Long time coming

OK, I will admit it has taken me a little longer than planned…. but it has finally happened. Version 5 of my site is now live and for all to see.

There have been some pretty big changes since last time:

  1. It runs on WordPress again (this is the first time the whole thing runs on WordPress to be fair).
    1. It is much easier for me to update now.
    2. The code doesn’t make me cringe any time it does need updating.
  2. It is fully responsive, so works on mobiles as well as desktops.
  3. It supports more post types than just standard blog posts. It allows me to make quick updates to share something a simple thought, video, image, link etc.
  4. My gallery is officially gone. It contained far too many images I didn’t care about anyway.
  5. The projects section is gone, but not for long I hope. The grand plan is to integrate with all the projects I keep on Github.
  6. Bookmarks work again. This section is fed from my RSS reader as I find things I want to share

I can’t promise it will stay as up to date as I want it to, but I can promise it will be better than before. I am a firm believer that the interface dictate the use and the new interface is much easier to use.


Mindless Task

In the last year or so I have begun the process of doing what is probably the most depressing task I have ever tried to do. I am putting together information that would be useful in the event of my death.

This is not a Will or my last wishes as such (although to a certain extent it deals with some of that). This is my passwords, my online history, my accounts over the web, our home network, the wireless, the backups and the accounts. Basically the building blocks of my digital/paperwork life that so many things require.

In the last few years I have heard of a number of people who have died before their time, who took with them the passwords and the knowledge that maintained things important to those around them.

For example when one man I knew died his family could no longer get into the family file server he had set up which contained all their digital photos. I know of another where the rest of the family could not access the computer or the banking records or even quite get to grips with the filling system that was in place.

While I have always taken very seriously the idea of backing things up, I came to realise that while I did the basics like my pictures, music and files, I didn’t back up what was in my head. All the hundreds of passwords, account logins, e-mail addresses and even how it all hangs together.

In doing all of this work (still a long way to go) I have come to realise something else. I am not just doing this to make sure Demelza and my very small (but growing) family doesn’t have additional complications that I can avoid, but also it saves me having to remember it all. I have come to rely on my mind for so many things and maybe I need to start forgetting a few things and let computers and paper do what they do best.

I don’t want to depress people… I just think sometimes our backups forget the little things.


A little bit crazy!

OK, it’s official, the new job is turning me into a new kind of crazy.

Not the good kind of crazy, the kind where you have great ideas that are a bit out there but still work, not even the crazy where people just leave you to it because you seem to make things work… just the plain old please stop me from scratching out my own eyeballs crazy.

I am now entering week 12 of my preliminary 6 weeks of travelling up to Portishead everyday. I always knew the first 6 weeks was going to be right on the edge of what I can deal with in terms of boredom, sleep deprivation and just plain crazy, but this is now pushing it too far.

At week 6 I was meant to have a meeting to discuss trialling working from home. That didn’t happen. Nor has it happened when I have harked on about it. At week 12 the office is meant to have moved 1hour and 10mins closer to home for me. Does it stand a chance of moving in 3 days… not a hope. Does it stand a chance of moving in the next 6 weeks… maybe but I doubt it. Has it even been announced to the company that this is what it meant to be happening… nope.

There were two things that were very important to me when I started here, working from home and the office moving a lot closer. Neither has happened and it is affecting me now.

I think this is a good company to work for, I think I can do well here… but if promises this important to me get broken how can I trust them going forward.


Gentle Upgrades

No particular news… nothing really of note has happened… just little things.

Today’s achievement (assuming this works) means my blog should now be coming back to Facebook. As is always the case I have tried to link my site together with the on-line services I use, creating a combined set of all my data that I control. When I first started a blog in 2004 it actually started on the Livejournal service. Having used that for a couple of years I decided to buy my own site at which point I wanted to bring the blog to my site (if only so I had some content). I exported my blog and brought it on-line at my own site. I then worked on a way of automatically posting between the two. Then when I started using Facebook I found that I could link notes with a blog. Facebook actually did all the hard work for you then taking an RSS feed and just picking them up as they happened. Late last year they decided they were too cool for that and shut down the feature (in that way that they do). So if I wanted to cross post to both Livejournal and Facebook it was up to me to write something to do it… Today is (again hopefully) the first day of my plan working.

In other news the house seems to be gaining some level of order from the semi chaos. Paperwork is now all in order, the loft has been organised, the garage is basically organised to the untrained eye and the house seems pretty good. Jobs are getting done which is always nice. Still haven’t got around to painting our bedroom but maybe that will happen next weekend.

