is more predictable, although it looks like I have a tendency to add new tasks late in the evening - preparing my todo list for the following day, no doubt.

Moving into 2008, I've still got a lot to do, but 253 remaining tasks is only a third of what I completed last year. There's plenty still to do on tedium, and I'd like to do a fair bit more on learning Italian. I'm looking forward to the end of March when I can compare how I've done in the next report.

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December 21, 2007

The Wild Ones

Six years. That seems such a long time to have been without Karen. I don't think I set out to create a tradition of musical remembrances, but looking back at previous entries that's how it seems to have turned out.

I'm quite happy with that, after all music is an important facet of life for me. It was also a big shared interest between Karen and me - our musical tastes were quite different, but there was a lot of overlap. We often introduced each other to new bands or music that we'd discovered, or at least, we did once she'd outgrown Bros and Jason Donovan...

The most obvious example of this is Suede. Karen was a big fan of theirs, but I didn't really rate them until she lent me Dog Man Star. That was the first of many Suede albums that I bought, and still my favourite by a long chalk. So what better a choice for this year's song?

Well, actually it's quite a melancholic album, whilst I was looking for something more optimistic and up-beat. Still, The Wild Ones (as one of the less gloomy tracks) it is...

"We'll be the wild ones, running with the dogs today."

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December 13, 2007

Merry Christmas Everyone

Picture of us in Via Mazzini with the Christmas lights in the background

Wishing you a great Christmas and a fun New Year

Adrian and Rebecca

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December 02, 2007

30-in-30 Post Mortem

Well, it's now December which, amongst other things, means that my do something to improve my Italian each day in November challenge has ended. So how did it go?

I think it went okay. I achieved my thirty tasks and my Italian is a lot better than it was a month ago.

It wasn't all plain-sailing - with just over a week to go I was running three days behind schedule but that shows that I hadn't made the challenge too easy. It needed that extra bit of effort towards the end to hit the target. I think the variety of tasks helped when I was lagging behind as it meant I didn't have to face a growing pile of identical work, and I could pick something that suited my mood or motivation. My tasks included working through the My First 100 Italian Words book I got for my birthday; watching a learning Italian course I'd recorded from BBC Learning Zone; attending the social gatherings organised by the language institute where Rebecca is having Italian lessons; and day-to-day tasks like getting my haircut or dropping off my dry-cleaning.

I'm sure I could've made more progress too, but pitched as it was I didn't have to sacrifice any of my other work, which I'm pleased about.

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November 22, 2007

A Tale of Two Phone Calls

Yesterday afternoon I spent an infuriating half-hour on the phone to PayPal; the latest in a series, as I try to prove to them that I've moved to Italy and wasn't trying to hack my own account the other day. Each time I speak to them I get a different answer as to how long they'll take to acknowledge the proof-of-address I faxed them on Saturday.

By the end of that call I was livid, but an hour or so later I hung-up a Skype call feeling refreshed and with my faith in humanity restored.

I'd spent the best part of an hour chatting to Curt Rosengren as part of his 30 conversations in 30 days project. We got to talk about the differences between the US and Europe; found out that Curt lived in Cambridge for some of his childhood and went to school round the corner from my house; and a host of other topics.

So I just wanted to thank Curt for an enjoyable chat.

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November 08, 2007

It Might Be True, But it Wasn't Really Appropriate

I think today's 30-in-30 should be to revise the difference between these two verbs:

lavare
To wash. lavo - I wash
lavorare
To work. lavoro - I work

That will help me avoid conversations such as the one with the barista at the caffetteria opposite our apartment when Rebecca and I dropped in for a quick espresso...

barista: Are you not at work today?
Rebecca: I'm working later on, at the restaurant round the corner
barista: And you?
Not knowing how to say "I work for myself", I wanted to point out that the "office" was just across the road...
Me: I wash in the apartment

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October 29, 2007

Reaching Out in November

Curt Rosengren's recent blog-move seems to have revitalised him and he's been posting some thought-provoking stuff at his new home. His latest idea is to reach out and talk to thirty different people in the next thirty days and has thrown down the gauntlet for others to join the Reconnection Revolution.

I did wonder whether I should take up the challenge and use it to spur me on with the marketing effort for tedium, but that feels a bit calculating and not really in the serendipity spirit of the whole idea.

Leaving the idea to marinate for a couple of days has let me realise a much more useful way that I can reconnect with people. Since moving to Turin my virtually-non-existent Italian has been improving, but only slowly. Piano, piano... as they say round here. The best way for me to connect with people would be if I could actually talk to them!

So, my 30-in-30 challenge is to do something to increase my Italian abilities each day: listen to a learn-Italian podcast; look up the vocab for a hypothetical conversation; use some of my new vocab in a conversation with someone... something like that.

And because it seems a shame to start now when there's a nice thirty-day long month coming along later in the week, I've got a couple of days to prepare.

The challenge starts on the 1st November.

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July 29, 2007

A Torino

Just a quick note to let you know that we've arrived safely in Torino. All is good and we're getting settled in, but haven't got Internet access yet (apart from when we drag the laptop over to Piazza Solferino, like we have now), which is why the blogging has been pretty light.

The nice men from FastWeb should be coming to run fibre-optic cable into the apartment on Tuesday though, so fingers crossed I'll be able to get access to my email then! (It should all be sat on my backup mail server waiting for the main one to come back online...).

If you need to contact me urgently then my mobile is the best option, or email me at adrianm at mcqn.com.

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July 23, 2007

Next Stop Torino!

Well, actually the next stop will be Birchington in Kent.

And the one after will be Chambery in France.

But after that it's all about Torino!

That's right, when you read this (the wonders of delayed posting, I'm sat eating my breakfast at the moment, with a lot of rubbish and recycling to dispose of and yet more packing still to finish) we'll be en route to Italy.

Down to Rebecca's parents' place for tonight, then onto the 8.15am ferry tomorrow. Then lots of driving down to south-east France for an overnight in Chambery before the final leg over the Alps and down to Turin on Wednesday.

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June 08, 2007

The Crowe-Scott Wedding

We had an action-packed and rather fun (very) long weekend this week as we were up in the Lakes for Scottie and Michelle's wedding on Monday.

The wedding itself started quite early at 11:30am, but needed to in order to fit in all the activities - ceremony; meal; two blocks of speeches; boat trip; lakeside exchange of vows; jazz band; buffet and finally disco. As I was one of the ushers, there was plenty to do during the day, but it all ran smoothly.

Now that Rebecca has started blogging she's written some more about the weekend, and linked to her photos.

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April 25, 2007

My Screen Debut

Ages ago I "starred" as the secret agent's legs in a friend's short film, Office Devils. At the time I said I'd let you know what happened with it.

It's been a while before going on general release (I got a copy on DVD a couple of months after the shoot, if I remember correctly) but today I happened to find the Office Devils page on Carl's website. He's written a bit of background to the film and even made the whole thing is available to download.

If you do watch it though, I must point out that it isn't indicative of the production team's abilities. You can tell that it was the first-ever project for most of them, and filmed with a minuscule budget. Their more recent work is vastly superior and looking very polished.

Anyway, does this mean I get an IMDB entry...?

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April 23, 2007

Nessun Integrale

Or in English (at least this is what I'm hoping that the title means - my Italian is very much at the beginners level): not one Integrale.

Picture of me jogging on the rooftop

At the start of the month, Rebecca and I spent a long weekend over in Turin, in Northern Italy on the edge of the Alps. For a while now, we've been planning on spending a year in Italy and this visit was part holiday, part fact-finding trip to see if Turin would work as our home.

The initial impressions as we travelled to the hotel from the airport were of a rather industrial city. That isn't too surprising given that Turin is the home of FIAT and Lancia, something that was reinforced when we arrived at our desitnation - Le Meridien Lingotto.

The hotel is part of a complex including restaurants and a shopping mall, converted from an old factory building, but not just any factory building. It's the old FIAT Lingotto factory, still with its mile-long test track on the roof (as featured in the original Italian Job). The picture above shows me on what is now the hotel's unique jogging circuit.

Those initial feelings proved to be too simplistic as we explored the city over the next few days. As with anywhere in Italy, there's a wealth of picturesque piazzas and beautiful architecture. Not to mention the array of restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias; all serving sublime food. We even found the market - stalls piled high with fresh and tasty-looking produce - and a little side street leading towards the river lined with butchers, bakers and delicatessens... looking forward to shopping there for ingredients in our own cooking.

A weekend break has a different vibe if you're wondering whether you could live in the city, rather than just sight-seeing. Trying the city on for size - districts are potential neighbourhoods; bars a potential "local"; restaurants a potential favourite haunt. You can't get a proper feel of the place in just four days, but we didn't find anything to scare us off. All that remains is to get things sorted here in Cambridge so that we can move sometime this summer.

And the title of this entry? Well, in the home of Lancia I was expecting to catch sight of the odd Integrale here and there - but despite seeing a couple of dozen Deltas (evenly split between nuovo and old) the nearest was an HF Turbo. I was torn between being disappointed and secretly pleased that I'll still be driving something a bit different and unusual.

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March 30, 2007

Ladyfest Eclectic at The Elm Tree

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January 02, 2007

Scouting Scouseland

Happy New Year!

I had a good time over the Christmas break, although I seemed to spend most of the time travelling - up to Rainford just before Christmas, down to Kent on Boxing Day (bit of a mammoth trek after having a blowout on the M6 toll road and so being reduced to 50mph due to the space-saver spare for most of the journey!), back to Cambridge briefly before heading up to Norfolk for New Year...

At the start of all that, Rebecca and I popped into Liverpool for the day, as you'd have known if you followed the link I posted to my question to Stuart as part of his Review 2006 series.

Given the current multitude of roadworks and related upheavals, we only drove as far as Kirkby station and let the frequent and easy train take us the rest of the way into the city - a journey I haven't made in over fifteen years. As always, I was transfixed by the view from the window from Sandhills onwards: the track passes over the Leeds-Liverpool canal and swings parallel to the river, giving a great view of the docks before it disappears underground to Central station.

We'd done the Albert Dock area last time we visited, so this time I wanted to cover some of the sights a bit further inland. From the station we headed past St. John's tower to William Brown Street and thus saw St. Georges Hall, the Museum, library and Walker Art Gallery.

We had a look round the Walker, and saw the David Beckham video which is on display at the moment. Not that I was particularly impressed with it, but it was mentioned today on the Art In Liverpool blog (see the link).

Then it was back past Lime Street Station and up Mount Pleasant to the Metropolitan Cathederal. I hadn't been inside before - its one huge circular space - which works well and is an interesting change from the conventional church layout. When we were there the place was crawling with BBC technicians getting things ready for the Midnight Mass broadcast on Christmas Eve.

