It’s the morning of the wedding. Somehow I’ve found myself only the smallest number of tasks to be responsible for between now and the ceremony itself, at 10am, but I’m sure we’ll find some way to make that balloon soon enough! My primary mission in the meantime is to act as a communications hub in the lobby of the hotel at which most of the wedding party are camped. Nice and easy. Might even find time for a second rehearsal of my (rapidly-adjusted, yesterday night) speech.
Sounds like some of the bride & groom’s more-distant guests are on the road, too, from places like Oxford and Cardiff. How do I know this? Because they’re letting me know how bad the traffic is! Don’t yet know if any of this is a result of ice and snowfall: we were told that Telford would be unaffected and Rowton Castle (where the reception is) would be cold but clear, too, but looking out of my window this morning I saw small amounts of snow laying on the grass and pavements even at this low altitude. Drive carefully, folks!
Ruth, JTA and I are on our way to Telford where, tomorrow, they’ll be married. Ruth is bouncing with excitement. The car’s chock-full of suits and dresses and cases and wedding favours. It’s been a crazy few weeks and a crazy morning, but the ball’s rolling now.
I’m feeling really energised about the whole thing. Bring it on.
So in order to distract myself from it during this 5-minute moment-to-breathe, I’d like to share with you some photos on the subject of “living with Paul“. As usual, click on a picture for a larger version.
Our shopping trips have become in different ways both more and less organised, thanks to Paul (seen here posing under a “single lemon” sign). More organised in that Paul does a sterling job of making sure that our shopping list whiteboard is up-to-date, and less organised in that we’re even less likely to comply with it… not least because it’s cute the way that his little head explodes when we deliberately and maliciously make minor deviations in our shopping plans.
Well-known as somebody who outright rejects Twitter, Facebook and the like, Paul’s come up with his own mechanism for sharing his current status with those he cares about: the low-tech alternative – note cards. Held up by a WALL-E figurine at the door to his room, Paul keeps us up-to-date with a series of about half a dozen pre-written messages that cycle in accordance with what he’s up to at any given time. They’re quickly out of date (right now, it says “In. Please wave.” but he’s clearly not here), limited in length, and mundane, just like the vast majority of Twitter posts… but at least he’s not attempting to subject the world to them. I’m still not sure, though, whether this tiny protest against social networking (if that’s what it is) is sheer genius, complete insanity, or perhaps both.
Paul is now officially in charge of all Yorkshire pudding production on Earth, after we enjoyed this gargantuan beast.
Right: my break’s over and I need to get back to my mountain of work. If you’ve not had your fill of Paul yet, then I point you in the direction of a video he’s just uploaded to YouTube…
I’ve been playing about with the beta of Firefox 4 for a little while now, and I wanted to tell you about a feature that I thought was absolutely amazing, until it turned out that it was a bug and they “fixed” it. This feature is made possible by a handful of other new tools that are coming into Firefox in this new version:
App tabs. You’re now able to turn tabs into small tabs which sit at the left-hand side.
Tab groups. You can “group” your tabs and display only a subset of them at once.
I run with a lot of tabs open most of the time. Not so many as Ruth, but a good number. These can be divided into three major categories: those related to my work with SmartData, those related to my work with Three Rings, and those related to my freelance work and my personal websurfing. Since an early beta of Firefox 4, I discovered that I could do this:
Group all of my SmartData/Three Rings/personal tabs into tab groups, accordingly.
This includes the webmail tab for each of them, which is kept as an App Tab – so my SmartData webmail is an app tab which is in the SmartData tab group, for example.
Then – and here’s the awesome bit – a can switch between my tab groups just be clicking on the relevant app tab!
Time to do some SmartData work? I just click the SmartData webmail app tab and there’s my e-mail, and the rest of the non-app tabs transform magically into my work-related tabs: development versions of the sites I’m working on, relevant APIs, and so on. Time to clock off for lunch? I click on the personal webmail tab, look at my e-mail, and magically all of the other tabs are my personal ones – my RSS feeds, the forum threads I’m following, and so on. Doing some Three Rings work in the evening? I can click the Three Rings webmail tab and check my mail, and simultaneously the browser presents me with the Three Rings related tabs I was working on last, too. It was fabulous.
The other day, Firefox 4 beta 7 was released, and this functionality didn’t work any more. Now app tabs aren’t associated with particular tab groups any longer: they’re associated with all tab groups. This means:
I can’t use the app tabs to switch tab group, because they don’t belong to tab groups any more, and
I can’t fix this by making them into regular tabs, because then they won’t all be shown.