What is most impressive about all this work getting done is that I am still travelling up to near Bristol everyday, leaving the house at 6:45am and getting home 8pm generally. This is leaving me feeling very sleep deprived and very annoyed at the lack of time I have to get things done, so to have achieved anything in this time is nice. Still, roll on an office move which should give me back hours 2+ hours in my day (2 real hours plus maybe another 1 or 2 thanks to getting more sleep) and roll on working from home for a few days giving me the chance to sleep 2 days in every 5… Still, until it all happens it is just a pipe dream.

As an aside, if you have read this far it means you might care about what I say. As I have been updating the tech behind my blog I should also mean I post more often as it will be easier for me to do so… so in theory, watch this space


All Change

OK, I know said I would do better at updating my blog and I know so far I keep failing, but I’ve been busy dammit! Maybe my blog is actually a really long term retirement project waiting for spare time…

To say the last few months have been a rollercoaster would not do them a shred of justice… Short version I have a new job.

Long version, the company I used to work for and worked for for over 2 and a half years went under. More to the point it was dragged under by a poor business deal which resulted in a lot of work which was never paid for. In the end the outgoings were greater than the incoming and the debts mounted to a point where there was nothing else to do but fold.

Clearly this was a very sad situation not to mention annoying. In fact this process of would the company go under actually lasted about 3 months so there was a 3rd emotion that crept in which was relief. At least we knew what was going on.

The downside was none of us really wanted to leave and we still had clients who liked us. The clear winner was to start a new company and do it right from the start. Easier said than done when you are trying to make money at the same time. This bumped along the bottom for a few months, sometimes making some real progress, but other time settling on the same mediocrity that led to the eventual death of the first company.

Then came the real beginning of the end. Shaun, one of the directors for the old company and also director for the new company got another job. Not because he wanted to but because he needed to. The new company was not brining in enough money to sustain everyone and he had an offer which he took. Originally it was belived that job would be remote and fairly short term so he would still be around to answer questions. As time moved on and he ended up in his new jobs office it became apparent he was not coming back.

As this became apparent I started looking for a new job. Without Shaun in the company my interest in staying was dropping. I was left doing his work and as the lone coder and it wasn’t fun anymore. I found a couple of jobs that looked interesting before finally having a conversation with Shaun about his new company.

A week later I had an interview which was actually more of a contract negotiation and they offered me very nice position as a seiner software engineer which I agreed to. Of course it wasn’t all plain and simple. The new job was considerably further away than where I was used to travelling. With that in mind part of my discussions the idea of remote working and they also mentioned that in the near future they are considering moving offices closer to me by upto an hour which would make my life much simpler again.

So where does this leave me. It leaves me 5 weeks into a new job, it leaves me 5 weeks into a 6 week period of travelling every day from which point I can start working from home. It leaves me sleep deprived and frustrated at not getting enough things done at home. It also leaves Demelza a little fed up with not seeing me. Most importantly however while a little painful now, I am well on the way to a much more sustainable long term career which pays me correctly for my skills. And of course I’m still working with Shaun which I do still very much enjoy.


End of year roundup 2011

I know it has been a while since I did one of these (2008 to be exact) but I consider this a good time to start them again. Bit late as far as roundups go, but better late than never.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Get married, buy a house and lose my job.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
As is the norm for me, I didn’t make any. That said, I have drawn a line in the sand this year regarding a pension. We have decided by the end of this year we need to both have them sorted.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Having said no to this question for years I can finally say yes. Elkanah, a friend from school did to a lovely little girl called Lena who we went to see over Christmas.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Again, thankfully not.

5. What countries did you visit?
Greece for our honeymoon (we were there between their recent financial issues so it didn’t have any effect on our trip thankfully).