Leaving Paddy's Wigwam led us naturally along Hope Street, past the Everyman and the Phil(harmonic Hall). We'd timed it so that we could stop around here for lunch, and The Quarter restaurant proved an excellent recommendation. Thanks Stuart. The food was lovely; service was superb; and we even bought one of the artworks on display on the walls.

Our energies restored, we explored the surrounding area some more. If we do come to Liverpool then I really want to live somewhere around here - gorgeous Georgian housing stock; walking distance to the centre; the university; the Phil; Everyman; restaurants...

We didn't stay too long at the Anglican Cathederal, as a service was about to start. Instead, we wound our way back down Bold Street via a boarded up pub with a huge Banksy mural on the side, through the Chinese arch in Chinatown, pausing briefly at the bombed out church (St. Lukes).

Time was getting on by then, so we finished up with a wander round Church Street and Whitechapel for a few last bits of Christmas shopping. Then back to the station, and home.

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December 21, 2006

I Still Miss Someone

I saw Walk the Line for the first time last weekend, and half-way through, he writes the song I Still Miss Someone in memory of his brother.

Naturally that reminded me of Karen and Stewart, who died five years ago today.

It seems like an age has passed, but at the same time it feels like no time at all. What surprises me most is how the significance of this date is fading. For the past few years I've been acutely aware of it's impending arrival; but not this year.

It doesn't seem quite so vital, any more, to mark such a dark day. Why single out the low point in their lives? Remember the multitude of good times instead.

The 21st of December is no longer as sad as it has been, but of course I still miss someone.

Posted by Adrian at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 30, 2006

I Think You Mean Last

At the start of the week, I ordered a TV-tuner card for the MythTV machine I'm building. Yesterday, when I got home there was a "we tried to deliver a parcel" card from the Home Delivery Network. It just told me that they'd try to deliver it again today, and after that I could arrange alternate delivery or collection.

Today, there's another card. Good to their word they've tried to deliver it again. But I'm working away from home at present, so there's no-one in during the day.

Still. This sort of thing has happened many times before, and it isn't the end of the world. The card even proclaims "Putting the customer 1st" at the top.

There isn't a website listed on the card, so I can't check where the depot is - all I can do is phone the number on the card and quote my parcel number at them. So that's what I do.

The depot is in St. Neots. Not particularly far, but not as close as any other parcel firms I've dealt with. But it isn't open on Saturday, the day that would be best for me to go and collect it. Okay, maybe I can divert via St. Neots on my way to or from work... but it only opens at 9am, and closes at 6pm.

Excellent. So, because I'm busy during office hours and so can't be at home for delivery, I can go and collect it any time during office hours. I'm sure there's some problem with that logic...

Then it gets even better. They can't give me the address for the depot in St. Neots, because I have to arrange with the depot before I collect the parcel. How long does it take to find a parcel on a shelf in a warehouse?

Finally, we reach the point where I'll be phoning Dabs.com and getting a refund. The guy on the phone is quite keen for me to agree for the depot to phone me tomorrow to arrange when I'll collect it; something I don't want to do because I'd rather choose a time when it's convenient for me to be interrupted at work. "But", he protests, "if you phone tomorrow to arrange it, you won't be able to collect it on Monday."

Monday!?! It's only Thursday today. My parcel started its journey back to the depot this morning. Yet if I phone tomorrow to arrange to collect it, the earliest that they'll let me is Tuesday.

Can somebody explain to me how anyone can have the audacity to claim that any of this is "putting the customer 1st"?!?!!

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September 18, 2006

Five-a-side Footie @ Kelsey Kerridge

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August 23, 2006

Still Here... Just Busy.

Blogging has been a bit light around here recently, hasn't it? Rather than continue not managing to write the assortment of posts about things I've been up to lately (a lot of which are a bit too far in the past really), I'm going to provide a quick summary post of recent events and such.

Work

This is what's been sucking in all of my time. Particularly all my time in front of a computer, when I could otherwise be blogging. As a result I'm on the verge of launching tedium, which is really cool. Life is a loop of chasing down final niggly details, dotting is and crossing ts... but it's all easy to keep track of under a tedium tag on my tedium account.

Of course, just to add to the fun, I need to work out how 34sp.com have broken the beta version by upgrading the version of Ruby on Rails on me (and which rolling back to the old version hasn't fixed...).

Toys

All this development has been the final straw for my five-year old laptop. It's been chugging along for a while now, and last month I finally relented and decided it was time for an upgrade. My new Toshiba M400 Tablet PC is very nice, although I think it needs a bit more than the 512MB of memory it comes with as standard. It's early days, but so far I like the pen-based interface. Using it like a normal laptop is obviously still best for most tasks, and typing on the keyboard is much faster than the handwriting recognition; but I've been impressed with how well that actually recognises what I write. I prefer the pen when playing around with things in a paint package, so I reckon it's a worthwhile addition to the system.

Fun

I'm not sure this should be classed as "fun", but we completed the London to Cambridge bike ride. It took a bit longer than in previous attempts, but we weren't in any hurry. Some more training runs would've been handy though - I was rather saddle-sore after fifty miles!

Then at the end of July it was time for the Folk Festival to take over the grounds of the local hall again. We only made it to the Thursday night (although we could hear plenty more of it in the house...) and got to see Chumbawamba in their current acoustic incarnation, and Nizlopi. Nizlopi were as energized and excellent as always, and Chumbawamba were surprisingly good - even if they didn't play Tubthumping (I got fed up of it when it was played to death in the charts, hence my not being particularly excited about seeing them, but by the end of their set was hoping to hear what it sounded like as an acoustic number!).

And the Sunday before last, we did make it to see the Black Box screening. It was great to see it at last, and was an enjoyable half-hour. If you happen upon it at the Edinburgh Fringe, or possibly at some green festival whose name I forget, then take a look.

Posted by Adrian at 03:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 04, 2006

The Lazyweb Karaoke Selector

Nearly three years ago now, as part of my 31 Songs project I wrote an open letter asking for Guitar Man to be included in karaoke selections and on pub jukeboxes.

So I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email in my inbox the other day which read:

Hi Adrian,

During a routine search of the web I found your comments regarding Guitar Man not being available on Singtotheworld.com.

Just to advise that it is now available.

Best regards

Rob

Excellent news. I know what I'll be singing at my next party...

Posted by Adrian at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

Help Fight Cancer and Get a Free Book!

This coming Sunday, Rebecca and I will be cycling the fifty miles from London to Cambridge as part of the annual (and obviously named) London to Cambridge Bike Ride. You can sponsor me by heading over to Bmycharity - Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

This year, however, I've decided to try something a little bit different for my fundraising. Listed below are a number of books that I need to get rid of to make some more space on my bookshelves. Anybody who wants one of them can have one, provided they sponsor me for the ride, and I'll cover the postage for the book.

The books:

  • Formula One: The Championship 1997 - A Complete Race-by-race Guide by David Tremayne
  • Jeremy Clarkson's Hot 100 - Cars that make you go Phwoar!
  • The Fastest Cars From Around the World
    Guinness World Records 2002
  • Advanced Engineering Mathematics by Erwin Kreyszig
  • Software Project Survival Guide by Steve McConnell
  • Dancing with Cats by Burton Silver and Heather Busch
  • Flip & Easy One Pot recipe book
  • Unix System Administration Handbook by Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder and Scott Seebass
  • The First-time Manager by Loren B. Belker
  • The Definitive Guides to the X Window System: Volume 6A - Motif Programming Manual by Dan Heller & Paula M. Ferguson
  • The Definitive Guides to the X Window System: Volume 6B - Motif Reference Manual by Paula M. Ferguson
  • Linux Unleashed by Husain, Parker, et al.
  • Leonardo's Laptop by Ben Schneiderman
  • Laughter: A Scientific Investigation by Robert R. Provine
  • Billy (Connolly's biography) by Pamela Stephenson
  • Manchester, England: The story of the pop cult city by Dave Haslam
  • Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
  • Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh
  • Probability: the book that proves there is life in outer space by Amir D. Aczel
  • Learning to Program in C by N. Kantaris
  • Deeper: a two-year odyssey in cyberspace by John Seabrook
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

And if there wasn't anything you want in the list, you're still allowed to be old-fashioned and just sponsor me anyway.

Posted by Adrian at 03:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 06, 2006

Recycling Buildings For a Carbon Neutral Future

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June 25, 2006

Evita at the Adelphi Theatre

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June 24, 2006

Free Range 2006

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June 01, 2006

Blood Brothers at the Corn Exchange

So, Blood Brothers then. I was surprised that a throwaway mention of it should generate two comments, obviously my readership is girlier than I thought ;-)

Overall I enjoyed the performance, although it took a while to get going. At the interval, I was fairly ambivalent about it - the songs weren't memorable and the narrator was hard to understand, plus as the story is set in Liverpool and Skelmersdale - both areas I know well - I'd let myself get distracted picking at where in Liverpool it could be based on the backdrop, the mixed attempts at scouse accents, and wondering why the "posh" family would ever move to Skem...

Things picked up a lot in the second half, the plot quickened and drew me in. I didn't quite think it was worthy of the standing ovation given at the end, apart from the actress playing the lead role of the mother. Strictly she was the understudy for Linda Nolan, but I doubt we could have had a better performance from anyone else.

I'm glad I saw it, but unlike the couple sat next to me, I don't think I'd be booking to see it for the third time in a week.

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May 26, 2006

I'll Do My Crying Here Again

Today, two blogs that I read religiously have each announced the sad news that a close family member has died. With each my first thought has been to post a comment, but I've then fumbled over what to write in it.

Whatever I say won't bring back the loved one who is now strangely missed and yet also ever-present in the thoughts and minds of those left behind.

I can't say that I know how they feel, because I don't. I have been through a similar experience when Karen, my sister, was killed in a car crash five years ago, but all I know from that is how individual and different the grief is from one person to the next.

I could say that time is the great healer. That the pain dulls over the years, although it's always there ready to be exposed again if something scratches through the surface, although perversely it's as if they're almost alive again when it does.

But that's something you either believe or you don't. Some platitudes from somebody else aren't going to change that. Deep down you'll already know that you will get through it, somehow... even if the world won't ever quite be the same again.

I suppose the only useful advice I can offer is to talk about it more. To not worry about how you're seen to others. To be open about it.

I know this is easier said than done. I don't do it as much as I should. I've wanted to write this blog post for years now. In fact, in my drafts folder there's the time I tried to write it when I heard that Kev's brother had died, and another for the time when Ran told me about Eyal...

I just find it hard to communicate when I'm crying, which makes it tricky to explain that I don't mind people talking about Karen, or asking me questions about her, or how I felt at the time of her death, or how I feel now, or how the dynamic of the whole family changed, or... anything.

You see, getting upset isn't a problem, because it reminds me of how much I loved Karen and how much I miss her. So it should be celebrated that I react in this way, because the alternative - that I don't mourn her passing - is too awful to contemplate.

