February 2007

The ex-ex-mole scar

by Suw on February 23, 2007

For those of you interested, the wound is healing very well indeed. My doctor did a good job, and it's a very neat scar. It's still a bit painful at times, when I reach too far, or when I bump it, or my jacket pulls tight over it, but I really can't complain now. I can about sleep on it, which is good because I usually sleep on my left side, but sometimes it does still ache.
A few days after the opp
New improved scar
New improved scar
Funnily, I'm really not that fussed about the dent in my arm or the scar. I'm replacing the steristrips weekly to take the strain off my skin so that the scar doesn't widen like the other one was starting too. Whilst I don't mind a dent or a nice, thin line, I'm not so keen on a big red stripe! Apparently it takes six weeks for scars to regain 80% of the strength of normal skin, so I'm trying not to use it as much as I normally do, but of course, being left handed it's always this arm that automatically reaches for stuff.
Overall, though, I feel lucky, really. There are people grappling with far worse – we caught a dodgy mole before it turned bad, and I'd rather have a dent and a scar now than nastiness later.

Over three months ago I pledged to give up sugary drinks for, well, three months.

“I will stop drinking sugary drinks for three months but only if 20 other people will do the same.”
A 1000ml box of Cranberry juice contains enough sugar to bake 1.17 cakes. A 500ml bottle of Coke has the same amount of sugar as half a cake.
I am promising to give up all sugary drinks, including fruit juices and cordials, for three months in order to improve my health. I do not include drinks that include alcohol, by the way, as one has to enjoy oneself once in a while and I think giving up alcohol would be a different pledge.

Twenty seven other people joined me, and together we have bravely fought the evil Coke, and all manner of other sugary evils, with the assumption that surely it must be better for us not to be drinking lots of, well, sugar. Did you know that a litre of cranberry juice has enough sugar in it to bake a cake? No? Well, now you do.
Today, the pledge finally ended.
Was it a success? Well, yes, it was. I really did give up sugary drinks for over three months, and the only time I broke the pledge was last week at a conference when I was suffering a bit of a sugar crash, and when the waitress mistakenly gave me an orange juice, rather than the wine I had asked for, I decided that in this instance it was probably better for me to drink the orange juice than the wine. I think I can be forgiven for that.
A few people, T'Other included, took the piss out of me over the alcohol clause, but I really haven't abused it. I haven't been sitting here of a lunchtime, necking vodka and Coke to fulfil my craving. I genuinely did switch from Coke to green tea and water with a squirt of real lemon juice.
The worst moment for that was when we were in Dallas for Thanksgiving and Kevin's lovely parents, who know I love Mexican coke, had brought up six bottles from Yuma especially for me. In order to keep the pledge, I made them drive me round McKinney until we found a proper 'liquor store' that sold vodka. Thankfully, they didn't think I was completely barking. (Either that, or they hid it well.)
So yes, I think that's a success.
On the other hand, the deeper reason for doing this was that I thought that if I perhaps cut out the sugary drinks I might just lose a little weight. Not that I'm fat, but I'm the heaviest I've been since my early 20s, and frankly I'm in no fit shape to be trying on wedding dresses with this sort of podge. From that point of view, the pledge was a total failure. I've not lost an ounce – I've actually put weight on. Bugger.
I think it was all the chocolate I ate to satisfy my cravings for sugar. D'oh.
Before you say it, I know that a reduction in caloric intake should be accompanied by exercise, but up until now I've had rather a lot on my plate and it's hard to take an hour out of your day when your 'to do' list only contains urgent items. I did start doing Pilates again, but then had my operation, so have had to give that up for a while. Years back I used to do it pretty regularly – every other day, or thereabouts – and I need to get back to that.
Of course, I can't do anything which involves my arm for at least another month, whilst the new scar strengthens up. If I use my arm too much, the scar will widen and that won't look very nice. I'm going to have to work out a new routine that doesn't involve the usual press-ups, sit-ups etc.
I think this pledge has had at least one lasting change: I drink green tea now. I learnt how to make it properly in Washington DC last year, (you pour cold water on the tea first, then water which is no longer boiling. If you pour boiling water on green tea you will singe the leaves and it will taste bitter), and I really love it, so I can't see me breaking that habit any time soon.
Meantime, I'm enjoying a vodka-free full-fat Coke with precisely no guilt whatsoever. Mmmm, lovely!