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Well the last time I answered this question we were not engaged… and I said I would like to spend more time with my girlfriend and spend more time travelling. It has to be said I would still like to spend more time with my now wife and I would still like to do more travelling. We have had a very expensive year (house and wedding not cheap) and I think for now I will just consider this year to be the “recovery year”. We are still planning on going out to France with my family for a week or so but that is it.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I would be a nutter if I didn’t say our wedding (June 4th)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I think actually buying the house and at the very least doing some more grown up things. I still don’t think I’ve grown up, although I have got older. The house buying required me to understand and enter a world I have never got before with odd legal proceedings etc and generally I think I came out on top. Getting married I don’t actually consider to be an achievement. That was just a set of things that we set in motion. The achievement there is the couples who have been together for 30 or 40 years and built a life together. Also starting to show myself as having learnt something from years of woodworking classes and doing DIY with my Dad.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I’m not sure… There is no stand out thing if I’m honest. If I had to pick I think perhaps it would be being not prepared enough for the twists and turns the current economy may throw at us.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
As per usual, colds and alike, but nothing interesting.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
House… clearly. We also bought a new bed which while not that exciting, is a proper solid wooden piece of furniture which represents the beginning of moving away from tat and onto things that should last a lifetime.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Well, I normally become political at this point, so I see no reason to change that. I’m going to say something odd… I’m going to say for once the government deserves some kudos. While no shining light in the darkness and while still doing some pretty stupid things, I feel like there is considerably more common sense coming from Westminster this last year. Maybe in a year of hard times it is hard to say something wrong for them, but that is the general feeling I get. In an equally unusual measure I also want to see that our friend who made huge effort to come all the way down here for our wedding also deserve some recognition.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
I’m going to hark back to my normal the media industries. SOPA and PIPA are stunning examples of an industry that has sat on its arse for a long time, not innovated and now seeks to protect its failing business model through overpowered laws. Long may they fail and they learn the error of their ways. Also, stop trying to peddle 3D content… we are not interested.

14. Where did most of your money go?
A sodding house… Also, yes weddings are expensive, but it amazed me how much money gets spent on little thing that all add up that you never see coming.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Wedding, house and honeymoon (see the pattern?).

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Ellie Goulding – Your Song and Alexi Murdoch – Breathe. I’m special, I can have two… (Also, that is two times in a row I have done this and there have been songs with “breathe” in the title).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a. Happier or sadder?
Happier. This time last year we were just in the middle of our moving out of our flat and into Demelza’s parents and all the stress that came with it.

b. Thinner or fatter?
I think about the same.

c. Richer or poorer?
So much poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I normally say slept and that is always true. I think I wish I had saved more.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about things like job etc.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Between two families. Starting in Demelza’s parents and ending at mine. We also saw a huge number of friends when back at my parents which was nice.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
No, I stayed there.

22. How many one-night stands?
None. Still not removing this question simply for the numbering.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Still the legend that is Top Gear. That said, love Big Bang Theory and Terra Nova is interesting too.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Don’t think so.

25. What was the best book you read?
Don’t think I have read anything this year… well, not that most people would consider a book anyway.

26. What did you want and get?
Again, married and a house.

27. What did you want and not get?
A stable job.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
So many to pick from this year, Probably In Time. Didn’t see that many this year.

29. What was your favourite game of this year?
Didn’t really play many. I did very much enjoy playing Portal 2 with Jonners.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 25 and I went out for a meal with Demelza. I did then have my stag do down in Brighton and alike around the same time so that sort of counts.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
All of my projects being done. Not that that is possible given as soon as one is done another takes its place, but would still be nice.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Same as the year before with less t-shirts and actually a couple more nice shirts. Still a walking North Face advert though.

33. What kept you sane?
As always, Demelza. She also still makes me a little less sane, but generally net effect is positive.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy/respect the most?
I’m sure there was one from the year, but I just can’t remember who it was. That in itself is sad enough.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I think the whole pension crisis got to me when the whole of the public sector decided it had a right to a not only a better pension than the private sector, but some private sector money to prop it up.

36. Who did you miss?
A lot of my friends from the South East as always but I’m fairly used to that and actually they are pretty good at coming to see us now.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I am going to say baby Lena for being the first baby that I managed to stop crying instead of start crying.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
The best thing about a honeymoon is it gives you a break from smiling at the millions of people at your wedding.


Idiots guide to buying a house

In the summer of last year myself and Demelza started house hunting. In the December we had put in an offer and then finally in the February we finally moved into our first home. During this time we learnt a huge amount about how to actually buy a house. I am putting some of what springs to mind here in the hope that it will save others the sharp learning curve I needed just to keep up with the whole process. Questions more than welcome.

Step 1: Get some money

It doesn’t really matter how you get a deposit, but one way or another you will need one. Mortgage lenders seem to want between 10% and 20% of the value of the property at the moment. Clearly this means you need to know how much you are going to spend, but a quick check on something like Rightmove won’t take long. Words of caution, if your money is coming to you via a Will then all is fine. Same too if you are saving it all yourself, however, if you are being lent or given it by say close family then be careful how much you get. I think the limit is 12k per year that you could have received from someone else before anti money laundering laws kick in. Basically, when filling in your mortgage they will want to know where that money came from. And if it happens to have come from someone else they will want details about that person. The best thing to do if you are being given it is to ‘save’ it is smaller chunks over a little while so you never tip over the threshold and get lots more questions than you want.