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May 23, 2006

A Musical Weekend

This weekend turned out to be rather musical, in a rather different way to usual.

On Saturday, we went down to London for the day, and I got to experience my first West End musical. The Producers was great fun; the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is a rather impressive and ornate theatre, and the production itself was superb. Reece Shearsmith's (of League of Gentlemen fame) cartoon-like spasms when as Leo Bloom he was deprived of his security blanket were inspired, and I loved Don Gallagher as the camp director, Roger De Bris and Nicolas Colicos as Fuhrer-loving Franz Liebkind.

Then on Sunday, the musicals continued. I went to see West Side Story at the Arts Picturehouse with Rebecca and her sister. It's a firm favourite of theirs, and they're word-perfect from repeated viewings from video and DVD, but neither had seen it on the big screen. I had never seen it, and I think I enjoyed it more seeing it at the cinema than I would watching it on TV, and the song-and-dance numbers only seemed to drag once or twice - which is better than I feared.

I'd like to assure you that this sudden interest in musicals is just a blip, but given that I'll be seeing Blood Brothers at the Arts Theatre this coming weekend, I'm not sure I that'll stand up to scrutiny. I'm not expecting to continue with the musicals immersion, but I think they have their place.

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April 10, 2006

What Am I Up To?

In a recent comment over here, Ellee Seymour asked:

"Hi, I am interested to know what you are working on at the moment. What hi-tech innovation is left?"

I figured this was a good enough prompt for me to get round to updating everyone about why things have been little more than link dumps of late...

What am I working on at the moment?

Far too much! As always seems to be the case, things haven't quite dove-tailed as I'd have liked. I recently accepted some contract work (doing, and managing, some testing) to ease cashflow whilst I'm ramping up the sales and marketing of DataCocoon. However, I hadn't quite finished the revamp of the MCQN Ltd. website when I started the contract, so my evenings are being spent sorting that out. Almost sorted now, so the launch of DataCocoon isn't too far away!

The weekends would've been a good time to finish off the website too, were it not for a spate of weddings. Leila and Jon's wedding was the weekend before last; last weekend we were down in Kent for one of Rebecca's friends' wedding; and this week I need to finish off my speech ready for being best man at Craig's wedding on Saturday.

What hi-tech innovation is left?

There's still plenty of hi-tech innovation left to be had - there are far too many things I'd like to play around with...

Mobile computing
We're still a long way from getting people to use their mobile phones for much more than texting and phoning people. I don't think we will, or that we should, get mobile phones to replace PCs - a keyboard and a big screen are too useful - but they should be more closely integrated. It should be trivial to share data between the two, and have applications that assume you have both and play to each's strengths.
Web 2.0
This seems to be the latest buzzword, but hidden behind the hype there are some good trends in making websites more responsive and user-friendly. Another advantage is that the user doesn't have to worry about the maintenance and administration overhead to keep Web applications (things like Hotmail for an old example, or more recently Writely - a web-based word processor) running properly, but that is at the cost of your data being held by some random company.

As more and more of our data and computer usage moves online, I think we'll need improved abilities to manage our identity in the online world. At present there are two main modes of privacy on the Internet - things that everyone can see, or things that only the individual who owns them can see. It's hard to selectively open things up to other groups of people, such as my family, or my friends. Some form of global identity will not only give us less usernames and passwords to remember for all the services we use, but will also enable easier authentication of our friends and colleagues to allow us to develop semi-private spaces online.

Ubiquitous Computing
This is a catch-all term to cover all sorts of non-computer devices gaining networked computer-like abilities. So it includes things like smart light switches that can turn all the lights in the house off when you go to bed; heating systems that you can text when you leave work so your house is warm when you get home; through to things like this WiFi-enabled rabbit which can light up when your share price falls, or wiggle its ears when your girlfriend moves the ears on hers. All sorts of things that users won't necessarily realise have computers embedded in them, but will buy because they solve a problem.
And my direction?
In the short-term, I'll be playing with the Web2.0 stuff. I've been dabbling in it with a todo-list application that I'm developing for personal use at present, but will be looking to let others play around with it once it's a bit more polished.

And in the longer term I want to experiment with the ubiquitous computing stuff (anyone want to buy me a bunny?) but who know what I'll end up doing?

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December 30, 2005

Review 2005

Stu over at feeling listless has been running a series for all of December entitled Review 2005 where one guest blogger per day writes about an achievement they've made in 2005.

Today you can read my entry, but the others are well worth a read too. The full list of entries is in the introduction (although it won't have the complete list 'til the end of the month).

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December 21, 2005

In Memory Of Karen And Stewart

"And to those of you who moan your lives through one day to the next
Well let them take you next
Can't you live and be thankful you're here
See it could be you tomorrow or next year"

Trains to Brazil by gUiLLeMoTs
listen here
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November 08, 2005

A Busy Weekend In Belfast

I think I've recovered now from an excellent, eventful long weekend in Northern Ireland for old Uni mate Martin's stag do.

After dropping our bags off at the Days Inn (nothing special, but fairly new and convenient for the city centre) late on Friday morning we headed round the corner to the superb Crown bar for the best pint of Guinness I've ever had (see photo).

The stout was accompanied by some rather tasty sausages and champ, as recommended by my housemate, which meant that we could ensconce ourselves in one of the snugs. It felt like we had our own private room in the pub, with a bell to summon the waitress to order our food and bring more beer - fantastic!

Given that we spent the rest of the day drinking, I felt remarkably well on Saturday morning - all set for my first day at the races. Down Royal racecourse is twenty minutes drive or so outside of Belfast, so it was a short minibus trip before we were caught up in the excitement of the racing.

However, there was to be even more drama before the afternoon was out. Shortly before the third race, we were all ushered from the grandstand and onto the racecourse itself. From there, we spent half and hour or so watching as the race security and the police searched the area. At that point it was announced over the PA that racing was being abandoned and the police helicopter (which had landed earlier) took off and flew up and down the course advising us to move down to the exit.

As we made our way out of the racecourse there were rumours (later proved correct) that a number of suspect devices had been found, and more and more emergency vehicles could be seen arriving (when we left there were police cars, fire engines, three bomb disposal armoured Land Rovers and a couple of larger bomb disposal vans). However, the evacuation was calm and measured - the main problem for everyone was the gridlock on the road back to Mazetown. We didn't realise until we saw the front page of the local paper the next day just how big an incident it had been.

The evening saw us back to more normal stag do activites - just the general drinking and enjoying the Belfast nightlife. Ordinary, but lots of fun.

Finally, on Sunday there was just enough time for a group of us to take in the open-top bus tour of the city before heading back to the airport. It was a very interesting tour, although it felt a bit different to the similar one that I've been on in Cambridge for in addition to being shown the historic buildings, shipyard where RMS Titanic was built, etc., the tour took us round the areas most visibly involved in the Troubles.

We got to see just how close the two communities are geographically; often in adjacent streets which are separated by Peace Lines - 20-odd foot high fences with gates in them manned by police. The gates get closed at 6pm every day, and are closed for the whole weekend. It was surprising how little of this I was aware of, despite having watched documentaries on the Troubles, and seen items on the news whilst growing up. The murals and a lot of the names were familiar (Falls Road, Shankill Road...) but the Peace Lines and fortifications of the Orange meeting hall and the like provided real food for thought.

It's all still quite recent, so it felt a bit uneasy... voyeuristic almost to be touring through in a sight-seeing bus, down terraced streets where people were just going about their day: coming out of church; washing the car; playing with their friends. But, I did get a much better idea of what Belfast has been through.

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October 10, 2005

Weekend Activities

It was a good weekend for going to performances.

On Friday night we headed over to the University Centre for the Jesterlarf comedy night. It's ages since we'd been, and they've moved rooms and done away with the cans-sold-from-a-table and now rely on the main bar (which managed not to suffer any real delay during the interval rush).

The only problem with the room change is that they're still trying to pack in as many people as they used to in the other room, which is bigger, so things were a bit cramped. You get pre-allocated an area of table, which is good, but it would work much better if they lost some of the seats.

Anyway, the comedy was good. Chambers and Nettleton (who seemed more the "next Mel and Sue" than the as billed "next French and Saunders") did a good job of compering the event, and didn't pick on us too much even though we were sat next to the stage.

Stuart Hudson was the first act, and my favourite. He delivered a stream of puns, just at the right tempo where you didn't miss anything, but weren't left waiting for any of them either.

The guest act, whose name I can't remember, and isn't listed on the flyer wasn't much good. He didn't get off to a great start but had pretty much recovered it, only to continually go on about how badly it was going, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Mike Gunn, the headline, restored the level of laughter, and ensured that we ended an enjoyable evening on a high.

Then last night we went to one of the Naked Stage nights in the basement of CB2 (which I'm surprised doesn't seem to have a website...). Naked Stage is a series of stage readings of new material written and performed by the members of WriteON! - The Forum for New Dramatic Writing in Cambridge.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, it all felt a bit bohemian and just isn't the sort of thing I've ever been to. The first piece was really good and quite funny - a ten minute or so extended sketch of a couple getting ready to go out, with her deliberating over what to wear and him getting his "you look lovely in either outfit" predictably wrong. Each character was played by two actors - one for the physical person, and another acting out the character's thoughts - which was a clever idea, although it took a minute or so to realise that that what was happening.

The second piece wasn't as engaging, although it was still enjoyable. It seemed a bit long for the amount of content - a tale set around the death of a cat. It also didn't help that there isn't much of a stage in the CB2 basement (hence the series name) which meant that some of the actors were still visible on stage when they weren't in the current scene.

Afterwards there was a (non-compulsory) audience feedback session to provide the actors and writers with comments and thoughts. It looks like a good group for any budding actors and writers, and the Naked Stage series runs every Sunday evening till the start of December.

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September 07, 2005

About Me

It's long overdue really, especially given that I find such pages quite useful when I happen upon other blogs, so I figured it was time to add some "About me" info to McFilter.

I live in Cambridge, England and write software for a living. I moved down here from the North-West to be one of the first few employees of a startup called STNC - we were first to put a web browser onto a mobile phone. I played a pretty big role in the success of the company, initially as a software engineer, then with some project management and finally as software manager in charge of the entire engineering force.

When we were acquired by Microsoft, I wanted to get back to some coding, and so led the team writing the TCP/IP stack which has shipped on an assortment of devices including the Sony Z5 and the Amstrad em@ilers.

In early 2001 I left Microsoft, and since then have been working for myself - some of the time doing contract work, and some of the time developing my own products. I'm always interested in projects/consulting/software ideas/work related to things I'm interested in, which includes...

