June 2007

Underfloor heating

by Suw on June 30, 2007

I find it weird when I hear people on TV saying things like “Underfloor heating is quite new in the UK” when the Romans were doing it two thousand years ago. Never fails to amaze me how slow we are to rediscover stuff our ancestors knew.

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Home, sweet home

by Suw on June 29, 2007

Finally starting to feel human again after a very long, sleepless (and late) flight home from San Francisco. I had a nap for an hour this afternoon which generally speaking made me feel worse rather than better, but after a lovely risotto and a glass of wine, I'm feeling much more normal.
I am fully cognisant of the fact that this feeling won't last, and that jetlag will kick in at a moment of maximum inconvenience. I have some melatonin, which really didn't help on the flight at all – I didn't sleep any more having taken melatonin than I have in the past without it, so not hugely impressed. However, I'll take some tonight too, just in case maybe it does help.
Slightly weird that, in the light of this post, that the whole 'London bomb plot' thing is also repeating itself from two years ago. The fire that freaked me out in 05 came the day after the London bombings, and two weeks later we had the failed repeat attempts.
I think I'm going to avoid San Francisco in the summer of 09.
Meantime, I wait with bated breath to see which of our civil liberties the government's going to remove next, in the light of these recent events.
UPDATE: Hard to tell if it was the melatonin or simple exhaustion, but I slept like a log last night. Feeling a bit groggy today, but that's pretty normal. The key test will be tonight – it's always worse the second night.

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I'm a firestarter, twisted firestarter

by Suw on June 28, 2007

Just when I've settled into being back in San Francisco again, it's pretty much time to leave. I fly tomorrow afternoon and land Friday morning, and spend the intervening hours wishing that someone would just get on and invent that damn teleportation device we've all been yearning for. It's been a great trip, and I'm sad to leave both the city and all my friends – old and new. I will, of course, be happy to get back to T'Other, though, even if he does fly out to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday morning!
Meantime, I'm left bemused that the events of the night of 8 July 2005 were, last night, replicated almost perfectly. Two years ago, I awoke to sirens, eventually getting out of bed to see that there was a large fire in progress just down the road. Last night, just before 5am, I awoke to sirens, eventually getting out of bed to see that there was a medium-sized fire in progress just down the road.
Here's the picture from last night:
Fire in San Francisco
And the picture from two years ago, which I think I took from higher up the staircase:
San Franciso fire on full zoom
Weird, eh?
(Note: I swear I'm not a firebug!)

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Is it Friday?

by Suw on June 23, 2007

Yes, I do believe it is. That means my mad week of conferences is over. The last two days have gone very quickly, and I've managed not to really get jetlag, although I did quite spectacularly run out of energy at 10pm last night, as if someone had just pulled the plug.
I'll leave the conference round-ups for later, but it really was lovely to see lots of old friends, and to meet lots of new people. That's what I like about conferences – not the sessions to much as the bits in between.
I've got the weekend off now, to chill out and do a bit of shopping. Then next week is pretty crammed full of meetings, which is just how I wanted it. I could likely have stayed another week and managed to do even more meetings, but you have to put a limit on these things.
It's funny how quickly I settle into being in San Francisco. I think overall I must have spent about nine weeks here in the last two and a bit years, which is enough time to start to feel at home here. I understand at least sections of the transport system, can navigate my way round bits of the city, and quite a bit of it I know well enough for it to look familiar when I see it. It's a nice feeling.
Of course, I'm staying with my friend Maciej, as I always do, and it doesn't seem like ten minutes since I was here last. I know all the lumps in the spare sofabed, know where the nearest source of English chocolate and Mexican Coke is, and know how to use the washing machine.
This time, though, I find myself missing my T'Other dreadfully. Of course, I missed him last year too, when I came to FooCamp (which is actually happening this weekend, but I'm not invited – that's fine, I'd rather they invited new people than the same old people all the time), but somehow this year it's worse. Whilst I am loving it here, I really can't wait to be home.
Although, as soon as I get home, Kev buggers off to Kuala Lumpur. Lucky git.

