On This Day In 2005

Looking Back

On this day in 2005 (actually tomorrow, but I needed to publish early) I received an unusual parcel at work, which turned out to contain a pan, wooden spoon, tin of spaghetti hoops, loaf of bread… and an entire electric hob.

A parcel from Paul, containing everything required to make a "proper" plateful of spaghetti hoops on toast.
A parcel from Paul, containing everything required to make a "proper" plateful of spaghetti hoops on toast.

This turned out, as I describe in my blog post of the day, to have been the result of a conversation that the pair of us had had on IRC the previous day, in which he called me a “Philistine” for heating my lunchtime spaghetti hoops in the office microwave. This was a necessity rather than a convenience, given that we didn’t have any other mechanism for heating food (other than a toaster, and that’s a really messy way to heat up tinned food…).

It was a different time: a time when the lives of many of my friends were still centered around academic persuits (Siân was working on and handing in her dissertation, as was Liz, Claire was getting results back, Ruth was stressed out by a useless student on her team, Paul took things too far, and even JTA was suffering: struggling with his wordcount of an essay that he considered handing in late). It was a time when our evenings were being consumed watching Knightmare (my blog posts mentioning: the first series, first half of second series, second half of second series, Ruth’s commentary) or at the Ship & Castle (both, sadly, without Sian). It was a time when Andy worked at the cafe under The Flat, like we were all in some kind of sitcom or something.

It was clearly a time when we were all blogging quite regularly: apologies for the wall of links (a handful of which, I’m afraid, might be restricted). Be glad that I spared you all the posts about the 2005 General Election, which at the time occupied a lot of the Abnib blogosphere. We were young, and idealistic, and many of us were students, and most of us hadn’t yet been made so cynical by the politicians who have come since.

Another shot of the parcel. This wasn't posted, mind: he lugged this over to my office by hand, and dropped it off at the reception desk.
Another shot of the parcel. This wasn't posted, mind: he lugged this over to my office by hand, and dropped it off at the reception desk.

And, relevantly, it was a time when Paul was able to express his randomness in some particularly quirky ways. Like delivering me a food parcel at work. He’s always been the king of random events, like organising ad-hoc hilltop trips that turned out to be for the purpose of actually releasing 99 red (helium) balloons. I tried to immortalise his capacity for thinking that’s not just outside the box, but outside the known Universe, when I wrote his character into Troma Night Adventure, but I’m not sure I quite went far enough.

Looking Forward

It seems so long ago now: those Aberystwyth days, less than a year out of University myself. When I look back, I still find myself wondering how we managed to find so much time to waste on categorising all of the pages on the RockMonkey wiki. I suppose that nowadays we’ve traded the spontaneity to say “Hey: card games in the pub in 20 minutes: see you there!” on a blog and expect it to actually work, for a more-structured and planned existence. More-recently, we’ve spent about a fortnight so far discussing what day of the week we want out new monthly board games night to fall on.

There’s still just enough of the crazy random happenstances in my life, though. As I discovered recently, when I once again received an unusual and unexpected parcel in the post. This time, it wasn’t from Paul, but from Adam, who’d decided to respond in a very literal fashion to my tongue-in-cheek suggestion that he owed me tea, and a keyboard.

Several boxes of fruit and herbal teas.
The second of the two unexpected parcels I received from Adam.

I got the chance to live with Paul for a couple of years, until he moved out last month. I’m not sure whether or not this will ultimately reduce the amount of quirkiness that I get in my diet, but I’m okay either way. Paul’s not far away – barely on the other side of town – so I’m probably still within a fatal distance of the meteor we always assumed would eventually kill him.

We’ve turned what was his bedroom into an office. Another case of “a little bit less random, a little bit more structure and planning”, perhaps, in a very metaphorical way? Maybe this is what it feels like to be a grown-up. Took me long enough.

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

Hash Abnib

When I relaunched Abnib the other week (which I swear I didn’t expect to have to do, until people started complaining that I was going to let it die – this genuinely wasn’t some “marketing” stunt!), I simultaneously brought back Abnib Chat (#abnib), the IRC channel.

I blame Jen for this. She told me that she missed the long-dead #rockmonkey chat room, and wanted it (or something similar) back, so I decided to provide one. Hell; if Jen wanted it, maybe other people wanted it to? And it’s an easy thing to set up, I thought.