  • Web apps
  • Blogging
  • Embedded/mobile development
  • Home networking
  • Ubiquitous computing
  • Music
  • Project management or just management, particularly in small tech companies

Outside of work (and the geeky computer stuff) I seem to spend quite a bit of time playing football (that's proper football, not that American version ;-). I also do a fair bit of cycling and like to go for a wander up some mountains from time to time (although that's easier said than done when you live in East Anglia!).

I'm also quite into my cars and listening to music. Not always at the same time, but I can listen to anything from my entire CD collection (as mp3s) at any time when I'm in the car - which is a bit more impressive when you know that at the last check it would take more than three weeks of non-stop listening to listen to all my CDs...

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August 19, 2005

Everything I Know About Writing A Best Man's Speech

Like me, my mate Jon has been honoured to be asked to be a best man. The other day (before I accidentally kicked him in the shin playing football... sorry about that Jon!) he asked me if I had any hints or links to help him embarrass the groom prepare his speech.

I'm not sure that I'm the most qualified to give advice, seeing as I didn't seem to spend too much time writing it - I started it on my train journey back from Egham one day, and finished it in a couple more evenings. That said, it seemed to go over okay on the day...

Tradition dictates some of the speech for you: the best man's speech usually follows the groom's, so you generally start by thanking the groom on behalf of the bridesmaids; and you generally finish with a final toast to the happy couple.

So the only bit you get to play with really is the middle, and how hard can that be? ;-)

Once word gets out that you're going to be best man, people are usually eager to offer their thoughts and ideas, and to share their experiences of best man speeches they've heard.

A while back I read Working the Room by Nick Morgan, which I'd recommend for anyone doing any sort of public speaking. It advocates basing your speech on one of the archetypal stories or myths: the quest (or hero's journey); stranger in a strange land; rags to riches; revenge; or boy meets girl. Working the Room gives a page of explanation for each of the stories.

Although boy meets girl sounds like the obvious pick, for that story the boy loses the girl through some misunderstanding before finally winning her back, so it didn't match what had happened with Neil and Kuljit. Instead, I figured the quest would be more suitable, showing Neil's journey through life to find true love.

With the quest providing a basic framework, I set about talking to Neil's friends and family to gather stories to use, including some useful material from Neil himself one evening in the pub when he'd had a few too many. In the latter scenario, make sure you write the material down or (as I did) text it to yourself, as you're unlikely to be in a state to rely on your memory! I then chose a handful of the stories and ran them together along a rough timeline from when I first knew the groom, through to him meeting his new wife and them falling in love.

Props are always well received, with embarrassing photos of the groom being a common choice. With some help from my housemate, Scottie, I worked in some jokes involving bubblewrap, and the air horn I let off at the end of the speech had the added bonus of waking up anyone who'd found my speech too boring.

Now that the speech is written, you can turn your attention to its delivery. Practice is key here; I must have run through mine half a dozen times. That will give you an idea of how long it will last, and also identify any parts or phrases that you have difficulty with. I didn't script my speech, just had a set of (numbered!) 3"x5" index cards with brief reminders of the stories so that I got them in order but I did script the odd sentence here and there that I'd struggled to find the best wording for during the rehearsal.

Ideally you should check out the room beforehand. I didn't have chance to do this, and so was a little alarmed when we sat down for the meal to find that there wasn't enough space to get out from my seat, which made my initial joke a tad difficult. Luckily we decided to run all the speeches from the other end of the room and it wasn't a problem in the end. Incorporating something into your speech that requires you to move about the room can be a good trick to take your mind off the speech itself and help you calm your nerves and relax.

Finally, remember to speak loudly (so even old Aunt Ethel at the back can hear you) and more slowly than you think you should - you'll have a natural tendency to rush through the speech as you know what it says, remember everyone else is hearing it for the first time. And don't worry about it too much - everyone wants the speech to go well, so they're all on your side!

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July 28, 2005

The London To Cambridge Bike Ride 2005

Ian en route
Wet. That was the over-riding (if you'll pardon the pun) theme of this year's London to Cambridge ride. It didn't rain heavily, but did rain steadily from the first rest stop, fourteen miles in, to the end.

Once you're soaked though, it doesn't really matter how much more it rains, and it wasn't cold so it only really meant we had to be a bit more careful on the corners of the downhill bits, in case it was slippery.

We (that's Ian pictured on the right there) took a little longer than last time: around three and a half hours of riding, with another twenty minutes or so of stops. Not too bad, given our lack of training this time. I think we paced ourselves better, as the "killer hill" (about 34 miles in) that was burned into my memory last time wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered; the one two miles previous seemed to have been worst this time.

I haven't totted up all my sponsorship yet, but should comfortably break the 100 barrier, which is good. Of course, it's too late to sponsor me for it, but I'm sure the charity wouldn't mind if you make a donation ;-)

It's over...
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July 21, 2005

The Long and Winding Road

...which is 50 miles long, and wends from London to Cambridge. That's where I'll be on Sunday (presuming I get my bike fixed - I rather worryingly managed to shred the rear tyre on a practice ride last night!) as once again I embark on the London to Cambridge bike ride.

It's all in aid of charity, so if you'd like to help my fundraising efforts in for Breakthrough Breast Cancer then you can sponsor me here.

Thanks.

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June 17, 2005

Neil's Stag

As usual, it takes the imminent arrival of the actual wedding for me to find time to post about the stag do, which was a couple of weeks back over the weekend of the 28th May.

The proceedings started like this...


And the weekend ended like this...


But fear not! All is not what it seems.

The build-up to the weekend started on the Friday evening - Neil, Dixon and I headed into Rusholme for a curry, and then wound up in Withington for a few drinks, but not too many - the big day was to come.

First thing Saturday, we headed over to Knutsford to Delta Force Paintball. Upon arrival, our convoy of Integrale and Nissan 350Z caused a bit of a stir with the guys at the gate, but I'm sure that was overshadowed moments later by the guy arriving in his Ferrari.

We then proceeded to spend far too much on paintballs, as we seemed to get through them at a rate of knots. Excellent fun, as usual, although Neil found that he seemed to attract more fire once the marshalls had discovered he was on his stag do and so kitted him out in a fluorescent jacket.

Once we'd finished trying to get Neil as many bruises as possible, we headed back to Manchester to our hotel on Piccadilly. Showered and changed, we then headed over to the Frog and Bucket comedy club, via a few bars, and met up with the guys who hadn't made it to the paintballing.

The only comedian I'd heard of, Richard Herring, unfortunately had a terrible night, as you can read here. We weren't the stag do that he incorrectly picked on, as there was another one there too - but that gave headline act Alex Boardman plenty of victims as he delivered a hilarious set that was a better fit with the audience.

We didn't stay at the comedy club for their "legendary classic disco" but headed to The Printworks and spent the rest of the night partying in the Norwegian Blue bar till it closed.

On Sunday, we took a detour on our route home to call into St. Helens so we could visit the notable absentee from the weekend and owner of the broken leg pictured above. Stocky has done a pretty good job of smashing his leg playing rugby just a few weeks before the stag do, so had to miss out on that, and the wedding. At least we could give him a taste of the evening with some poor quality footage of some poor quality dancing that I'd captured on my phone the night before...

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June 15, 2005

The Kilts Have Arrived

In case you hadn't noticed, I've filled in the write-up for McFilter: Mr. and Dr. Wood's Wedding, with photos and everything.

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June 04, 2005

Malcolm's Stag

It must be June; my diary is awash with weddings. Which means that there's also been a run of stag events.

The weekend before last was Malcolm's turn to celebrate his last days of freedom. We spent a most entertaining day over at WildTracks karting and quad-biking, and then in the evening we headed out, via the excellent Kingston Arms, to the Curry Queen on Mill Road for a curry (surprise, surprise) and a few beers (ditto) before adjourning to the Cambridge Blue at which point the groom-to-be declined all attempts to get him extremely drunk, settling for just plain drunk instead :-)

Half-way through the karting the rain started. So after a dry practice session, where I'd worked out the lines through all the corners such that I only had to brake for two of them, we were then thrown into the lottery of a wet race... Slick tyres and wet tarmac make for an interesting combination, rendering the steering wheel virtually useless so very sharp braking and/or power oversteer were needed to make it round corners. Quite challenging conditions really, and although I felt as though I was balancing near the limit of being quick without spinning I was passed by James and so ended up finishing in second place.

I think the torrential downpour over lunch actually improved conditions for the quad-biking, although it did make it much messier! We were taken in what could be loosely termed a procession round a suitably muddy, rutted, off-road track. It was like going out driving in the snow - lots of fun sliding around but with less worrying about hitting things.

All in all, a really fun day, and a suitably active precursor to the evening's consumption...

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May 26, 2005

Kings Of Europe

Could you ask for a better game of football? Our emotions played to perfection.

Half time. AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 0. Almost as low as you can feel. Where are Liverpool going to find three goals? Especially given their performance in the first half.

Things are a little better at the start of the second half. Our midfield are a little more involved in the game. Then, in the 53rd minute, a beautiful header from Stevie G! A goal! Can we... dare we hope?

Barely a minute later, and Smicer's shot sneaks in. A second! It's not over yet!

Then on the hour, Gerrard goes down in the box. A penalty? For a moment or two there's confusion, none of the decisions seem to have gone our way all night - are we to be denied again? No, it is a penalty. Alonso steps up... and it's saved! But he gets the rebound!

What a glorious seven minutes. We're level, and there's still half an hour of normal time to find a winner.

Full time. AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 3. Extra time beckons.

And it's a tense affair. Milan have recovered from shell-shock a little, and only a fantastic double save from Dudek keeps Liverpool in the game.

After extra time. AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 3.

Penalties! Memories return to 1984, when the European Cup final also went to penalties, with the famous image of Grobbelaar's "jelly legs" helping us to our last European Cup victory.

AC go first. Serginho misses! The other room in the pub erupts in celebration a moment before we do - their TV is tuned to ITV rather than Sky, and they seem to be a second or so ahead, making for a very surreal experience watching the penalties. Hamann scores for Liverpool, just the start we want.

Dudek saves from Pirlo! Cisse scores! Liverpool are two-nil up!

Tomasson gets Milan onto the penalty score sheet, and Riise misses for the Reds. We aren't there yet...

Kaka levels the scores, but that's before Smicer puts Liverpool back in front.

Shevchenko has to score to keep Milan in the game. We can't hear the result of this second hand from the other room! We all pile through to find out as soon as possible.

DUDEK SAVES IT! We've won! Liverpool FC have won the Champions League!

What a game! What a night!

AC Milan 3 - Liverpool 3 (AET). Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties.

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March 29, 2005

Row Over

Don't worry, this post about rowing won't be as long as the last one.

Rowed 2000m this morning (as I do most mornings these days), which pushes my weekly average from 1st September to 31st March above 5000m/week. Which was my goal for this winter! Achieved a whole two days early.