Step 2: Work out what you have to play with

Once you have a deposit you need to work out how far it will go. You could setup a meeting with a mortgage broker at this point, or you could just look up the numbers on the many mortgage calculators that exist on the lenders websites. I think I used the one on Nationwide and the one on Santander. There is nothing wrong with talking to a broker at this point either; there are no obligations, they will be more than happy to talk to you about their options. I also think they are worth going to even if you didn’t think you would be using one. They have access to a lot more deals than the set the high street offers. They also make comparison of a lot of options a damn sight simpler. They might also help give you a better understanding of how mortgage work if you are unsure.

Step 3: Go hunting

Now comes the fun part, time to actually look for a house. There isn’t much to this really… Find houses, talk to estate agents, look round houses, nod and smile when they make jokes. They don’t seem to generally make jokes though, just stand and look solemn and point out the bleeding obvious like “this is the kitchen”… really. I actually think the best way to go about visiting houses is having done your homework on them first. Thanks to the internet getting lots of detail is normally fairly easy, but there will always be something missing. For example, a lot of postings miss out floor plans. Write down the list of things you want to check when you are there, such as layout etc. If you are seeing more than a couple of places in a day then make notes the same day about each one… On one day we saw 4, 2 in the morning and another 2 early afternoon and it was surprising how quickly you forget the details important to you. By the evening of that day it took a bit of thought to drag out the pros and cons.

Most importantly, remember to ask questions and have a good poke around… this can be a little hard if the owner is the one showing you around… just try to be chatty.

Step 4: Show us the money

OK, so you have found the one. It fits all the requirements; you love it, see potential in it, whatever it may be. Assuming at this point there were no clear turns off’s like damp or huge cracks in the walls… time to put in an offer. The best tip we heard on this was never start at the asking price. This may seem obvious, but there is a good reason for it. If you were to offer the asking price straight away then the seller is going to think maybe they have undervalued their home if you are so willing to go for the asking price. They may hold out; seeing how high you will go and how badly you want it.

The key to this negation stage is two part, firstly you want them to think they need you and not that you need them. With your first house this one is easy, you have no chain so can move when you want. This is a very powerful bargaining chip. The second key is to lower their expectation.

It is also worth noting that as you get closer to a deal you can put things like appliances, fixtures and fittings on the negotiating table.

Step 5: Things start getting serious

At this point you need to start getting the paperwork to catch-up. That means two things, getting a solicitor involved and getting a mortgage. Generally estate agents and mortgage brokers are happy to make recommendations for solicitors they have worked with.

Applying for the mortgage is the slightly scary bit, but it isn’t too hard. Once you have your solicitor on side you begin the long and arduous job of keeping everything moving forward. It is surprising how much work there is to get everyone doing their jobs… At peak I was speaking to the solicitor and or estate agents at least once a day.

It is worth noting that when you have a mortgage the solicitor is acting on not only your behalf, but that of your mortgage provider. If you think about this it makes perfect sense, they are buying a greater stake in the house than you are most of the time. The solicitor will do searches to find out the details the local council hold about the property. They will confirm boundaries, do environmental checks (things like if there is an old tip nearby, or a river or even in the south west checks for Radon). The seller will provide a detailed list of what they will and will not include with the property. Check this sodding carefully, it is important. Once you exchange contracts you can’t go back on things. It is up to you to make sure everything is as it should be.

The mortgage company will normally sort out a basic survey if they feel they want one, but you can get a more thorough one done. It is very normal (hell, expected) for you to request more visits to the property during this time. Even if you have nothing to check, I would still recommend this. All this pushing back and forth of letters takes time and it may have been some time since you saw the property. Never hurts to keep in fresh in your mind. We actually got Demelza’s parents to come with us to give us a second opinion and sanity check. While it will be expensive to pull out at this point, better to be sure.

Step 6: Exchange

Once all the contracts have been sorted out, the paperwork in place and the dates for everything agreed you are almost ready to exchange. To exchange you need to have fulfilled any requirements your mortgage lender might have (house insurance is the big one), you need to give your deposit over to the solicitors and you need to be sure with what you are buying. Once you exchange you are committed. It is worth noting, if you are transferring over 10k to the solicitors, you will need to pay for a CHAPS transfer (about £25).

Step 7: No man’s land

Once you actually exchange you enter a contractual point where you are legally responsible for the house. At this point you sort of own the house. The lenders transfer your mortgage amount to your solicitor who combines it with your deposit. They transfer this over to the seller’s solicitor. They update the deeds of the house and hand them over to you. This period between exchange and completion can take between 3 days and about 2 weeks.

