Liverpool. Cathedrals, Beatles, etc

Went to Liverpool last weekend. Fabiana wanted to go sight-seeing there before she heads back to Brazil.

We stayed in Jurys Inn, which was good value, but a bit travelodgish, and breakfast was unpleasantly busy. Nice shiny new building though. Near the Albert Dock. There’s lots of shiny new buildings in Liverpool actually. Some of the shopping areas are spectacular, and we saw them adding the final stone cladding to outside of a snazzy new river front museum of Liverpool. We’ll have to go back for that one.

We also saw the modern (but not quite so brand new) architecture of the Metropolitan cathedral. Seeing the bells ringing at the front was pretty cool. There’s another “Liverpool Cathedral” in Liverpool which is less well known I suppose, being as it’s a boring old normal cathedral, but we wandered over to check it out, and it was well worth it actually. It’s massive! We called in at the liverpool tate for some art too, but unfortunately left this until we were knackered and could hardly stand up any more.

We did those things on Sunday. Our priority had been to go see “the Beatles Story” museum. I vaguely remember wanting to go into this as a kid while the parents were dragging us around art galleries and boring shops in Albert docks. Didn’t go then, probably because it’s quite expensive. £12 for an adult. Not sure if it’s worth it really, but it was quite interesting.

It really does tell the “story” of the Beatles from beginning to end, which gives you a feel for what a bonkers time it was (the 60s I mean). The Beatles were lucky, as any band which reaches megastardom is, but they were lucky to have struck at just that time too, before we’d had any megastar bands before, and seemingly just as the world was ready for some cheeky chappies from Liverpool. I also learned the sad story of their manager Brian Epstein, who was a friendly, enthusiastic, supportive guiding force who did a brilliant job of launching them on the world stage, but eventually he died of an overdose of anti-depressants. The Beatles fell apart shortly after. You don’t really hear his tale as much as the John Lennon shooting thing.

Afterwards on the Saturday night we headed to the Cavern (where the Beatles played lots of gigs). We went into the cavern pub instead of the cavern club, but then I think I read that neither of them are really like the original anyway. Quite good though. Saw some live music.

After eating we found a chaotic street (here I think) full of drunken party goers surrounded on all sides by blaring music from pub/clubs. We went into one which was a 90s bar. A “90s” bar! Are we far enough away from the 90s to start having 90s bars?? The cheesy banging dance music brought back a few memories… yes apparently we are far enough away.

Bloody Valentines Fancy Dress

Flour Fancy DressThere was another amazing fancy dress party round Ana’s house. This time it was on Valentines day, with a bloody valentines theme. I did the old flour-on-the-face trick and put on a suite and bow tie, while Francine dressed in a scraggly wedding dress. Then we both applied fake blood liberally.

Our blood recipe was scarlet food colouring with water and cornflour stirred in to thicken it a little, but then to make it less vibrant pink we added a dash of soy sauce!

It turned out pretty well. We felt compelled to spend some time coming up with a decent effort for fancy dress to try and live up to our robot costumes at last year’s party and awesome 80s look the year before that (you may have seen pics on facebook)

Cloudmade launch event

We had our big Cloudmade launch event on Thursday. All the key people at cloudmade have been very heavily focussed on preparation for this for some time now, and it seemed to pay off. The guys did a great job with slick professional talks getting across our message, that the openstreetmap project is opening up exciting new opportunities for mapping and location-based services, above and beyond anything that google maps could ever offer, and that cloudmade’s products and services help to bring that power to your applications.

They’ll be more product release announcements like this one on the cloudmade blog, over the coming months, which will no doubt generate even more buzz.

My job for the evening was to man a demo station. Answering people’s questions about openstreetmap and cloudmade, with a big plasma screen behind me. This turned out to be really quite fun.

These photos and many more great pictures taken by Christian Petersen at the event. Afterwards we had a little after-show party, which got a bit more messy.

Got home at 4a.m. although that was after an accidental visit to end of the 134 bus route

RSS feeds and WordPress plugins

I’ve set up my homepage to show some RSS feeds. One from this blog. One from my OSM user diary.

Showing multiple RSS feed is kind of the most basic example of a “mashup”. A web development problem you can solve with five minutes of tinkering. Sure enough I did manage to find a free script from somewhere and get a feed showing in five minutes, but only because I consciously said to myself that I wasn’t going to spend hours choosing which free script to go for. I knew this was a danger from past experience of wading through all the websites offering free scripts, looking for the right one. So I then spent a while tinkering because it wasn’t quite right, then regretted my choice of script, and wound up accidentally spending several hours re-coding it from scratch. This was mostly an irritating kind of tinkering, but…

I also had a go at making a WordPress plugin (to extend the features of my blog). This was fun, and amazingly easy. There’s tutorials about coding wordpress plugins, but I didn’t need to read any of that. I just fiddled with someone else’s code. It’s nifty the way wordpress automatically latches onto your php file and presents meta-information like the title of the plugin within the admin interface, and gives you the option to “activate” the plugin. I called mine “Harry’s cache deleter”, and made it delete the cache of my homepage RSS feed whenever I add or edit a blog entry. Just a matter of calling the add_action function to have my code invoked on add/edit events.

So let’s test it out right now… Publish!