I haven't decided whether to have a new goal for the summer. I might see how much rowing I get done in April, and if it isn't enough then maybe I'll set some targets.

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February 28, 2005

The Four Minute Kilometre

The four-minute-kilometre, or two minute 500m as it's generally measured in rowing, has been a bit of a magic number with my erging.

It didn't take long to beat over a 2000m distance, I managed that the third time I rowed 2km, and since then I'm rather disappointed if I don't get below 8 minutes. It was harder to pass over longer distances though, and I've only managed it once on a 6km erg - near the end of five months of averaging over 2200m per day to hit my "half-a-million metres rowed in total" target.

I don't do 6km workouts any more, they were mainly to give me an easier shot at hitting the half-million metres. 2km and 5km seem to be the favoured workouts as far as the rankings go on the Concept 2 website, and fit nicely with giving me a choice of short or long session.

Having beaten the two-minute split time over 6km, I was obviously capable of doing the same over 5km; however, as I hadn't had a period of regular erging since that last challenge, my rowing fitness had dropped and I developed a bit of a mental block about rowing 5km at all.

That was supposed to change with this winter's challenge to replace my Thursday evening exercise "slot" with an erg whilst it's too dark to play football. I managed a few in October, but with the added complication of not working at home that slipped to 2km ergs, and not enough to make the 5km/week target.

So now I'm back working at home, there's been a renewed effort to get my rowing back on track. Given that I'm no longer cycling eight miles a day to work and back, I've started a "2km erg commute" in the mornings as I can do it first thing, before having my morning shower, so it only takes around ten minutes out of my day. I've also forced myself back into the 5km ergs - not caring about the times, the important thing was to make the distance.

Which was why it came as a bit of a surprise when last week I found myself hovering around the 2minutes/500m average for the first 1km of a 5km. It was quite possible that I'd just got my pacing all wrong, and I'd just "blow up" (rowing equivalent of the runner's "hitting the wall") before finishing, I decided to see if I could get below that average for the full distance.

I think the knowledge that I'd rowed at that kind of pace in the past helped me believe it was possible, but I was still amazed to find I'd averaged 1m59.2s/500m, which brought me in a whole eight seconds below twenty minutes. That put me 605th of 1062 in the Concept 2 rankings, so still well below average but in the top 60&percent;

I knew I wouldn't run another sub-twenty minute 5km straight off, so didn't even try for it and somehow only ended up six tenths of a second over! I suppose setting a new personal best ratchets up what I expect to achieve even on a "coasting" workout. Today I didn't start off pushing for my second sub-twenty minute 5km, but with only 2km left it looked achievable so I raised my pace a notch and came home over six seconds under. Give it another few workouts and I'll start expecting to come in below twenty minutes every time.

That was a long-winded way of saying "Woo! I rowed 5000m in less than twenty minutes" wasn't it?

Posted by Adrian at 07:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2005

Lights, Sound, Action!

Recently, I had an email conversation with Carl which went as follows...

Carl: Hi, strange question, but have you got a tuxedo?
Me: Pretty much, although my trousers don't have that stripe down the side.
Carl: That would do fine, I'd imagine... So the question is, are you free at all on the weekend of 29th/30th Jan, and would you like to play 007's legs?
Me: I'd be up for that. Sounds like fun.

Which is how I ended up spending a rather tiring, but enjoyable weekend on the set for Carl's short film project "Office Devils."

My character wasn't needed for filming until Sunday afternoon, so I got to help out as a member of the crew the rest of the time: positioning lights; holding reflectors and diffusers; and even had a brief stint with the sound boom. I missed out on doing the clapper though, disappointingly.

It was an interesting insight into the amount of work that goes into making even a film as short as this one (I guess it'll be about ten minutes long) - there's lots of repetition as everything has to be shot from all sorts of different angles. Even though I spent two days seeing it done over and over again, I think the finished article will look quite different, and I'm looking forward to getting to see it.

When I know some more about what's happening with it, I'll give an update so you can all watch for the coverage of the premiere on the news...

Posted by Adrian at 07:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2005

Harts Hill Turbo In The 8:22

My mate Ian is getting married in a couple of weeks. Last weekend was his stag do. I can neither confirm, nor deny, rumours that the event was held in and around Brighton as obviously I am bound by the Official Stag Secrets Act of 1868.

I am placing my life in considerable danger just by divulging this much. These photos are classified and according to the authorities "do not exist." The one to the right shows the sort of people I am talking about: a battle-hardened, spoiling-for-action group of tough, disciplined men at the peak of physical and mental fitness. Not long after this was taken, the squad were out on an "exercise" from which the stag was lucky to escape with his life.

It is safer to show the second picture, as what it records is a matter of public record. There was a race meeting at the Brighton and Hove Greyhound Stadium on Saturday 22nd January 2005. The 8:22pm race was the Ian Kelly Stakes. The winner was Harts Hill Turbo. Mr Ian Kelly, Esq. was seen presenting the owner of the winning dog with a commemorative silver plate.

From here on the facts start to get sketchy. He did seem to be shadowed by a number of men. Not always all of them; not always the same ones; and those not nearby would be checking out other parts of the venue - down trackside, or up in the bar and restaurant area. They were also careful to stagger both their arrival and their departure. Their exact role remains unclear, as do details of the amount of money taken from the bookmakers.

The people of Brighton are no doubt wary of the gangs return.

Posted by Adrian at 05:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 13, 2005

Problems With Email

*doh*

Always remember, when testing whether email is working, to send the test email through a machine other than your own server.

At the start of December, my internet connection was down for a day or so. Since then, I seemed to be receiving less email, although hadn't worked out the problem (because I didn't follow the above rule).

Today, more by luck than design, I've found out exactly what the problem was, and solved it. I'll spare everyone the overly geeky explanation, but the upshot is that email sent to amcewen AT bcs.org.uk hasn't been reaching me since 9th December 2004.

It is now fixed, and some of it is starting to be delivered, but I don't know how much of it will arrive. So, if you've sent me email recently, particularly if it bounced, can you send it again please?. Thanks.

Email to mcqn.net addresses has been unaffected (which is part of the reason I hadn't noticed the extent of the problem earlier).

Posted by Adrian at 02:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2004

Visiting the Tate Modern

Finally I make it to the Tate Modern! I've only been meaning to visit pretty much ever since it opened. Wandering down from St. Paul's, across the no-longer-wobbly Millenium Footbridge is a lovely introduction to the building, although with the main entrance being at the end of the building to your right, it can take a little while to get your bearings and start to find your way around the exhibitions. Maybe the current renovations of the part you arrive at from the bridge contribute to the problem.

Bankside, to my mind, isn't the most stunning piece of architecture, but its clean, modernist lines are quite pleasing to the eye. The conversion from power station to art gallery has been very well done: the immense turbine hall almost gives the impression of an outdoor public square, with the galleries adjacent; in and around the galleries are many pockets of benches or welcoming leather sofas from which visitors may either observe the art and life in the turbine hall, or gaze out over the Thames; and even little touches like the recessed illumination of the hand-rails on the staircases.

Learning from my trip to the Biennial, this time I scribbled down a list of artists whose work I particularly liked, and thanks to the superb Tate website, I can point you to more information on each of them, and images of most of them.

Mark Rothko (bio on Wikipedia) was my big discovery of the trip. I'd seen some of his work on posters before but the texture, and in some cases sheer scale, of the pieces has given me a whole new appreciation of his art. I see from this list of all the works of his owned by the Tate that there's also one on display at the Tate Liverpool. I'll have to keep an eye out for it when I next visit.

Similarly, one of Andy Warhol's soup cans is at Tate Liverpool. There was a whole room of Warhols at Tate Modern, but no soup.

Michael Landy's Scrapheap Services takes up a whole room, and only a handful of people are allowed in at any one time to prevent further damage to those "on the scrapheap". Thought-provoking contrast between the jolly, bright and seemingly caring slogans of the fictional Scrapheap Services company and the detritus of the scrapped, made-from-litter people.

The photos from Thomas Demand and James Casebere look hyper-realistic; which is a little strange given that they're photos of models of places rather than of actual places.

Jean Pierre Yvaral's Relief cinétique - Accélération optique was the best of a collection of optical illusion works which appeared to animate as your viewpoint moved past them.

Britain Viewed From The North by Tony Cragg puts a different slant on our usual view of the country; and its composition from bits of litter and junk the artist found on the streets of northern cities serves as a social comment on life in the North in the early 80s.

Yves Klein's IKB 79 looks rather boring and trivial on the website, but that doesn't do the artwork justice. In the flesh, it has a vibrancy and power that obviously doesn't translate well. One of my favourites from the trip.

And finally, Robert Therrien. I almost didn't see No Title 1991 as it's installed in one of the hallways just outside the gallery rather than the gallery itself. It's a huge, enamel raincloud, peppered with taps - of the kitchen sink variety. Simple, effective, amusing.

Posted by Adrian at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UK Webloggers End Of Year Party

The Saturday before last saw me down in London for the day. In what seems to becoming a pattern, there was a mosey round the city to look at some buildings (pictures taken, will be posted when I've got them resized, labelled, etc.); a few hours spent taking in some art (more on my trip to the Tate Modern soon); and then a party in the evening.

The party was what brought me to London in the main, the other activities were things I've been wanting to do for a while when I had some spare time in the capital. So, not long after 7:30, I arrived at the Green Man (well chosen, Sasha, only two stops from Kings Cross so easy for those of us returning to Cambridge) for the UK Webloggers' End of Year Party 2004.

It was good to finally catch up with all sorts of people I've been reading, trading comments or emails with, and some people whose blog I've only dipped into from time to time. It's funny how you have some sort of composite of people from their writing, and it's rarely the same as when you meet them face to face.

Everyone was very friendly, although I probably should've circulated a bit more; it would've been nice to have continued the "theme of the night" with a few other attendees.

It wasn't anywhere near as geeky as I'd expected - very few cameras or gadgets on view, which is probably why there are only four photos online. My camera didn't see any service after I'd got to the Tate. And blogs weren't much of a topic of conversation either, apart from during introductions; with subjects ranging from 80s nostalgia with Robin's many interesting band stories (I see speakingasamusician.com is still available...), to food hygiene and Welsh restaurants.

All in all, good fun. Thanks to the Funjunkie crew for making it all happen.

Posted by Adrian at 12:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 21, 2004

The Shadow Never Recedes, But Isn't As Dark As It Was

"...see you in your next life when we'll fly away for good."

Suede - The Next Life.
Listen here (for a limited time)

Posted by Adrian at 02:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2004

Oktoberfest 2004

Only two photos were taken at this year's Oktoberfest the Saturday before last.

A relatively quiet party really, only around twenty attendees, but still good fun. An assortment of good beers and the now ubiquitous karaoke; there was even a good turnout from next-door - five of the six housemates came round, most of whom I hadn't met before.