Step 8: Completion

Finally, day of completion arrives! You can collect the keys from the estate agents and open your front door for the first time! Now the fun part of moving all the services over…


Let's try this again

Hello, I’m Craig and this is my blog…

Some of the more observant of you may have noticed it isn’t the most well tended to in the sphere, but I’m hoping to change that.

Back in the good old days when I had more spare time and life was less interesting I harped on chapter and verse about whatever bugged me at the time, but since becoming less of a child and more of an actual functioning member of society I seem to have transitions away from blogging.

Personally I don’t see this as a good thing and I certainly see it as something I want to change. Who knows if I will be successful, but it seems worth a shot.

To that end I feel a little catch-up is in order. Since my last real blog post the following have happened (in order):

  1. Proposed to my girlfriend
  2. Blew up the engine on our (well, technically her) car
  3. Bought a new car (my first)
  4. Went on holiday in France (and a little Switzerland)
  5. Spent epic amounts of time planning a wedding
  6. Went house hunting
  7. Had Christmas
  8. Bought a house (harder than you would think)
  9. Decorated a fair bit of said house
  10. Got married (Up to June 2011 so far)
  11. Went on our honeymoon to Athens
  12. Went to the wedding of our friends Nicola and Michael
  13. Lost my job
  14. Got a new one

Over the next little while I plan to have a proper catch-up of some of those events, but I thought I would start with the cliff notes.

For anyone actually interested, the other reason I have been so quiet for so long was because I was rebuilding my whole website from scratch, new design, new front-end code and new back-end code. It is the largest overhaul my site has had since I’ve had one. With everything else going on it took longer to do than planned (clearly). As part of this build I was putting in an admin which allowed me to post to my blog and Livejournal at the same time, categories replicated over, edits happened in both places etc. All of this took a little while, but hopefully this post will prove it works.

A new beginning? We’ll see…



Time honored tradition

As it my custom it is time again to look back at the year just gone. I say custom, I did it last year, the year before that and the year before that too.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Moved in with someone that I haven’t planned to move out with afterwards.

Oh, and Go-karting… that was epic fun.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make any, so yes, very easy to keep. By far the best kind when it comes to keeping them. Given that plan has worked out thus far, I plan to keep not making them and ably achieving the.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nope. This said, we are all getting older and a lot more people seem a lot closer too it (not in the fat sense)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Again, thankfully not.

5. What countries did you visit?

Just France I believe on Family holiday.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

Time.. lots more spare time. Money would be good, sleep would be too, but time more than anything else.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Moving in, the many epic trips to Ikea that were required, Holiday, Thanksgiving is always quite an event and actually, Christmas was really nice too.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finding somewhere nice to live and actually starting to live there. OK, so I know it is a simple thing, but it is always the simple things that mean the most.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Uni work and alike continue to be a constant source of failure, one I have yet to fully work out how to deal with. Im trying not to put it into that “one day” bracket, but it is going that way.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Im sure my pride has taken a beating from time to time and colds and alike have hit me, but in general, no.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A whole pile of furniture, turning a few rooms into a home.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

The countless charities I know of or help from time to time who despite everyone tightening their belts still managed to do good in every way they could.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

The music industry, the film industry (US and UK) and the government and some large companies for their onslaught against privacy. Their belief that everyone is a criminal and that making a copy of something for free is the same as taking a physical item.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent, followed by the car, followed by food, followed by furniture, followed by plights and tech maybe…

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Again, like a true stuck record, moving in with Demelza, starting a new job, get out and making my own way a little bit more…

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

Kasabian – Underdog

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a. Happier or sadder?


b. Thinner or fatter?

A bit thinner.

c. Richer or poorer?


18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Sleep, my own projects, spending time with Demelza.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Work, driving, spending money.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Driving mainly. This was a lot better that is first sounds. We did both the parents in the one day doing the morning and lunch with Demelzas family and then drove all the way over to my family for tea. We actually really enjoyed it, despite it being quite a day.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Over and over, same girl though…

22. How many one-night stands?

None. I should really remove this question, but it will mess up the numbering.

23. What was your favourite TV program?

Still the legend that is Top Gear. Also very much been enjoying SG1 again.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Nah, hating has so been done.

25. What was the best book you read?

I still don’t really read. In fact, I have little choice what I’m going to put here, I only read one book. It was The Last Lecture and I highly recommend it.

26. What did you want and get?

Somewhere nice to live and a job.

27. What did you want and not get?

A degree would have been nice…

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

The new Star Trek film. A nice mix of the new and the old into something enjoyable.