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I think it's Wednesday. I could be wrong. In some time zone, and to pick a random one, say BST, I am. I'm not sure what time zone it feels like, but I know the feeling of sleep deprivation any day of the week.
I'm learning that jetlag isn't predictable. Like altitude sickness, it doesn't matter how many times you travel or climb mountains, you can still be struck down. Last year, after returning to England after a week in Washington DC, I got the works. Tiredness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, nausea. I didn't even know nausea was part of the package, but it is, and I got it.
This time round, I fell into the typical first day trap – jetlag doesn't really kick in for 24 hours, so for the first day you think you've got away with it. You haven't. On the second day, oh that's when the thumbscrews come out.
I got to Boston on Sunday, feeling tired but ok. I stayed awake until 10pm, and slept pretty well, spending just an hour and a half awake during the night. Monday passed without any real problem, and I happily fell asleep at 10.30pm, feeling quite smug that I'd missed out on the jetlag this time round. I fell asleep immediately, but at 2am, my eyes opened, and that was it for the night. I was awake. I knew that if I got up and did something, I'd end up more awake, not more tired – and it's very difficult to mooch about someone else's house – so I stayed in bed. I dropped off again about 10 minutes before I had to get up.
At one point, I got a bit peckish. I learnt a long time ago to always travel with food, so I had a nibble on a 'Brunch Bar', but a nibble was all I could manage. As soon as I took a bite I felt nauseous.
So yesterday I was running on nothing but the smell of an oily rag. I will admit that my talk was really not my best. I really struggled to string a sentence together, to hold my thoughts in order and present them in a meaningful way. I don't know how much it showed, but I felt crap.
Last night, I was asleep, again, by 10.30pm, but I slept the whole way through until 7am, which is not bad going. I lounged about in bed, answered email, and then packed ready to catch my 12.35 flight from Logan airport. As it turned out, the hotel that the conference was in, and where I stayed for one night – the Westin Waterfront – is right by the airport. Well, across the water from the airport at least. Convenient.
Less convenient was finding out that my flight was cancelled. Earliest flight that they could put me on was the 8.20pm flight to Vegas, connecting through to San Francisco, and arriving at 1.30am. Great. After an hour in the queue, I got rebooked and went back to the Westin to hang out with Thomas and Leisa, whom I bumped into when I got there.
I'm now back at Logan airport, ready for my flight to Vegas. Apparently it's overbooked. I really, really hope that I get a seat, because if I have to fly tomorrow, that would be really, really bad. If all goes well, I'll be in bed by, I dunno, 2am, maybe 2.30am. Supernova starts at stupid o'clock. I think I'll be missing a few sessions.
I just hope I can nap on the plane.
Btw, there's no wifi here. I'll post this tomorrow which, for you, will be today, but just know that this post was written in the past, sitting at Gate 20, Logan Airport, praying that it all goes ok.
UPDATE: The journey went relatively well. I dozed on the first leg, although real sleep was prohibited by the uncomfortableness of the seats and the snoring woman beside me. Had a bit of a moment at Vegas, when it took them 20 minutes to get the jetway up to the plane so we could disembark, but I did manage to find my onward gate ok. I'd been booked into first class for the second leg – shame it wasn't the other way round. Slept like a log for an hour and a bit. Lovely!
Maciej picked me up at SF, at 2am local time… which was 5am Eastern and 10am BST. Gah. My body has no idea where it is. I was in bed by 3am, but awake again by 7.30am. Well, I guess we'll see how today goes.
Right now, I'm off to Supernova and hoping I can hold it all together for another day.

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Will there be cake?

by Suw on June 16, 2007

Today is Chocolate and Vodka's 5th birthday!
My very first post, aptly named Post Number One, was posted on Sunday 16 June 2002 at 02:07 PM BST. I feel reluctant to link to it, because it took me quite a long time to get into my stride on CnV, to find my own voice and to stop trying to be David Weinberger or Kevin Marks (who still hasn't fixed his CSS), who were my bloggy idols back then. When I read the old posts, they do sort of make me cringe a bit, but it's there in the archives, if you're really that interested.
But it's hard to believe that I've been talking shit on the web for five whole years. Wow. And people still come and read it! *shakes head in surprise*
Anyway, happy birthday Chocolate and Vodka! Here's to another five years!

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A twisted love story

by Suw on June 15, 2007

It's really hard to describe David Mackenzie's new film, Hallam Foe, without missing out something really vital. The story of a soon-to-be 18 year old boy who's still struggling to come to terms with the death of his mother, Hallam has retreated from the world and views it almost exclusively via binoculars, spying on his neighbours and family. After a confrontation with his hated stepmother, Hallam runs away to Edinburgh where he gets a job in the same hotel as a young woman who looks very much like his dead mother.
There's also a badgerskin headpiece involved, lipstick, a dress, and a lot of rooftops. The badger is sort of vital, but it's very difficult to explain why.
I first saw Hallam Foe last October, at a blogger preview of a rough cut of the film, and struggled to describe it then too, but it's slightly easier after the passage of a few months and time to digest what it's all about. I said then:

It's partly about reaching maturity, partly about sexual awakening, partly about coming to terms with death, partly about the nature of love, partly about the boundaries between private and public.