We didn't even get though all the ales I'd bought, not that that's a problem of course...

Posted by Adrian at 11:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2004

Not As Bad As I'd Feared

After spending most of the day fighting the Windows FTP library to (not yet entirely successfully) get it to do things asynchronously, I decided to take a break and kickstart the winter's exercise regime - the rowing machine was hauled out and I did my first stint on it since March.

With the nights now drawing in, this week will be the last opportunity for an evening game of footie on Parker's Piece, so I'll have an empty "exercise slot" on a Thursday until next April.

With the frenzied rowing of winter 2002/2003 almost interrupting the resumption of the football season; and given I'd upped my winter football to twice a week; I didn't bother with any targets for my rowing last winter, thinking I'd just do the odd session here and there. I only managed just over a dozen rows for the six months.

The plan for this winter is to have a goal, but nothing too onerous. I'll still be playing five-a-side indoor on Mondays, and footie outdoors on Tuesdays, so I just want to keep up the thrice weekly exercise.

The challenge for this winter (September 'til April) is to row on average 5000m per week, and to bring my 5000m row time to below 20 minutes.

That's slightly harder than one 5km row each week, as I'm measuring from the start of September (putting me at least three rows down) and I'll miss at least one Thursday over Christmas. But quite achieveable.

Today's time for 5000m was 20m38.9s; well within the 20m50s target I'd set myself as it turns out, but during the row it wasn't looking quite so obvious, and my stomach and arms were complaining lots by the end! I expect it'll all come back to me fairly quickly, and given my personal best for 5km is 20m00.8s I doubt I'll have much trouble beating 20m dead in the next six months - it'll just be nice to break that barrier.

Posted by Adrian at 07:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2004

Family Colours

Earlier in the year I somewhat cryptically announced that I'd been asked to be best man by Neil, one of my oldest friends.

Since then, two other friends who are getting married next year have asked me to usher at their weddings: Ian, and just this week, Malcolm.

Is there a points system for wedding honours? Can I persuade my Mum that once being best man and twice an usher is equivalent to one trip to church as the groom? Thought not.

I'm delighted to have been asked on all counts, and have happily accepted. Malcolm's appointment does present something of a quandary; in his email about it, he said:

"I promise not to make you wear a kilt [...] On the other hand, if
you really want to..."

I must admit, I'm quite tempted. Although I'm descended from two fine Scottish families (both the McEwen and the Hardy* families have their own tartan), and not too removed from Scots blood (my paternal great-grandfather was a Scot), I am an Englishman and so don't feel it right to wear a kilt for formal events. Being an attendant at a Scottish friend's wedding, however, is surely a suitable occasion.

Then there's the whole "what does one wear under one's kilt" issue; my modesty probably contributing most of my reticence. If I did wear a kilt, it would have to be my tartan, probably the modern McEwen rather than the traditional, "shortbread tin" style, and that gave me a loophole from which to escape the decision - my kilt might not match the groom's.

But Malcolm called my bluff:
"My best man [...] is a Scot, and will be wearing a kilt which doesn't match mine, as will my Dad and maybe a couple of friends from home."

And isn't applying any pressure to the decision:
"There is no danger of [the other ushers] deciding to wear kilts. The choice is yours."

Consulting with a friend who is very experienced in her kilt-lifting has somewhat assuaged my sous-kilt fears, so I'm tending towards wearing one. Whaddya reckon?

* My mother's maiden name. There goes my security question...

Posted by Adrian at 05:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 17, 2004

New Neighbours

There's a lot of construction going on near my house at the moment and some demolition too, although not on the same scale as some of the recent developments in Cambridge. The local pair of collared doves have decided to move into my garden. It's a good area - cats are discouraged, and there's a good selection of eateries: windfall apples and plums at the minute; and regular deliveries of seeds and bread.

Their initial choice of location was the small apple tree about 8 metres from my patio door and "the office", so I'd have had a great view of proceedings. However, access wasn't ideal - particularly the emergency exit - and they'd have been spooked every time I stepped out into the garden; so they've spent this morning literally moving home to the sycamore at the bottom of the garden. Regular trips to dismantle the part-built nest in the apple tree and transfer it to the new, more secluded if a little windswept, location.

Posted by Adrian at 11:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 07, 2004

Furness Storms The Tower

The Ministry Blog reports on the redevelopment and rejigging of the colleges at Lancaster University.

With the recent removal of the Monopoly board laid down in the year I graduated, and (IIRC) the impending demolition of the Kirkby Ireleth block where I lived for my first year, it's almost as if they're trying to eradicate any memory of me...

It's good to see the Uni going from strength to strength.

Posted by Adrian at 01:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2004

Congratulations Rosie And Graham

This afternoon saw me up near Lincoln at the Petwood Hotel - home of the Dambusters and a delightful location for a wedding. Which was useful, as I was there because a couple of old university friends, Graham and Rosie, were getting married.

The bride looked lovely, Stef (the best man) was a bit nervous but recovered to give a good speech, and Graham took the ribbing with good grace.

I forgot to take my camera, so haven't any photos of the happy couple to share; and as I'd only received a late invite, I already had a ticket for tonight's Folk Festival and so had to leave early to rush back to Cambridge. I should still catch the Divine Comedy...

Posted by Adrian at 09:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

Forking 'Ell

Despite being the car fanatic in the family, my little sister is outstripping me in the varieties of vehicles driven stakes. She owns both a car and a horsebox, and has just got her fork-lift truck licence! Thankfully, I'm still winning in the performance of vehicles driven side of things...

Posted by Adrian at 01:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2004

They Didn't Have That When I Were A Lad

The Ministry of Information reports that there's a live webcast of the graduation ceremonies at my alma mater. If you tune in at 5pm today you can see who is graduating from my college, Furness. Pretty cool.

I think this is the last year that HRH Princess Alexandra will be presenting the degrees (it's true, I've shaken hands with royalty), as Sir Chris Bonington CBE will be taking over the role of Chancellor.

Posted by Adrian at 11:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2004

Care And Consideration

What's that old woodworking adage? Measure twice, cut once. I'm sure the full version is measure twice, cut once; or have enough material to cope with the odd mistake...

Posted by Adrian at 06:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 14, 2004

My Invisible Car

Not only has my car failed to appear in my little "authoricon" on Uborka, it also appears to be completely missable out on the road.

On my way back from picking up my DJ and mask for tonight's ball, what did I see coming the other way round the ring road but the fabled "other yellow Integrale Evo in Cambridge"! Finally proof that I can drive as fast as I like and blame someone else ;-)

So, I gave him a quick flash of headlights, and prepared a cheery wave as we passed each other. But he was completely oblivious. I mean, you have to be a bit of an enthusiast to end up with one; they aren't exactly readily available to buy, and they're left-hand drive, so how he missed someone flashing their headlights in a car identical to his save the number-plate I don't know.

For all those people who keep mistaking him for me, here's a cut-out-n-keep guide to telling the cars apart: his is M-reg, mine L, and mine will be driven by me. See, easy when you know...

Posted by Adrian at 03:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

A Little Wiser (But Not Much)

As usual, I've been beaten in getting the photos up from my 30th birthday party. Those of you who read the comments to May 15th's post will have seen Jo link to the pics on her Fotopic site, and Carl has managed to immortalize my shower curtain in his take on events.

This year I did a much better job of managing my alcohol intake, resulting in my survival until the 7am close, and virtually no hangover the morning after. I had a blast!

Posted by Adrian at 05:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In Praise Of Polymaths

Polymath: n. person of great and varied learning.

Sounds much more fun than being narrowly focused on one aspect of one field of interest. The problem with being a modern-day polymath, as Suw Charman points out, is that the world would rather you specialized. Of course, it's entirely possible that olden-day polymaths like Leonardo Da Vinci had the same problem, I don't know.

Focus hasn't troubled me unduly, at least not in my career. I've managed to stay mostly in the mobile phone / embedded software arena, and varied life with stints in protocol development, project management, application development, software porting, and a while as a COO.

Even that limited diversity brings problems. Given the precarious nature of my finances whilst launching my own business, I'm keeping one eye out for opportunities to earn a little extra cash; but it's hard to succinctly explain my wide range of talents*. Do I list the programming languages in which I can code? (C, C++, PHP, Perl...) Or a list of acronyms my code has understood? (TCP/IP, PPP, HTTP, GIF, HTML...) Devices my code has run on? (Nokia 6600 et al., Siemens SX1, Sony Z5 et al., Psion Series 5, Amstrad em@iler, Linux PC, Windows PC...) Those are the standard geek identifiers, but miss the management side of things; project or department management isn't something I could do for a short period of time, but I could advise software companies on their management, or their software process.

So many possibilities. So many other things I'd like to dabble in: building hardware; design; my artistic side (even if that's just creating some more cakes). And at the same time I have to make my fortune and make the world a better place. Hopefully, having my own business will give me some of the flexibility to pursue this multi-faceted agenda, or at least the techie part of it.

Experiment? Adventure? Impossible? Probably all three, but it's going to be fun.


* I know, so modest...
Posted by Adrian at 12:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2004

The Saints Go Marching In

My birthday afternoon preparations for tonight's party have been continually interrupted by the excitement flowing from the TV tuned to the Powergen Challenge Cup Final.

It's a local derby game between the two big names in rugby league, my home town team of Saint Helens vs. next-door neighbours Wigan.

An excellent game, with Saints romping home 32 - 16 after a pretty evenly matched first half. A few of my oldest mates will be busy celebrating that result tonight, and hopefully raising a glass to my 30th birthday, seeing as they've missed the party for the game.

A good week for sport all round - Saints winning the Challenge Cup, and Liverpool qualifying for the Champions' League next season.

Posted by Adrian at 04:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 06, 2004

Weren't You Wearing That Last Year?

I see that Carl has linked to the photos of his and Jo's party. Much fun, although I fear I overstayed my welcome by partaking of the karaoke until around 4:30am.

Hopefully the theme chosen for their next party will be such that I'm not tempted to just accessorize my suit again...

Posted by Adrian at 03:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

You Can't Always Get What You Want

But if you try, sometimes, you get what you need

McFilter was one year old on Friday! I'm quite surprised. I didn't think I'd keep it going as long as that.

A year ago, I was talking about life outside my comfort zone. Since then I've moved back into the outskirts with regular trips out to the discomfort frontier, but all that's about to change.

Last week, my contract with Trigenix came up for renewal, and they wanted me to go back to working full-time. I was a little surprised, as there'd been no indication that there was any problem with my working part-time, but it was a pretty easy decision to make.

Friday 7th May 2004 will be my last day as an employee, and I'll then be back to full-time self-employed. I'd have preferred to get a bit further with developing my software before jumping ship, but this should give me opportunity to focus fully on what I really want to be doing. Time for some more detailed planning of what's left to do, and catching up with my accounts to check that I'll be able to fund things.