Alpha testing my engagement ring

by Suw on February 20, 2007

Last Tuesday, as I was on my way up to Manchester for a conference, Kevin asked me to swing past Farringdon briefly. We met up at the tube station, and he produced from the depths of his venerable TedGlobal bag a small padded envelope. From this padded envelope, he produced a silver ring – the model of our engagement ring as made by our friend Nigel. It was very exciting, but as I was off to Manchester I didn't want to take it with me.
On Valentines Day, Kevin careful placed the stones in the model and sent me photos, just so we could get a feel for how it will look when it's finished.

I'm now alpha testing the bare model – wearing it on a day to day basis to ensure that it's the right size (so far, it does seem to be), and thinking about the user feedback that I'll give to Nigel. Obviously this will be an iterative process, drawing heavily from the ADoJ – 'Agile Development of Jewellery' – philosophy.

We're hoping to have a user focus group in March when Nigel's back from France and, with any luck, we'll be ready for beta testing, when will be ring is cast in white gold and the stones properly set, soon after that.
Of course, we won't go live til probably February next year, but I'll let you know what our developoment schedule is.

Who knew?

by Suw on February 12, 2007

Thank you to everyone who has sent us congratulations. We've had so many cards, emails, IMs, Twitters, messages via IRC, Second Life and carrier pigeon. Ok, I made that last one up, but still, thank you all. I have so many emails to reply to, it's quite overwhelming, but in a nice way.
Overwhelming in not such a nice way is the search for a suitable venue. I just can't believe how much some of these places are charging Рit's extortionate. When Kevin blogged about the wedding industrial complex he was talking about the US Рhere we seem to have the wedding rip-off instead. A piece on BBCi about a church guide to cutting the cost of weddings says that the average cost of a wedding is £17,000, whilst the hellish You and Your Wedding puts it at £20k. Jeeze. We could put a deposit down on a house with that sort of money.
The trouble is, being 35 I've had a lot of time to sit and think about what my ideal wedding would be. I always thought that I would want something simple – have the ceremony and the reception in the same place, and just have some nice food and lots of dancing. (Not a disco, though. Over my cold, dead body does a DJ get into my wedding. No, I'm thinking more like medieval dancing or maybe a barn dance.) My venue would be something with exposed beams, possibly an actual barn, and I'd have lots of friends and it would all be lovely and romantic and fun and memorable.
Trouble is, any venue that's got even the merest hint of character costs an arm and a leg. And a kidney. With an option on your firstborn too. I must have looked at dozens of websites by now, and I just can't believe how much some of these places want to charge.
One place we're considering, although I don't yet know the cost, is Canford School, but their Saturdays are booked up until December 2008, meaning we'd have to have a Friday wedding instead. I don't mind the thought of a Friday wedding, but everyone would have to have the day off work. Another place that looked promising until I saw the cost of catering was Larmer Farm Gardens, but they have a minimum charge of £2500 for catering, which frankly is a bit much. Another potential venue is Sopley Mill, although reports coming back via the grapevine are that, whilst they are cheap, their catering is not up to scratch.
It's enough to make you want to elope.
(Note to Mum: It's ok. We're not going to elope. At least, not without telling you where we're going first.)

Poignant

by Suw on February 8, 2007

There is something supremely sad about the photograph in this article.

The Ex-Ex-Mole

by Suw on February 8, 2007

Well, that's the second minor op over and done with. My surgeon removed 5mm all the way round the existing scar, and has sent that off for analysis too. I now have a much longer incision, which I'll take pics of in a few days when it's had a chance to settle.
The other scar did stretch a bit, possibly due to me using my arm too much, so I've been taught now how to put on and remove clothes without using my arm. All I have to do now is remember!
I suppose the rest of today may as well be a 'sick day', as being self-employed I only get those if I'm really ill, which I rarely am. I guess minor surgery counts.