I’m painfully familiar about what happens when people treat a bug as a feature. Some years ago, a University Nightline were using a bug in Three Rings as a feature, and were outraged when we “fixed” it. Eventually, we had to provide a workaround so that they could continue to use the buggy behaviour that they’d come to depend upon.
So please, Mozilla – help me out here and at least make an about:config option that I can switch on to make app tabs belong to specific tab groups again (but still be always visible). It was such an awesome feature, and it saddens me that you made it by mistake.
You may remember that earlier this year I wrote a letter to Google suggesting that they ought to publicise the number of Samaritans to people searching for suicide-related topics: sort-of like a free Featured Link, but just advertising the phone number of a support service that, in particular, provides emotional support to those who are having suicidal thoughts.
Video game movies are notoriously bad, no matter how awesome the game that inspired them. Wing Commander took a classic video game series and completely ruined it. Doom was incredibly dull, even though it was based on one of the most popular game series that have ever exited. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time had so much potential and the chance to draw from the multi-rebooted Prince of Persia video games, but in the end its only redeeming feature was that it co-starred Richard Coyle, whose earlier appearance in hit comedy series Coupling lead Ruth, JTA and I to rename the film after his character from that series, calling it The Legend of King Jeff, which would honestly have been a better film.
And let’s not forget the truly dire Street Fighter: The Movie, which ultimately lead to the short-lived arcade game Street Fighter: The Movie – The Game, attempting to cash in on the film before the developers realised that this wasn’t actually a very good idea. And it’s only the eighth-worst video game movie of all time, according to this video on GameTrailers. Let’s face it: video games don’t convert well to films.
That said, I’ve had an idea for a video game-inspired film that I think could really be good. Or, at least, so awful it’d be good.
Don’t you dare tell me that you wouldn’t go to the cinema to see Asteroids: The Movie: CGI like this just has to be enjoyed on the big screen.
The plot is as follows: Earth governments have been secretly tracking an enormous asteroid for many years. Under the cover story of satellite launches, they’ve been firing nuclear weapons at long distances to try to destroy or deflect the mass, but all they’ve managed is to break it up into many hundreds of smaller (but still devastatingly-huge) rocks, many of which are still headed towards our planet.
We’re introduced to our main characters: a cocky ace fighter pilot who’s just been expelled from his wing group for being too cocky and ace, a young and immature geek who spends his life playing retro video games, and a love interest who spurns both of them and is probably employed by the shady government agency. Early in the film, she acts professionally and doesn’t approve of the other main characters’ respective aggressive self-confidence/childish behaviour, but eventually the three become closer as they work together (and probably save one another’s lives a few times).
Recruited for their various “talents” they’re recruited to pilot an experimental spaceship right out into the asteroid field and fire their cannons to destroy them. All is going well, but there are occasional sightings of fast-moving metallic objects around the edges of the field. These turn out to be aliens (in flying saucer like spaceships) who had originally propelled the enormous rock towards Earth in an effort to wipe out humankind, who they – as a result of their warlike culture – perceive as a threat to their galactic dominance. Earth has been on the brink of cracking faster-than-light travel for a while now, as evidenced by secret test flights of the ships which preceded the vessel used in the movie, and this makes the aliens twitchy.
There’s a fight, and it momentarily looks like the aliens stand to destroy the human ship. “This isn’t a video game: we don’t get extra lives!” shouts the love interest character, at one point. “No,” agrees the geek, “But we do have this…” He engages the highly-experimental “hyperspace jump drive” and the ship disappears just seconds before the alien missiles destroy it.
While drifting in hyperspace, the crew find evidence of the aliens’ culture and history, and the other planets they’ve destroyed. They also discover a possible weakness. They’re just beginning to understand what they have to do when they reappear in normal space, apparently only a split second after they disappeared. The chase is on as the aliens pursue the humans through the asteroid field in an exciting chase scene. Finally, the humans discover what they need to do to penetrate the alien shields, and fire upon them. They rush away as the alien ship explodes, vapourising the remaining asteroids as it goes.
The crew return to Earth as heroes.