Posted by Adrian at 03:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

Pride & Prejudice at the ADC

Last night, I saw an excellent performance of Pride and Prejudice given by the Combined Actors of Cambridge at the ADC Theatre.

I hadn't seen it before, nor read the book; the main reason I went on this occasion was that my friend was playing Jane Bennet. I'd decided, for no particular reason, that it was a stuffy period-drama; so was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be quite the comedy.

Very enjoyable, with particularly fine performances by Hugh Mellor and Rocca Russell as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet; and Catriona Clancy was the star of the show as Elizabeth.

Posted by Adrian at 12:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 08, 2004

An Excellent Weekend

Found some very interesting information out over the weekend. Unfortunately not something I can talk about publicly just yet. Most exciting.

Posted by Adrian at 02:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

The snow, which I'm sure the weathermen promised for yesterday, finally arrived last night. As a result, my twenty minute drive to work from one side of Cambridge to the other took nearer an hour and a half.

The local council and highways agency will be relieved to hear that it wasn't because there was widescale mayhem on the roads. I'd have preferred for the gritters to have been less successful, at least on the lesser used back roads that comprised my route... So rather than main roads through and round the outskirts of the city, I sought out the back roads to Fulbourn, then the back roads to Great Wilbraham, back roads to Quy.... Not quite enough snow, nor enough corners on these long, straight Fenland thoroughfares but still much fun.

So get out in the snow, have some fun and get some practice... just don't ruin the snow that I want to use for practice.

(And in the time that I've taken to write this post the snow has returned with a vengence, I am now being teased in the office about my all-encompassing grin)

Posted by Adrian at 03:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 21, 2003

Two Lights

And if a ten-ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine

Oh, There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out
There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out

The Smiths - There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

Posted by Adrian at 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 07, 2003

Monica's 21st Photos

Slowly catching up...

On the evening of Friday 21st November, I got to wander round Kings' College, and the middle of Cambridge, whilst dressed as a Viking. The students drinking in Kings' bar were most bemused and intrigued *grin*

It was all Monica's fault, for deciding that her 21st birthday party should be themed for the "ancient world", and you can see how everyone interpreted it in these photos.

Posted by Adrian at 01:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

Friday's Frivolities

It's obviously been a quiet week or so on the Internet, or maybe I've been busy? Anyway, there are a few pictures of the Friday-before-last's frivolities at the Suffolk Hunt Ball now up on my website. Last Friday's frivolities were largely salsa-related (at least, that's what I was trying to do...). So far I've resisted the temptation to video myself doing the steps and posting it up in an attempt to demonstrate the basic footwork. So far...

Posted by Adrian at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2003

Nothing Too Scary

At least, the photos of me aren't too scary. Kirsty's photos of Caroline & Al's halloween party are now available. I went as Bill Gates, he seems suitably scary to lots of people... ;-)

Posted by Adrian at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 02, 2003

A Little Less Photo-taking, A Little More Singing

Well, the photos from last week's party are now up, although there aren't very many, and most of them are of people's backs.

I think that was mainly due to the interest in the latest addition to the party - karaoke from SingToTheWorld.com. Loads of people decided to give it a whirl... I don't think anyone was too dreadful, and maximum use was made of the extra hour to run the party 'til 6am BST.

It looks like karaoke might just become a regular feature...

Posted by Adrian at 05:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

It's About Time

For the past six months I've been working at Trigenix, helping them finish off Trigplayer, their over-the-air customisable mobile phone UI software for Series 60 phones (Nokia 7650, 3650, etc.). On October 15th, T-Mobile launched the Trigenix solution as "Screen Styles".

The release happened to coincide with my contract coming up for renewal. I've really enjoyed working at Trigenix, they've got some very bright people, and it's been a good application of my experience in shipping software; plus they've been very happy with my work, so I'll be continuing to help them as they expand onto more handsets with more carriers.

However, my main priority professionally is to get my own business up and running, something which has been pretty much on hold since April. So I'll now only be working three days a week at Trigenix, and have the other two days to progress my own company.

I'll be at Trigenix Wednesdays through Fridays, which means that today is my first day back at the "home office". It feels good to get back to sitting in front of my laptop, listening to 6 Music, with my morning mug of coffee, fresh from the stovetop coffee maker.

Before the work can resume in earnest though, there's some catching up on admin (like sorting my tax return), and some final clearing up after Saturday's party, but more on that later...

Posted by Adrian at 11:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 21, 2003

The Backlash Begins

I am not alone! For ages now, it has seemed that I'm the only person in the entire universe who hadn't found dough-nirvana after buying a bread machine. Mark Pilgrim has had a similar complete lack of success with his bread machine.

I mean, I consider myself a relatively decent cook, and my cakes are lauded throughout the land (well, people seem to like them), but so far I've only been able to use the bread machine to make the house smell nice and feed the birds. Not exactly what I envisioned when I bought it. My only solace has been that the manual says that bread-making (in a bread machine) isn't like cooking - it's a science, where the ingredients must be measured carefully. And I see myself as more of an artist when it comes to cooking, past the stage where I need to measure everything precisely.

Maybe I'll blow the dust off, and give it another go.

Posted by Adrian at 02:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 14, 2003

Close!

My rowing fitness is starting to come back. I just hadn't thought about it, and so was a little disappointed when my 5k time was about half a minute off my best. Still, only six rows into the "winter season" and today I set a new personal best!

20m 00.8s for 5000m! A whole five seconds off my previous best.

Although I was rather gutted not to have broken the 20 minute barrier. I'm sure it won't be long...

Posted by Adrian at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2003

Bank Holiday Weekend Biking In Wales

The pictures from our mountain-biking trip are now up on the website, and Malcolm's photos are online too. Be sure to check out the video of my failure to get across the stream without incident ;-)

We stayed at the Cringoed campsite just outside Llanbrynmair. Pretty decent site, with a ping-pong table and fresh eggs available.

On the Monday we headed over to Nant-Y-Arian to do the Continental trail. It's an excellent ride, a few really challenging sections of singletrack (at the end of the first Malcolm had a pretty impressive blowout, luckily Ian had a spare tyre!) and plenty of exciting descents (especially if you haven't got any front suspension :-)

Tuesday was supposed to be a bit less arduous, seeing as Ian was heading back that evening, so we chose something a bit shorter than the twenty miles we'd done the previous day and decided to do the Mach 2 ride from Machynlleth. Unfortunately, the signing for the trail wasn't as good as it could've been, so we ended up going wrong a number of times, which put about seven miles onto the ride, making it twenty-two miles by the time we got back into Machynlleth. I didn't think the route was as good as Nant-Y-Arian. A lot of the descents were on road, so they were fast, but over in no time and not very challenging, so it seemed like we spent all the time climbing long, steep, rough hills.

For the final day, Malcolm and I decided that as the bikes were under all the camping gear (and nothing to do with us being knackered after 40 miles up and down mountains) we'd go have a look at the Centre for Alternative Technology. The environmental message was a bit over the top in its bias at times, but there's a lot of interesting and useful information on all sorts of ways to reduce your impact on the environment. Lots of hands-on exhibits about wind, water, and solar power, composting and even natural building materials (stone is a non-renewable resource, so they try not to use it in their buildings). Interesting and thought-provoking stuff, and a nice end to a superb trip away.

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September 03, 2003

What's your type?

From Halley's Comment comes a link to test to find your Myers-Briggs type, something I've heard is an interesting exercise.

I'm an ENTJ (Extroverted 22%, Intuitive 67%, Thinking 33%, Judging 33%), which makes me a field marshal and have a "natural tendency to marshal and direct", not too bad for someone wanting to run their own business I guess :-)

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September 01, 2003

Photos of Snowdonia

I'm slowly catching up with all the things I've not had chance to do 'cos I've been busy being busy recently...

The pictures from the 15th-17th August's weekend in Snowdonia are now up on the website.

Only a few because I forgot to recharge the battery on my digital camera before I went, so limited myself to some nice shots of a twisty road, a couple of pics from the top of Tryfan (good recommendation by Stefan, nice bit of scrambling to get up, although it was a bit busy at the top so I didn't jump from Adam to Eve), and then some of Criccieth Castle when we decided to do some touristy stuff on Sunday.

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July 30, 2003

I survived

Now got the photos from the London To Cambridge Bike Ride up on the website.

It was an excellent day, despite having to be at Midsummer Common for 6am, and despite being rained on not long into the ride. In fact, the rain was quite refreshing, and as it was cloudy most of the way up, it was near perfect cycling weather.

Lots of cyclists all the way along, and all levels of ability - from those pottering along planning to take all day, to those streaming past on their flash, hi-tech racers.

Ian and I managed a pretty decent 14.8mph average, to cover the 50 miles in 3hrs19mins. Plus 20 minutes of breaks meant that we got back to Midsummer Common for 12:40pm. Then it was time for a much anticipated hot-dog and celebratory beer at the Fort St. George.

I felt much better after the ride than I was expecting to, and was quite chuffed not to have even left the saddle on the few nasty hills on the way. And the advantage of climbing some big hills is that you get some speed up on the way down :-) Best I managed was 37.7mph - I think I'd need different gearing to get any faster!

Good fun, and it looks like I'll have raised somewhere around 400 for charity too. Thanks to everyone who sponsored me!

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July 25, 2003

Debugging rusty cars

It just occurred to me that debugging is a bit like fixing rust on a car. From a distance, it looks alright, but when you get up close there are a lot of little imperfections here and there. So, you know what to do, you take each one in turn and sand it back to the bare metal, then treat it properly, prime it, and apply a nice new paint finish so it looks like it's supposed to.

Then, every now and then, you stick your screwdriver clean through the panel. What looked like a little blemish is actually a major rust-fest that you couldn't see until you started to deal with it. And then you've got to decide how to deal with it, as the job is suddenly a lot bigger than you first thought. You might be able to get away with chasing it all out and then filling the gap with a load of filler and wire mesh, and hope that noone pokes the new work too hard, but that's never a long term solution, and is just storing trouble up for the future.

What you really need to do is get rid of every last bit of rust, and replace the stricken area with new metal. At the very least it'll mean welding in a chunk of new metal, and it could mean that you start ripping panels off and replacing them completely, so you know they're right.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's only a certain amount of surface rust to fix, and if the underlying panels are going rotten, you have to rip them out completely and start again.

I'm worried that I'm going to have to start ripping panels soon. Things might get ugly before they get any better.

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July 22, 2003

Help fight breast cancer! Sponsor an idiot cyclist today!

Well, after first posting about in way back in May, I've finally (with less than a week to go) gotten round to emailing all my friends about my sponsored bike ride this Sunday.