It's also about the hidden places of the world: rooftops, clock towers, and those bits of your mind that maybe you don't want to expose to the light.
Much as I enjoyed watching Hallam Foe last year, I enjoyed it a lot more this time round. I discovered last summer that I have a pretty strong phobia of precipitous edges such as cliffs, and as Hallam spends a lot of time climbing about the rooftops of Edinburgh I spent much of the film worrying that he'd fall off. Second time round, I knew that he doesn't, so I could just relax and enjoy the film.
I can't say that I noted any significant differences between the cut we saw last night and the one we saw in October. The sound was more polished, and the sountrack and titles finished, but to me those were details. Jamie Bell and Sophia Miles both give such fabulous performances, with Jamie in particular playing Hallam in such a way that you end up feeling a lot of sympathy for a character who starts off the film as someone really quite hard to like. As Jamie said in the Q&A afterwards, Hallam is arrogant and distant to start with, but by the closing scene of the film, you're really fully behind him.
Colin Kennedy, who writes the Hallam Foe blog, was there last night filming the Q&A, at least until Gia turned the tables on him, getting Jamie to take the camera and asking Colin the final question of the evening. I'm looking forward to seeing all that online soon!
After the Q&A, (which I didn't live blog, but did live Tweet), we went on to a drinks and nibbles at Kettners. As always, it was fun to see all the bloggers there, but it was also really lovely to be able to talk to David, who's a sweet and gracious man, and to meet Jamie, who was delightful.
I must confess, though, that the highlight of my evening was talking to David's brother Alastair, who used to play Archie in Monarch of the Glen. It's always slightly strange to meet people whose face is so familiar that you would recognise it anywhere, but about whom you know absolutely nothing. Alastair is just the most lovely man, who turns out to have a real passion for food and blogging. I don't know if he has a blog, (I couldn't find one), but he really ought to get one!
Hallam Foe is finally getting its theatrical release on 31 August, and I can't recommend it highly enough. This is such a wonderful, funny film – sometimes sweet sometimes sour but always heartfelt – and possibly one of the best films to have come out of the UK in years. It's right up there with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and it doesn't have a single zombie or Spaced reference in it.
Although it does have a badgerskin headpiece.

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Beginning Ruby

by Suw on June 11, 2007

So a few months ago I thought that it would probably be a really smart move for me to join LRUG – the London Ruby Users Group – so that I would be able to meet some other Ruby users, and maybe find some help in my quest to learn Ruby on Rails. It's been a bit intimidating, I must admit, as there are a lot of people here who actually know something about Ruby and RoR, so I feel a bit overwhelmed at times. But that said, I'm getting to know people and have found someone to mentor me and help me get (re-)started on RoR.
About two months ago, Apress Books offered a number of copies of Beginning Ruby by Peter Cooper to LRUG members in return for a review. I thought that it would be a good thing for me to get a copy and try to get my head round Ruby as a language, instead of trying to just absorb it osmotically by doing stuff with Rails. Apress very kindly gave me a copy, and two months later I can safely say that it looks really pretty on my bookshelf.
I'm currently sitting in the LRUG meeting and have successfully had my guilt strings tugged by Murray Steele, so I have downloaded Chapter One, which is available as a free sample and I promise that I will read it and write a review of it before the next LRUG. I absolutely promise, cross my heart, hope to get a small but irritating blister on my little toe.

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More tiaras!

by Suw on June 10, 2007

A couple more tiaras that made this week. The photos are a bit fuzzy, because my little Ixus isn't good at close-up stuff, but you get the idea.
More tiaras
More tiaras

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Yay! Macbook fixed!

by Suw on June 8, 2007

After 12 days in the Apple repair shop, I finally have my Macbook back. I have to say that the staff were really lovely, and they took very good care of both me and my Macbook.
The problem was that my screen flickered, but of course when I took it to the Genius Bar, it refused to replicate the problem, probably because the first guy to 'look' at it didn't, instead carrying out a somethingorother reset which temporarily fixed it so that it then wouldn't replicate.
The guy who took over from him did a really thorough exam of my machine and added a few extra things to the list of repairs, which ended up including:

  • new inverter board and cable
  • new top case housing, keyboard and trackpad (old one was discoloured)
  • new display bezel (also discoloured)
  • new power adaptor (old one had shorted out)

I have to say, my Macbook looks like new, and has totally stopped flickering, so I am a happy bunny.
The one thing that does still bug me is that the battery life is so dreadful. When fully charged, I get just 2.5 hours out of it, if I'm lucky. It seems to take forever to charge, so that the length of time left until fully charged sometimes actually increases – even though I am plugged in – if I am also working on it. But it is still a lovely machine to use, and I wouldn't swap it for anything. Well, apart from a new LED-lit one!

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I should have blogged this weeks ago

June 7, 2007

It's not so fresh now, for which I apologise, but there are two episodes of Fresh Lime Soda that you might not have seen if you haven't subscribed to our RSS feed over there. The first is a podcast on dictation, multitasking and focus. The second is this discussion about giving presentations: No idea when […]

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Open Rights Group looking for new Board members

June 5, 2007

It doesn't seem like it, but it's nearly two years since I started ORG, along with Ian Brown, Rufus Pollock, Cory Doctorow, and Danny O'Brien, at the OpenTech conference. In the following weeks, we got together with Stef Magdalinski, James Cronin, Louise Ferguson and Ben Laurie and William Heath to form the ORG Board. Later […]

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"This wedding is turning into a major craft project"

June 3, 2007

So said Kevin Marks yesterday when I mentioned that I've decided to make my own tiara for my wedding. (This is Kevin's blog, but not only has he not blogged for two months, he's not replaced his CSS either, so his blog is 'naked'. For shame, Kevin!) Kate came up to London yesterday, so we […]

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