Now: isn’t that at least as good as whatever Hollywood would come up with? And it’d certainly be far better than the Super Mario Brothers movie.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to hear a reading of a fantastic piece of erotic literature, Skinheads, by a friend of mine, Jacqueline Applebee. The story isn’t just wonderfully naughty, it’s also full of edge-of-your-seat apprehension on behalf of the protagonist as she explores a terrifying taboo. This week I was delighted to hear that this fantastic story will be appearing in next year’s Best Women’s Erotica (this annual volume, edited by Violet Blue, can always be relied upon for some fabulous bedtime reading: or listening, if you’ve got an erotica-reading buddy… or if Violet gets around to putting a reading into her podcast, Open Source Sex).
So there you go – a plug for Best Women’s Erotica, and in particular for next year’s edition in which you’ll find a great contribution by a particularly worthwhile writer.
With their wedding just around the corner, Ruth and JTA had a combined stag/hen party weekend, a couple of weeks back. You’ve probably already seen part one and part two – here’s the finale! Click on pictures if you want to see them larger.
A Simpler Breakfast
Compared to the big fry-up of the day before, Sunday’s breakfast was a far simpler continental-style affair with croissants and fruit.
For today’s event, many of us had decided to dress as superheroes/costumed heroes/costumed vigilantes (Paul wouldn’t let me use the generic term superheroes to describe those without superpowers, and JTA objected to the notion that his costume – Rorscach from Watchmen – could be considered a hero, so I’m using these three terms together in order to satisfy everybody).
I was The Flash, which pipped my first choice – Bananaman – to the post after I became concerned that Bananaman’s cape would prohibit me from wearing a climbing harness (in actual fact, it wouldn’t have caused any problem, as Owen – dressed as Batman – demonstrated).
Needless to say: all being dressed as comic book characters quickly lead to a series of play fights and staged photos.
This silliness persisted all the way to our destination.
Which, in case you hadn’t guessed already, was…
Ruth and I had been together to a Go Ape! centre before, while celebrating our third anniversary last summer, and she’d decided that it was so much fun that it should absolutely be on the list of activities for the Stag/Hen weekend event. As Siân once wrote: you get to channel your inner Indiana Jones and traverse ricketty bridges between the tree tops, jump from platform to platform, scramble across cargo nets and… fly down the zip lines.
Of course, everything is even more fun when you do it wearing a silly costume. Except perhaps putting on a climbing harness: this was particularly fun for Robin – dressed as Robin – when the instructor discovered the padded bulge in his tights while helping him tighten his straps.
Climbing, leaping, swinging, flying. Even the most cautious in our group got into the swing of things as they hopped from tree to tree across the ropes and bridges that stretched around the forest. The tarzan swings – and especially the second one, with it’s “drop off” before the rope catches you – were particularly awesome at the Black Park Go Ape course. Needless to say, we got plenty of attention from confused-looking ramblers on the ground as they saw costumed heroes leaping around above them.
There’s also a lot of fun to be had in playing at being superheroes and fighting atop a high platform, punching your opponent and sending them flying (secured to a wire, of course) off the side and away. Yes, we played like little kids, and it was awesome.
After we’d come down from the trees, we ate lunch – leftovers from breakfast, mostly – and greeted passing children with calls of “Did somebody call for a superhero?” The original plan would have seen us go to a nearby sauna/spa to chill out at the end of such a long weekend, but we’d spent so long playing about at Go Ape! that we decided to drop this from the plan, and instead call an end to a fantastic weekend.
All in all, a fantastic weekend. Huge thanks to everybody who came and helped to make it a success. See you at the wedding!
If anybody’s interested, there’s a gallery of many of the photos we took, including the ability to download the high-resolution versions in a convenient ZIP file for your offline use, here.
Matt, Paul and I kick-started everybody’s morning with an enormous fry-up. We’d be needing every calorie for what was to come next.
We spent most of the day at a nearby paintball centre. We got quite horribly lost on the way there, and it took a few attempts for our convoy of cars to finally find the place. I’ve never seen a paintball centre so large, before – everywhere I’d been has catered for up to about 80 people at once, maximum, but this place was enormous. Packed in with hundreds – maybe thousands – of other players, we were herded like cattle through our boot camp and equipment handout.
My team – Team Black – kicked arse, and not just because there were more of us than our rivals, Team Gold (which was especially true after a handful of Team Gold members were thrown out after one was messing about with his mask). I particularly enjoyed working alongside Ruth’s brothers as a three-man assault team during some of the more team-oriented scenarios.