29. What was your favourite game of this year?

As I said before, Burnout 2 on the GameCube, still. I still play it more than anything else. That said, Boom Blox is really cool. As is the free PC version of TrackMania.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 23 years old and Demelza came up from Cornwall and at best guess, we went to the cinema, but I honestly don’t remember.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

All the filling being done sooner and automatically… Sad isn’t it.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Same as the year before with more t-shirts.

33. What kept you sane?

Demelza, despite the bloody Ryanair music trying to push me over the edge.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy/respect the most?

None. I am growing tiered of celebrity in general and few warrant respect.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

As stated earlier, piracy and privacy annoyed me the most. They still do mainly because I see little intelligent thought going into them. Every study has come out against the government and the industry, but instead of realising how wrong they are and innovating they are pushing back… but they are pushing back against a public that will win.

36. Who did you miss?

Hello stuck record. Demelza for the first half of the year, and then for the second half of the year, a good number of friends I’m now a bit further from.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

Since moving down to this part of the country I have met a lot of good nice people. I won’t name names, but there are many who I am happy to have met.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Just because the car says it has oil doesn’t mean it knows what it is talking about…

So, same time next year… No, you’re right, a month earlier…


Make do and Mend

I can’t help but feel a sense of achivment and a sense of sadness this evening for something that seems to be a dying frame of mind these days.

Since I have been home this evening I have repaired 3 pairs of trousers and am working on my fourth. Nothing major, a couple of seems coming appart, a button come off and a hem that has come out in the middle.

All of these trousers are perfectly fine except from a few stitches coming undone in some fairly important places. One of them I will admit is quite worn, but I like it that way. The total amount of money it would have cost to replace these particular trousers would be somewhere around the £100 mark (one pair is a fairly long standing and hard living North Face pair I have had for a long while which don’t come cheap).

I will admit to using a cheap small sewing machine Demelza got a year ago or so to do all this, and while I could have done this even more cheaply by hand, my hand stitching is not quite up to par in some places (what is it about a straight line that is so complex!). The point is, even using a sewing machine, in this one instance we have in effect saved £80 (£20 sewing machine for thoese who can’t keep up).

A few years ago with rationing still ringing in their ears the general public at large would have considered this not only easy to do, but also the only sane choice. These days people seem more than willing to part with yet more money to replace something which was far from gone.

I will admit that several years ago I was probably the wrong side of the line, but a couple of years living with Dan (who is one of the ultimate “Keep Calm And Carry On” people I know) and I was soon on the right path.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting spending all waking hours tending to the vegtable patch or clothes with more patches than sleeves, but just a little more bias towards mending and making do.

This of course does not just apply to clothes. Never would anyone in their right mind in computing let an old dead machine go to waste. Of course it will be thrown out, but first it will be stripped for parts, anything that might come in handy and save a trip to PCWord and the land of silly prices.


Housewarming (the event that wasn’t)

So on Saturday we had our house warming party. I say party, I use that term as loosely as it can be used. It was not so much a party, but a small collection of people that met up in a single location for some time and food.

Let me begin with some background.

Demelza has grown up in Cornwall, she went to Roehampton for university and then she moved back home. A year later we moved in together in Plymouth. I on the other hand have grown up in Horsham, Brighton and the south east of the country in general.

The majority of our friends are in and around the London area which as I can tell you from doing a long distance relationship from Cornwall to Brighton is no small distance from Plymouth. This is a journey that requires the better part of the day whichever method of transport you take. Trains can take upwards of 5 hours door to door and the car is not much better. Plymouth to Horsham on a fairly clear day takes about 4 and a half hours.

With this in mind we began to organise our house warming party. We knew not everyone would come and to that end we probably invited a fair few more than we felt we could cope with on the basis that a reasonable number would not be able to make it. We spoke at great length to some on how to get down here and we encouraged people to book their tickets early.

We seemed to have a fair number coming or saying they would come. Some people let us know early on that it would not be possible to go for various perfectly good reasons. This was fair and to be expected.

As we approached the day in question more and more people seemed to be dropping out. Some for, again, perfectly good reasons. Others it seemed had looked at the travel and decided it was quite far to go and they had not noticed quite how far or how long it was going to take. I think some cited costs which of course could have been reduced by booking early.

By the time we got to the day in question and phoned more people to check they were still coming we heard a few more reasons why people were not coming. Again, some of them good.

At this point we had whittled our numbers down to the glorious total of 4. Had some people not already been on their way we would have cancelled there and then, but it was too late.

While no one person had anything but fairly honourable intentions, the net result of so many people pulling out was we both felt rather upset and let down. Admittedly my upset surfaced mainly as anger to start with, but that soon turned to a fairly sombre thought of does anyone actually care.

