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)

Passing out at work

I clocked up another passing out incident on Wednesday. Over the years I have passed out on two and half previous occasions. Wednesday’s was the weirdest yet given that it came more or less out of the blue while I was in the office sat at my desk. I felt a strange chest pain, and then started feeling dizzy, and that was it.

It was also strange to pass out in front of the boss. He was just over from the U.S. so I hadn’t seen him in a while. As usual I came to with a curious feeling as if I was coming out of a long dream. …and there was my boss talking to me. I sat myself up and then promptly passed out again. Then I remember dreaming about this weird situation where I had passed out in the office in front of my boss, and I came out of the dream and realised it was true. This time he told me to stay lying down until the ambulance arrived.

The ambulance crew reminded me that raising your legs above your head makes you feel a lot better when feeling faint (The same trick worked well on the ski-lift occasion)   When I got to A&E they probed and poked me, and measured my blood pressure many times. Chest x-rays and heart scans all showed up normal, so it all remains unexplained.

Rather worryingly though, I still have a painful tightness in my chest which gets worse during exercise or exertion. Age 29, a heart problem seems unlikely. Hopefully it will turn out to be some kind of temporary digestion or breathing problem.

Pumpkin Party

We had a little “pumpkin party” on Halloween. This involved no dressing up whatsoever, but cracking open a bottle of wine and trying out some pumpkin recipes. Very civilised.

So using the orange gack from the brains of the pumpkin, we had a Brazilian pumpkin coconut concoction which was intense but yummy. We roasted the pumpkin seeds, which was …well I burnt them. And finally we made a pumpkin pie, which was surprisingly good. That’s following this pumpkin pie recipe (pants website alert) ….evaporated milk being the most awkward ingredient, but happily our friendly local Indian/Turkish/Caribbean/weird-jars-of-stuff corner shop had it.

Then we carved a silly face of course.

pumpkin pie pumpkin

Even our American friend was impressed by the pumpkin pie, and she should know a good pumpkin pie (thanksgiving?) Halloween is a pretty American thing of course, but she told me it’s from Ireland actually. ….”Origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain” according to the all knowing one.

Future of the internet and how to stop it

Future of the Internet book coverI finished reading The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it a couple of days ago, but previously (having read most of it) I went along to the Innovation Reading Circle where seven or eight people sat around discussing the book.

Cyber law expert, Jonathan Zittrain, argues in this book, that that the internet’s future could be bleak, as we see it become more locked-down, less free and open and less inviting of innovation. He uses the term “generativity” to describe technologies which provide open platforms for tinkering and unexpected invention. The internet itself is generative at various layers, and our “end-point” PCs are also built to be generative, but new devices are less so. Tethered to their supplier and restricted in their programmability, these otherwise highly capable web-enabled devices represent a shift towards an undesirable future for the internet. Problems like spam and viruses, the downside of open generativity, may drive change through market forces, or ill-conceived legal interventions which fail to take account of the value of generativity.

The book’s title is obviously deliberately provocative, and in our discussions we were largely trying to decide whether he was overstating the doom and gloom. On the whole I felt that he constructed a detailed end-to-end argument and unlike the title, he didn’t really push an overly alarmist message that disaster is inevitable. Nonetheless I did find myself convinced that there is a problem with the way the internet is going, and whilst we can surely rely on market forces to keep us from some kind of total internet lock-down, the pendulum could still swing quite heavily in that direction if the consuming public and the law-makers do not grasp the issues.

And perhaps the most disturbing thing about the book, was that it did need a whole book (or at least the first two thirds of the book) to explain the issues from top-to-bottom. The merits and abuses of generativity ripple up and down the full technology stack, presenting recurring legal and technical cat and mouse games at every level. Take a narrow viewpoint, and the solutions seem simple.

Pharmaceutical wrinkles

I generally dislike pharmaceutical companies, especially cosmetics companies. I could pretend that I have strong ethical, ecological, political rational reasoning behind this. There’s so much to dislike about them. But really I just instinctively dislike them. In a chemist I find the air choking with all the smelly overpriced beauty products. I grab my 55p litre bottle of apple flavoured shampoo and get out as quickly as possible.

But right now I’m particularly thinking about the TV adverts. Cosmetic TV adverts are certainly among the worst kind (well the worst kind generally allowed on british TV, which thankfully has some fairly strict vetting) Do they think we don’t notice the ludicrously bad lip-synching? L’Oreal have always advertised a lot on TV. Their latest ad has that woman from four weddings and funeral, talking about wrinkles. She says:

“…I call them my life story lines”

Why?? No you don’t! Nobody has a special name for their wrinkles! Shut up!

Cant wait to be… in Northampton

Went to visit Nick in Northampton the other day. We went paintballing and then had a look around Northampton the next day.