It wasn’t for everyone, though. Perhaps because of the atmosphere, or the stretched-to-breaking-point old equipment, or the half-arsed attitudes of the staff, it was only to be as much fun as you made it. And, of course – as with any war – there were injuries.
The moral: in future, stick to the small, friendly paintball centres and not the behemoths.
Troma Night On Location
We raced back to Jordans to fight for the limited supplies of hot water for showering, and then got started at setting up for a wedding-themed Troma Night On Location. Ruth & JTA had chosen four films – an old one, a new one, a borrowed one, and a blue one – to use as our theme, but after a day of running around and being shot at, not one of us was particularly optimistic that we’d be able to sit through all of them!
Our first film was the topical How To Murder Your Wife, an underrated and fabulously funny adventure in lost bachelorhood. We ordered pizza from the nearest Dominos’ (still a couple of towns away), and had a large stack of pizzas dropped off with us only about 40 minutes; not bad considering the distance and how well-hidden the hostel is.
And then we stopped showing films for a little while…
You see: as a Best Man, I have certain responsibilities, and there are certain traditions that ought to be upheld. One of these traditions is that it’s not really a stag night unless there’s a stripper. So I hired a stripper.
Given our mixed-gender/sexuality/outlook group, I made sure to warn everybody that this was going to happen… well, everybody except JTA, anyway, who seemed quite genuinely surprised when I announced that there was a special guest here to see him, and opened the door to “nurse Kitty”.
“Did somebody call for a nurse?” she said, “Is… JTA here?” JTA’s hand went up, slightly sheepishly, as Kitty slid around in front of him and checked his temperature (I’m sure that when NHS professionals do this it involves less breast-on-face action) and pulse (I’m not sure that conventional medical practice requires that this is done with a thigh, but who am I to argue with a nurse who’s suddenly wearing a lot less than when she came in.
Peeping at the contents of her nurse’s bag as she put away the thermometer, I caught a glimpse of what was yet to come: baby oil… whipped cream… and – Lucky Stars? That’s a new one on me. But all became clear by the time the CD player had started the second song and the slender young lady in front of us was wearing tine cones of whipped atop her nipples, each topped with a small milk chocolate star. “I didn’t think I liked Lucky Stars,” JTA said, later, “But those were pretty good.”
Ruth had been worried that this diversion from the night would be incredibly socially awkward, but it wasn’t. Thanks to a little injection of humour and a little bit of warning (at least for everybody except JTA), everything was fun and friendly (as well as pretty hot). And Kitty hung around with us afterwards for a while to drink and chat, and turns out to be a really interesting person with a fascinating “day job” (I won’t mention what it was here because the last thing we want is to “out” her as a stripper to her mother, who doesn’t know about her other job).
(there’s a video somewhere which I’ll share with you if the person responsible for it ever gets me a copy)
There’s actually a whole blog post worth of writing about hiring a stripper to come to an inaccessible village in the middle of nowhere, how to handle cancellations, and more – but I’ll save that for another time, if anybody’s interested.
Back to Troma Night
And so we got back to Troma Night and our second film – one of my favourites – The Mating Habits Of The Earthbound Human. I really love this film, and it was great to be with folks who’d never seen it before; to see their happy little faces at the conception analogy used in the film, for example – a wonderful little joke in a brilliant movie.
And then, we gradually drifted off to bed, one by one. Nobody had the energy for even a third film, never mind a fourth, and we’d need a surprising amount of energy for tomorrow’s activity… [to be continued]
On this day in 2009 I’d just announced that Claire and I had broken up after our seven year relationship. I attacked Virgil‘s omnia vincit amor (love conquers all), countering that our love for one another was not sufficient to prevent the difficulties we’d been having. That the breakup was among the most structured, carefully-negotiated, and amicable of I’ve ever heard detracted only a little from the pain of the ending of the romantic part of our relationship.
You’ll note that I’ve always been careful not to say that our relationship ended, because it didn’t. It changed: we transitioned (bumpily, and with difficulty) from a romantic relationship to a friendly relationship. You’ll also notice that I don’t use the term “just” friends unless that clarification is absolutely necessary (after all, why are friends “just” friends: what’s wrong with friends? – I’ve another blog post on this very topic under construction).
It’s gotten easier, over this last year, to deal with the breakup: but it’s still hard. We had a huge place in one another’s lives, and that doesn’t simply evaporate. From my perspective, at least, I still feel at least a little bit “derailed”: like, if you asked me 18 months ago about where I’d be living now, or what I’d be doing, then I wouldn’t be able to say with any certainty that it would be this life I now have. That’s not to say I’m not happy: I’m enjoying what I’m doing now (although a little more free time wouldn’t go amiss!). It’s merely that I haven’t yet fully got used to the fact that I’m not quite living in accordance with the same plans that I used to have.