It seems that most people took the view with regards to their travel that it was just something that could just be sorted out nearer the time. However as stated earlier, this is not a small journey and requires planning and thought. The longer you leaving booking the more expensive it becomes and if you fail to plan it it can easily drag on a lot longer than you first thought (as Thomas found out). As people realised their travel was going to be more complex that first believed, they dropped out, relying on others to take their place. Unfortunately when everyone relies on everyone else and no one does it you end up with the workforce of mangers, a well structured façade with no support behind it. Or in our case a table full of food and no-one to eat it.

Thankfully we don’t choose our friends as people we don’t get on with or don’t like so while this whole episode has been fairly upsetting, I do not for a second believe it to be an act of malice or spite, more an act of carelessness, thoughtlessness, a bit of bad luck and a reliance on others.

This all being said, for the few that did turn up I think a nice time was had. It was not quite the atmosphere we had aimed at but it was a nice gathering nonetheless.

One final question I feel myself compelled to answer (like a child of the national curriculum), given the chance would we do it again? There is a part of me that feels never again. The part of me that put a fair bit of work in for not that much gain. But there is another side of me that must accept that these things happen and to stop because of one bad experience is an even greater tragedy than the event itself. With that in mind, we probably will do this again, but not right now.


The fluffy side of living together

I admit that as per usual my plans for keeping my blog up to date have not quite worked. Let’s face it, everyone is used to this by now, moving on…

Life has been too busy. It is always too busy and I wish it would stop. I know a lot of it I bring on myself and that is fair enough, but I also could do with a break. Just a chance to catch my breath.

Last weekend I went back home to Horsham (not sure if Horsham counts as home anymore… maybe I have two homes…). It was the first time I had been back since the summer. I went back for two reasons, first to tidy up and clear my room so my little brother could take it over as his own and secondly because the weekend before was Nik’s Birthday and in the time honoured tradition we were planning on going out for a meal.

Meal was good, drinks were good and still the purple rain cocktail shines on as the house favourite.

Sunday I did the epic drive back home to Devon. 5 hours 30mins non-stop. Boring and annoying, but it had to be done. Unfortunately given the length of the journey I had to leave Brighton far earlier than I wanted to. Then again, I spent nearly two years living with those guys, so it is always going to feel like I’m leaving too early.

The week that followed my trip back was not quite as I planned it. I can only assume I had been holding off illness for that trip. Almost as soon as I got back I wasn’t feeling so great. It is no great surprise, everyone around me has been on and off ill a lot of the time. It finally caught up with me and that took me out of work for 3 days. I did try and go in on the 3rd day, made it in, one meeting 2 e-mails and then back on the way home again. On a plus side that seems to have gone now.

That brought us round to the weekend. Cunning plan was to have a nice day off on the Saturday and relax a little. Unfortunately a recent discovery in our bedroom put a stop to that. Turns out when we moved into the flat there was mould in our room on the walls. At the time we didn’t realise it was this. My best guess is someone brushed the walls down to make it look more presentable. Had we known when we moved in we would have dealt with it there and then.

It had been growing behind the wardrobes and down by the side of the bed against the wall as well as around the window. Hence Saturday was spent trying to find a decent cleaner which wouldn’t stain the paintwork and Sunday morning was spent moving EVERYTHING out of our room and cleaning the walls.

Suffice to say it smells like a swimming pool in there but the stuff is dead and gone.

We haven’t yet moved our stuff back in as we are letting the room air for a while, but that was one headache we could have done without.

Maybe next weekend there will be that time to relax… I live in hope.


Down but not out

My clarinet teacher once told me that the key to practice was little and often. My retort at the time was “I’ve done the little, but not the often”.

I think it would be safe to say this rule works for many things, blogging for one.

I have been meaning to get back into keeping my online persona and blog alive for some time now, but for one reason or another other things have taken precedent.

A lot has happened to me of late and as is always the case, it is hard to know where to start.

Last time I wrote anything here I had recently moved out of the house in Brighton. I was back home living with my parents with a bit more summer still ahead of me, hunting for and applying for jobs and looking forward to a nice Holiday in France.

That holiday has since been and gone (and if the temperature in the mornings is anything to go by, fairly long gone). The job hunting has also come to an end as I am now gainfully employed by a small company called RPM.

Living arrangements have changed too. No-longer am I filling a small room at my parents house, nor do I take up far too much room in a house in Brighton. I am now living in deepest darkest west country Devon with Demelza in a nice little first floor flat.