Paintballing was a lot of fun. It’s the second time I’ve done it, but the previous occasion was an indoor place in a dark warehouse somewhere near Kings Cross. This time it was the proper outdoor stuff. We drove over to Cambridgeshire to apocalypse paintball . I found paintballing gave me a good adrenaline rush. More than I expected. It was also quite scary at times, crouching behind a log as gunshots pelted the trees above me. The last game was a “free for all” in quite a confined area, which was comical. Maybe I should have moral objections to running around with guns simulating war… but it’s fun. I also thought that the stories of paintballs being very painful, is a bit over-egged. You certainly feel it when you’re hit, but it’s not agonising or anything. Maybe only if you cop one at point blank range. They were pretty careful about safety, bollocking people for removing their masks etc, unlike the experience Stuart had doing 4×4 driving

Northampton was… interesting. We visited the bus station, which was voted one of the worst pieces of architecture in the country. And we visited the Northampton museum, which was all about shoes, but also featured a video display with hilariously cheesy opening music. The only line I could remember was “Cant wait to be… in Northampton”, so it took me a while to find what this was, but actually I need look no further than the wikipedia Northampton article “The Northampton Development Corporation produced a single that was released nationally by EMI, entitled 60 Miles by Road or Rail, by Linda Jardim”. So now you know.

Google Streetview

Well “explore holmfirth” has been offline for years now. Me and beezly started thinking about how we could bring it back in form of a dynamic community driven photo navigation system, …but never quite got round to it.

For a long time Geograph has been the closest anyone has come to my idea (Well that’s the most impressive UK example of photo-location tagging at least)

But the big G has just launched a new extension to their maps…

Google Streetview

Takes a while for all the fancy javascript to load, but give it a try. Cool hey? Might have to wait for a while before they add Holmfirth coverage though!


Munkyfest was excellent again!

Although I’ve only been to it twice, I again woke up on the Sunday with a hangover and a feeling I had been part of something quite special. And on the train on the way home, I read through the full ‘social and economic history of Munkyfest’. Quite a journey those guys have been on. I feel sad that it’s all over, so I guess Matt, Clare, Beezly and all the ‘crew’ must be feeling that way too… Or maybe they’re still sleeping on it.

Anyway I was a bit lazy about sharing photos last year (have lots from then too) but here’s a selection from last weekend:

beez on the bassviolinistsnutterscheesey grinbeezlys tea breakswigging beersguitar chicksurprising warm sunme and Francinebandstand crowdpersilbuddle chucklingmany tentsbbqbandstand laptopclare campsite carnage


This weekend the people of are going to walk/cycle/drive around Manchester with their GPS receivers, recording the locations of all the streets in the city (or as many as possible). This information can be used to make a streetmap of Manchester. They already did a similar workshop on the Isle of White.

The idea is to free the information. Although websites like,, and will give you a free map of Manchester, it’s not really free. It’s copyrighted. Want to print out a poster size detailed map of Manchester? Want to show a map of Manchester on a website? Want to create a new stylised map of Manchester? You can’t do any of that without breaching copyright.

…and what about building other clever geospacial applications? Google maps have an API for acheiving many clever mapping tricks, and embedding these on your own website. But they’re all based on linking into google, and the tricks only go so far. What about new websites / software to search and manipulate map data in new and innovative ways? Can’t do it. The data is copyrighted.

Generally the open source community is pretty quick to step in, when information is not available for free, but with map data it’s tricky. The underlying data all comes from the same source: The Ordnance Survey. A government agency which should be dishing out this information for free anyway (like in the U.S.). The act of looking at any map, and drawing another map based on it, is a breach of copyright. There are ways they can detect it.

So there’s only one thing for it… They’re going to go out there with GPS receivers, gather latitude/longitude readings, build maps from scratch, and release it all with an open licence!

Passing out

Yesterday I passed out. I’ve only passed out two and half times in my life. It’s a very weird feeling. Like falling into a dream, after which it seems like lots of time has passed, when it hasn’t.

The first time I only half passed out. Beezly will remember this well. We were riding down the hill from his house to my house, two people on a pedal bike, when we hit a pot-hole in the road. We swerved and both flew over the handlebars, at high speed. I landed on top of Beezly and kind of surfed on his face, leaving him a lot worse off than me injury-wise.

But for some reason the shock of the incident caused me to start seeing stars. I slumped over a nearby wall and felt myself start to lose conciousness. I dont think I actually passed out, but eventually the stars filled my vision completely, and I lost control of my limbs. My legs couldn’t take my own weight, as Beezly and the other guy carried me somewhere to sit down. Given that Beezly’s face was pooring with blood, I was being a bit of a wuss. …This must’ve been about ten years ago now.

The second time I had been lying on the sofa for hours watching a long episode of touch of frost. It came to a commercial break, and I stood up and ran upstairs to use the toilet. I quickly felt very dizzy, and sat down on the toilet. I put my head between my knees, but it was too late. I woke up sprawled all over the bathroom floor, with my trousers round my ankles and my ear pressed against the base of the sink. This left me with a painful bruise on the side of my head, I must’ve hit the sink quite hard. Luckily not too hard. I wouldn’t have wanted to be found dead in that position. …This was a couple of year ago.

The third time was yesterday! I went snowboarding with my housemates. I’d been out drinking the night before, and what with the early start, I was feeling a little ill. We went up in the gondala and did one run down. I was having fun, but starting to feel a little rough. Then in a crowded gondala on the way to the top of the mountain again, I started feeling very ill. I told my mates I was going to be sick, which prompted the usual joking discussions about seafood etc, but then strangely, rather than spewing all over their feet, I passed out. I woke up on the floor of the gondala, lying on my back, with a whole crowd of swiss skiers looking down at me. One of them was holding my legs above me, which I think helped the blood come back to my head. The hangover was a factor, but I had only become ill later on in the morning, and very suddenly. I decided that it was probably more to do with the undercooked egg I ate for breakfast yesterday morning.