Still, I haven't been completely inept - Ian and I have done some longer rides for some training, and I even managed to win a recent bug-finding contest at work, which got my sponsorship off to an excellent start with 100 donation :-)

So, if you're reading this, and haven't pledged some money, how about visiting my sponsorship homepage and pledging some cash?

Now I just have to check the bike over and make sure it doesn't fall apart en route...

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July 12, 2003

It's FULL!

Cool. The recent Fopp attack (and some tidying of the CDs scattered around the house :-) has filled the bookcase holding my CD collection...

CDCollection.jpg

I wonder how long it'll take to fill the other, identical bookcase then?

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July 04, 2003

Back on the "water"

Well, it's been getting on for two months since I last rowed, and for over a month the rowing machine wasn't even out. But Nadia has been round to use it a couple of times recently, and in a strange sort of way it felt good to get it back cluttering up the kitchen.

So today I succumbed, and did 2km. And I was pretty pleased that I've not lost too much from my times - 7m34.4s, less than 4 seconds off my personal best. Only 498km to go to my million metres... ;-)

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June 28, 2003

The one-stop party posting

I think I've found the solution to my lack of a CD+G player. I can't remember if I updated my posting about which karaoke CDs I should buy, but I bought one, and then found out that none of the multitude of devices I own which accept little silver discs would play it!

My Mum just emailed me about Argos are selling off an assortment of karaoke CDs at half-price, and in trying to find out more about the discs, I found Sing To The World.com. As well as producing CDs, and selling equipment, they offer an online, streaming karaoke service! :-D Only 5.99/month and you can sign up for individual months as and when you fancy. So I think I might be using that for future parties - it's a lot of 5.99s before you get to the cost of some CDs and a CD+G player... and they've got a much bigger selection. Cool.

And then in a discussion about mirror-balls, etc. on cam.misc, I've found CPC's spotlights for mirror balls, and Cambridge Disco Hire And Sales. I suspect I'll have a mirror-ball motor and proper spotlight for the next party too.

Now I just need to plan the next party...

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June 23, 2003

Impending rebranding

It's spelt McQN... it's pronounced McEwen!

Yep, despite thinking about it when I was at Uni, mcewen.com had been taken when I finally got a round tuit (warning: very bad joke that I haven't seen since seeing them on sale in seaside tat shops when I was little) a few years later, and then I thought about registering mcewen.co.uk, but really wanted a .com, and just couldn't think of anything I liked that hadn't already gone (there's still lots of to-ing and fro-ing to be done about the company name for the same reason :-). I did think about adrianmcewen.com, but an email of adrian@adrianmcewen.com just sounds a bit weird (might register it just in case I find a need for it I guess)

Then, over the weekend, I thought of McQN.com, and to my surprise, it hadn't been registered - I think the fact that it's not my exact name is countered by it being a four-letter .com :-)

So over the next month or so, I think McFilter and the rest of chortle.org.uk will be migrating to mcqn.com.

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June 19, 2003

Cameras and strobe lights

It would appear from this slightly bizarre (but cool :-) picture that strobe lights can do strange things to photos.

More (normal) photos taken by Jo at my party can be found scattered amongst ones of Malcolm's party and the beer festival (I think).

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June 09, 2003

Educational blogs

And I don't mean blogs that teach you something :-)

Just been on the phone to my mate Paul, catching up with how things are, and how he's going with his business venture. He started out on his own about the same time as I did, doing training for primary schools (Note to self: find out what it's properly described as...), but it's interesting to compare notes on building a business, and all the general business stuff we now have to worry about.

When I was telling him about the articles on building a business and personal productivity I found yesterday, I ended up trying to explain what a blog was. I don't think I did the best job, but maybe some examples are the way forwards.

So, a quick search on Google for "primary teacher uk blog" and I find Jonathan's Blog - from a recently qualified teacher, ME V2.0 - an American slant on teacher training, Kindred Spirit - UK primary teacher trainee's blog, and Brian's Education Blog.

So hopefully that'll give you a feeling for what blogs are Paul. And if anyone else knows of any interesting school-related blogs, or wants some training done at their school ;-) then let me know.

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May 22, 2003

Not just dancing, but singing!!!

My worst fears are realised... Carl has posted another of his expertly edited videos to his blog, and this time it's the footage from his and Jo's party. So cue shots of me dancing, administering Sambuca, and singing... Actually, it's not as bad as it could've been, and in typical Carl fashion, it's accompanied by a cool soundtrack. Whether or not the world is ready to see my dancing accompanied by a seductive Barry White score remains to be seen :-)

Updated: Fixed link to the video now that Carl's permalinks are working.

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May 21, 2003

Missing: A couple of hours of my life

Last seen on Saturday 17th May 2003 at a house in Cambridge, these hours fled the scene, leaving one young man unconscious and many others dazed and incoherent.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said "these hours have shown that they are not afraid to harm innocent members of the public, and if found, should be approached with caution." Luckily, a number of photographs of the crime were taken by some of the witnesses, and these are being released to the public in the hope that more information will come to light.

If you can remember anything that may help in tracking down these hours, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Come in No.542....

Well, just got my rider number throught the post, so I guess it's all official. I will be doing the London to Cambridge charity bike ride on the 27th July. Hey, it's only 50 miles... but it is for charadee mate, so sponsors are most welcome.

Guess I get some longer bike rides in before then.

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May 16, 2003

Maybe it's a singer thing...

Katie seems to have the same problem as me when it comes to singing in front of lots of people. Maybe it's because we aren't show-offs, we just like singing? Admittedly, she's a lot further down the singing route than I am, given that she's actually in a band, as opposed to just-someone-who's-done-karaoke-a-couple-of-times.

I wonder if it's to do with the common perception that you can either sing or you can't, rather than it being something that requires practise, and so is viewed differently from instruments. Or maybe it's that it's easier to assess how good you are when you're playing an instrument, but not when you're singing ('cos you don't really listen to yourself when you sing). Or maybe it's all a confidence thing.

I don't know, it's just bloody annoying when you're afflicted :-) Answers on a stuck-down email please...

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May 13, 2003

Dead? Happy? Annoyed?

Yes. Yes. And Yes.

Just spent the last ~24m trying to set a new personal best for 6k, so am feeling a bit knackered. But another 6k means that I've finished my 300km challenge!!!. I've rowed 300km this year, which brings my grand total up to half a million metres (500km), and I managed it with two days to go before my target end date (my birthday)! Which is handy, as I'll be playing football tomorrow and Thursday so fitting in any more rowing would've meant missing some other exercise. Annoyed, though, because the battery in the rowing machine failed with 500m to go :-( So I haven't got an official time, which was on target to be a new PB, and I probably rowed further than I had to to ensure I rowed far enough.

So, my rowing season is now officially over for the summer, although I'll probably get the odd row in here and there.

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May 12, 2003

Party-idol

Well, with the looming party, and my having talked lots about getting some karaoke stuff for it, it's about time I put my money where my mouth is. The Karaoke Klub lists the CD+Gs that should be available from the place I hired decks for previous parties, so now I just need to choose a couple of CDs to get.

I think it'll be a few from this list, but comments on others welcome :-)

CK007 - Good 50s rock selection, with "Roll over Beethoven" and a couple of Elvis tracks
CK012 - Slightly cheesy, including "Girls just wanna have fun", "Angels" by Robbie Williams, and "Relight my fire"
CK014 - Very 80s, "You can't hurry love", "Material girl", "Pretty woman", "Happy Hour"...
CK017 - Lots of the classic karaoke tunes... "I will survive", "Angels", "Daydream believer", "Summer nights"
CK028 - Some Frank, "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Hey Jude", "Let me entertain you"

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May 10, 2003

Fame at last

At Malcolm's party last night, I found out that there is now video footage of me out there on the web! Last Saturday, when I went to the Green Dragon with Jo and Carl, Carl had his new digi camera with him, and took some video footage of Jo explaining to me how Malcolm is the centre of the universe, and posted it to his blog. (<rant strength=mild>Of course, if Carl had an RSS feed on his blog then I'd have seen it when he posted it... ;-)<rant>

At least the footage of me at Jo and Carl's party has enjoyed limited distribution (so far... :-s)

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May 07, 2003

The slide begins...

My slide down the rankings for 6k has already begun. I'm now 3rd of 3. Despite putting in a surprisingly superb row - I changed the resistance from 4 to 5 during the row and was just expecting it to be an acclimatisation row until realising with about 1.5k to go that it could be a new PB. Final time was 23:56.5!!! So my 500m split time was faster than my current PB for 5k, and less than 2 minutes per 500m!

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May 03, 2003

I think I've peaked for the year

Set a new personal best for 6k last night - 24:11.7. Adding this to the online world ranking on the Concept2 website, and I'm currently ranked NUMBER 2!!! However, before we all get too excited, I'll point out that I'm also last, as in, there are only two entries at the minute - the new rowing season started on 1st May. So I can confidently predict that the only way from here is down.

Only 30k to go...

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April 26, 2003

Silly house prices

I know, articles about how much houses are now are everywhere these days, this is more of a comment about the price of my house.

I don't usually bother about house prices too much, I mean, at present I'm only likely to be looking to buy a bigger house in the future (not that that'll be anytime soon) and they'll have gone up by even more than my house has, so there's little value in having my house's value go up, but two of my neighbours houses are up for sale at the minute (and no, I haven't had any loud parties recently :-p) so I was just curious about what they're up for.

One of the semis across the road (3-bed, no garage, not sure whether it's much different in size to mine) is going for 175,000, and next-door (mid-terrace rather then my end-terrace, no garage, but 4 bedrooms actually) is going for 178,000. So I reckon mine should be worth about the same, which is well over a 50% rise in under three years. I'm so glad I'm not trying to find a 150k+ mortgage to buy one...

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How to become an alpha male

Kind of as a postscript to the previous post, I thought I'd post a link to the articles that introduced me to Halley's Comment, the How to become a an alpha male lessons. A very interesting and enjoyable series, although of course I was already an alpha male and was just checking to see if it was correct..... ;-)

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I made my bed this morning

Just read Halley Suitt's article about Making Your Bed - I have wasted sooo many days like that over the years.

Today, however, has been virtually the opposite! Despite going out clubbing last night (and so not getting to bed at all early), I was up at 8am for some reason, I mean, I had a lot I wanted to do, but it's not that I dragged myself out of bed then, I was just ready and happy to get up then.

So I was in town just after 9, posted Andrew's jacket back to him (after he left it in Milla on Monday), bought a few bits and pieces, and got some panniers for my bike (woohoo, no more sweaty back from my rucksack!), and was back home by 11 (having fitted the panniers in the shop so I could transport them home)!

I'm only usually surfacing that sort of time on a Saturday. So it's twenty to four, and I've got that "I've been really productive" high :-)

Here's to many more days like today, and many fewer when I struggle to make my bed.

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