There are folks who’ve criticised our breakup, saying that we’d both have recovered from it better had we tried harder not to keep in contact, not to remain friendly, etc. I don’t know whether I agree or not – but I dispute that it would have necessarily been better. One thing that’s actually been really helpful over the last year (for me, at least, and I’d guess for Claire too) is that we’ve been able to get support from one another. That’s a remarkable and unusual thing: but then, we were a remarkable and unusual couple.
And isn’t supporting one another what friends do?
Getting better all the time. Sorry to mope.
This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.
With their wedding just around the corner, Ruth and JTA had a combined stag/hen party weekend, a couple of weeks back (yes, I know it’s taken me a while to blog about it. Here’s some of the highlights. As usual, click pictures for bigger versions.
Most of the party was to take place at the youth hostel in a Buckinghamshire village called Jordans. With a little sweet-talking to the lady who runs the hostel – which we’d rented outright for the weekend – we were able to check-in a little early, to at least be able to leave our bags and cars there.
Matt, who was to join us for the next part of the adventure, was running late, so we explored the nearby Quaker meeting house – one of the oldest, right on our doorstep, and the burial place of William Penn – while we waited for him to show up.
Eventually we had to set off to London without him, on the train. We hid his train ticket inside the least-likely-looking leaflet we could find at the train station, texted him instructions to find it, and got underway.
Paul split from us shortly after Marylebone Station to pursue a quest of his own: to find a stack of foreign candy and purchase it. Meanwhile, we went on to…
The festivities started with lunch in Volupté for Ruth and JTA, accompanied by maid-of-honour Matt (when he caught up with us) and I. You might recall that Ruth, JTA and I had been before for their “afternoon tease” a few months ago, and loved it. Volupté is a fantastic little burlesque club buried in the middle of London, and we enjoyed their ostentatious and eccentric cocktails as we ate our dinner, listened to some live music, and watched JTA help a young lady undress by tugging on the end of one of the series of wrap-around dresses she wore.
Given our dormitory-style accommodation, he probably thought that this would be the only time he’d be helping a young lady to undress all weekend, but this assumption would turn out to be false later in the weekend…
Ruth & Dan’s Stag/Hen Party Game Which They Couldn’t Agree On A Name For
Back at Jordans, our other guests were beginning to arrive. Ruth’s brothers, Owen and Robin, were among the first, followed by Alec and Suz, Siân, Adrian and Abby. That’s when we got the phone call from Liz.. giggling as she went (perhaps from the painkillers?) she wanted to apologise that she and Simon wouldn’t be able to make it, because she’d suffered a rather unpleasant injury. And so began the first of our evening’s entertainments: coming up with awful and tasteless puns about poor Liz’s accident.
As our chefs in the kitchen prepared everybody’s dinner, Ruth and I began to explain the rules of Ruth & Dan’s Stag/Hen Party Game Which They Couldn’t Agree On A Name For.
Two teams were formed. The aim for each team was to help their team-mates traverse a Twister mat by competing in a series of challenges to win a number of “spins” of the Twister spinner. When a team-mate got across the mat, they were awarded a hat; and the first team to be entirely “hatted” is the winner. Easy, right?
The challenges were about as varied as Ruth and I could manage to come up with. The first, for example, had blindfolded players trying to solve a jigsaw under the (verbal-only) guidance of the rest of their team. Another required the team to transport water from a stack of jugs to a distant bucket using only a leaky length of guttering. A third had each team playing charades.
Remarkably, few people were hurt. Sure, the water-pistol-fight-while-carrying-lit-candles game was pretty safe, but the “human jousting”, which saw piggybacking riders attempt to dismount their competitors by beating them with foam swords, stopped barely short of bruising poor Suz as she was repeatedly whipped by Matt.
Quite-remarkably, Alec lost to Paul in a doughnut-eating competition. Meanwhile, the most spectacular bobbing-for-apples competition ever seen – between JTA and Owen – ended with a spectacularly close and exciting finish… and water pretty much everywhere.
Drunk, tired, and – in some cases – wet and covered in doughnut crumbs, we went to bed. Tomorrow was to be a long day… [to be continued]