Suffice the say in my online downtime things have been very busy. To begin with I was busy house hunting (although, as luck would have it that didn’t last long). Then I was busy with planning and taking all I could down to Cornwall to Demelza’s parents house. After that came a nice holiday and a short time to relax (although even this was filled with writing lists of things we needed to do/get). Then finally a quick trip to London and then down to Cornwall to begin my job.

During the first week of my new job we got the keys to our flat, I spent my days working and my evenings moving stuff in. Then on my first full weekend down here we moved in for good. Well, I say moved in, we did, everything else was just a big pile of stuff on the floor.

What followed was a series of trips to Ikea, Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Argos and anywhere else you might find all the things you need when you move into a new place. The big things were, well, big, but at least we knew what we wanted. The small things took the real time, the wooden spoons, the cheese graters, the hand towels. You only ever realise you don’t have them when you need them.

All the while with this backdrop of sorting the flat came work (for both of us), sorting out of bills, more calls to the rental agency than I care to even think about. I could have written 100 blog entries on the trials and tribulations of moving in, but as is always the trouble with the interesting things in life, you are always too busy to talk about them.

Suffice to say, it isn’t all done, we have already had two visitors and still the weekends have long lists of things that need doing. We are however slowly getting through them. More importantly I feel like we are getting through them.

In other news, my computer is on its last legs, I have a new phone and the world still spins…


Just works (TM)

There is a certain irony to how I feel about computers at the moment.

Today started with the sync partnership between my phone and Outlook on my computer getting lost broken or stolen from me one way or another. The net effect of this was all my contacts, tasks, notes and calendar entries vanished from the phone. While this was not a catastrophic loss as all the data is in Outlook too, a phone with no contacts is like a car with no wheels.

So I set about restoring the flaky connection between the two devices and forced them to kiss and make-up. All in all this lost me about 3 hours of this morning with other distractions and tasks occurring in-between. You would have thought that now I would be generally annoyed at technology, but in actual fact the exact opposite is true. This successful patching of the morning spurred me on to sort out a couple of other things on my phone and general organizational system in the in-between times of the day.

Specifically I re-discovered MS OneNote.

In a way there is nothing that special about OneNote, it is a note taking application for the computer which is part of the Microsoft Office suite. All you do is keep notes in it, that is all. Yet it is how elegantly that this all works that makes me feel I can appreciate computers for that they are again, tools to get the job done.

I dragged bits from websites including text and images and they just appeared in the note along with date time and where they came from as a block ready to be moved about. I can just pick up any element and move it round like publisher. I can also just start writing wherever I want and use all the nice powerful formatting tools from Word. I have workbooks, tabs, pages, folders. I can tag items, draw things in, highlight text, search for anything (including text inside images). In short, it is an application that makes collating and storing little notes and bits of information for projects and alike really really simple.

The best part of all of this… I knew I could set this up to work with my phone. I found the option to install to my phone. Up on my phones screen popped the installation, I clicked through and 30 seconds later I had all my notes on my phone so I have them with me.

I like it when things just work!


What is clutter?

So I’m moving out of the house in Brighton this weekend. I have lived down here for the last two years and in that time, although my living has been fairly spartan there is still a fair bit of stuff in my room.

Turning into a neat freak has certainly had a hand in helping me stay fairly organised, but it doesn’t seem able to stop the clutter… well, maybe it has, I don’t think I’m really sure what I regard as clutter.

For example, I am always fixing computers and picking up spare parts. Every time I am about to throw some random bit of hardware that doesn’t work I take all the screws off it and add them to the (sorted) box I have. I hate having a screw that just fits when I could have one that really fits. The same applies to bigger bits of hardware such as MODEM’s and graphics cards. To that end I currently have 5 spare graphics cards and 3 spare MODEM’s in my room. OK, now it doesn’t take a genius to know that is too many, but exactly how many is the right number? Fine, one lets me help one person with that problem, but I don’t get new graphics cards every day. It would be really annoying for everyone involved if I ended up needing two.

This sort of problem, however small, seems to apply to a lot of my stuff. I like to keep things around that would be handy to have in the future, but at the same time I don’t want to be surrounded by stuff that never gets used.

I do something similar with clothes. When something is old and worn out it just moves into another pile so it’s kept for events (mainly Scouting based it has to be said) when I want something I don’t care much about.

How about magazines. I pick up PCPro fairly religiously each month if only for the DVD of software it comes with. I regularly find myself going back a year or so in magazines to find some article or bit of software they talked about. OK, so I could throw out everything older than a year but I guarantee the day after I do that I will want something from 13 months ago….

I want less stuff in my room, I want less clutter, but what will it cost me in convenience to do that?