Caught by the Hot Fuzz

by Suw on February 6, 2007

Last night, ten days ahead of general release, I was lucky enough to see Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost's latest masterpiece, Hot Fuzz. I haven't really managed to keep abreast of the Hot Fuzz pre-release news, despite being on their mailing list (god knows how far down in my inbox those emails got buried), and I hadn't built up any sort of sense of excitement about the film. To suddenly discover that release is imminent felt a bit odd. I mean, it's only just over a year ago that it got the green light, and those 13 months seem to have disappeared rather too quickly for my liking. In fact, I'm so not on top of things right now, I wouldn't have got tickets at all if James Cox hadn't told me as soon as they became available.
SPOILERS: I'm not sure how many real spoilers I have in this post. It's hard to talk about without some spoilage, so if you're spoiler-sensitive, don't read on.
All that by the by, Kevin and I met up with James last night at the Finchley Road cinema and prepared to enjoy the preview of a film that we thought might be, well, quite good. After all, I quite liked Shaun of the Dead, so I had faith that Pegg, Wright and Frost might just come up with something that could potentially provide a laugh or two. But I really wasn't prepared for Hot Fuzz.
Pegg and Wright have said that their preparation for writing this movie was to sit down with all the cop shows and movies they could lay their hands on, soak up all the references and cliches and then spit them back out in that warped Spaced way. OK, so they didn't use exactly those words, but that's what they did, and they did it in spades. And lo, tis wonderful.
So, the plot basics. Over-achieving city-boy Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is sent to the country to work with wet-behind-the-ears PC Danny Butterman (Frost) and hates every second of it. Angel's colleagues in London are jealous of his overachievement, and his new colleagues in Somerset hate his London ways and the fact that 'e ain't from rown these parrts. Butterman befriends him, and from that blossoms the kind of buddy movie all buddy movies wish they were. There's no romantic interest in this movie – the emotional relationship that the movie hinges on is, of course, the relationship between Angel and Butterman.
But Hot Fuzz is not just a buddy movie – there are slatherings of Inspector Morse, Bergerac (Timothy Dalton's moustache is pure Bergerac) and Midsomer Murders too. Angel has to learn that he's moved to the countryside now, and that things are done differently here. For starters, there are no murders, just… a few unfortunate accidents. The village is close, very close indeed. In fact, Butterman explains, the local supermarket 'trolley boy' – a big, brutish man with a very low IQ who says 'Yarp' a lot – actually “lives down the road with his mum and his sister”, but when Angel asks about his mum and his sister, Danny says “Oh no, there's only one of them”.
The first part of the film, whilst a little sedate as they establish characters and relationships, has its fair share of laughs, especially if you know and love Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. There are liberal references to both, including a lovely moment in the opening sequence which sees Angel looking rather suspiciously like Tyres from Spaced. The leisurely pace starts to pick up, though, after a tragic car accident which immediately arouses Angel's suspicions, but which is soundly written off as nothing more than a road traffic collision by the rest of the force. As the body count rises, in a series of increasingly gruesome accidents, Angel gets frustrated with his colleague's insistence that nothing is wrong, and the way the villagers all toe this party line.
SPOILERS: Are these spoilers? I'm never sure how spoilery my spoilers are, so if you're worried, stop reading here.
As a viewer, this is all pretty much what we know and saw in the trailers. It's not until a little later that things just get… well, really weird and a lot more icky than I expected. I mean, don't expect a blood-free film here. If you're squeamish, don't watch the closing part of the churchyard scene, for one. And the bit in the model village is a bit icky too. It's cartoon gore, but still… there's more of it than I was expecting. A lot more of it.
Although that said, one of the most discomforting moments in the film is when Angel kick's a gun-toting little old lady in the face, as she proves that indeed yes, the only people guns in Sandford are farmers and their mothers.
Hot Fuzz does an extremely good job of lulling you into a false sense of security with Inspector Morsian plot turns and then bam!, slapping you hard in the face with the gore. But just when you think you're falling into a complex and intricate plot that will require much detecting and consideration a la Inspector Wexford, the whole thing goes back to its Bad Boys II/Point Break roots (two films held up in the movie by Butterman as the epitome of cop films) and segues into an unlikely finale – possibly one of the best, certainly most bizarre, shoot-outs ever. If you can imagine Lethal Weapon in Somerset morphing into Inspector Morse and thence into El Mariachi, you're about there.
Hot Fuzz is packed full of belly laughs, winces, moments where you want to hide behind a cushion, and the best kind of adrenaline-fulled excitement you could ever hope for. It's a work of genius, and I know that it's going to take repeated viewings for me to get all the jokes, notice even half the references, and spot all the foreshadowing. In Shaun of the Dead, when Shaun and Ed are in the Winchester planning their night out, they are also outlining the whole of the rest of the movie… you just don't realise it unless you understand the code. I can't believe they could possibly resist doing similar tricks with the script to Hot Fuzz. And if they did, I'll be disappointed.
So, in conclusion, go see Hot Fuzz. Don't wait for it to come out on DVD, go see it as soon as you can. It's worth it, I promise you.
…And then go and buy the DVD so that you can watch the extras and have Pegg, Wright and Frost personally reveal all their in-jokes.