Personally, I thought that the chat room would be a flop. I’d give it a go, of course, but I didn’t hold up much hope for its survival. When Abnib first launched, back in 2003, the Abnibbers were all students first and foremost. Now, they’ve all got jobs, and many of those jobs aren’t of a variety compatible with sitting on an IRC channel all day. And at night? We’ve got money, nowadays, and homes, and spice, and all kinds of activities that consume our lives on an evening. Many of us get what our younger student selves would call an “early night” every day of the week, and there’s always so much to do that shooting the breeze over a laborious IRC channel simply isn’t compatible with our lives any more.

Looks like I was right. Here’s the channel activity for the first fortnight of the new Abnib Chat:

#abnib participants in June 2011

Sure, the 1st of the month was busy, but not very busy: in actual fact, many of the people who were “around” were only around briefly, and one of those – Guest1332 – didn’t even identify themselves.

We’ve all got new ways of communicating now. Some folks are using Twitter (I occasionally read the feeds of those who write in a way that I’m permitted to see, but I don’t “tweet” myself). Others use Facebook (for a given definition of “use”, anyway). Others still continue to blog (that’s the medium for me: I think I’m just a little too wordy for anything less). In any case; we’re like Abnib: The Next Generation, and we’ve got reliable transporters and replicators and all kinds of cool shit, and hanging around in an IRC channel just feels kind of… backwards.

Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Star Trek recently.

Anyway – unless people object to that, too (seriously?),  I’ll be turning off Iggy later this month: so if you’ve got something important to say to him, say it soon! I’ll leave the “Chat” button on Abnib because it’s lazier than removing it, and you never know if somebody might find a use for it, but I think it’s time to declare the channel “dead”.

Abnib Lives On

Okay, okay, I get it!

After my blog post a few days ago about the imminent death of the oft-neglected Abnib, I received a surge of complaints by IM, email, and comments. It turns out that a higher-than-expected number of you are actually using the site on a daily basis.

So I’ve extended its life by a further two years, at least. I’ve also done some quick hacking to put together a new, more-maintainable framework for it. I give to you all: Abnib 7.0!

Abnib 7.0. It's survived being shot in the head twice now, so we can be sure that it's not a zombie.

Features not in 6.0 but now present include:

  • Easier to maintain; so when new blogs appear or old ones disappear, there’s a chance that it’ll be kept up-to-date.
  • Really ugly new skin thrown together in a few minutes.
  • Combined RSS and OPML feeds, to make it easy for you to switch to a better aggregator, as I assumed you all already had.
  • It’s a little faster to update itself and a lot faster to use.
  • Abnib Tweets, for those of you who are of the twittering persuasion. I’m not, so if there’s anybody I’ve missed you’ll have to let me know.
  • Abnib Rockmonkey – a random daily snippet from the long-dead Rockmonkey wiki.
  • Abnib Chat, the return of the abandoned chat room. Hey; if people still want Abnib, maybe they still want this, too… but I shan’t hold my breath! And no, the old Rockmokney bot, Iggy, isn’t there, so there’ll be no random cries of “Surfboard!” unless you bring them yourself.

Update: Wow. So far the chat room’s seen Matt R, Ruth, Bryn, Claire and me. Just not at the same time. It’s just like old times (although Iggy, who I just reinstated, is yet to say “surfboard” even once…)

The Death of Abnib

Next month, Abnib will die.

It’s been unmaintained for several years now, just ticking along under its own steam and miraculously not falling over. Nowadays, everybody seems to understand (or ought to understand) RSS and can operate their own aggregator, so there doesn’t really seem to be any point in carrying on running the service. So when the domain name comes up for renewal next month, I shan’t be renewing it. If somebody else wants to do so, I’ll happily tell them the settings that they need, but it’ll be them that’s paying for it, not me.

“But I still use Abnib!” I hear you cry. Well, here’s what you can do about it:

Option 1 (the simple-but-good option): switch to something better, easily

RSS aggregators nowadays are (usually) free and (generally) easy to use. If you don’t have a clue, here’s the Really Simple Guide to getting started:

  1. Download the Abnib OPML file (https://danq.me/abnib.opml) and save it to your computer. This file describes in a computer-readable format who all the Abnibbers are.
  2. Go to Google Reader and log in with your Google Account, if you haven’t already.
  3. Click Settings, then Reader Settings.
  4. Click Import/Export.
  5. Click Browse… and select the file you downloaded in step #1.
  6. Click Upload

Ta-da! You can now continue to read your favourite Abnib blogs through Google Reader. You’ve also got more features, like being able to not-subscribe to particular blogs, or (on some blogs) to subscribe to comments or other resources.

You don’t have to use Google Reader, of course: there are plenty of good RSS readers out there. And most of the good ones are capable of importing that OPML file, so you can quickly get up-and-running with all of your favourite Abnib blogs, right off the bat.

Option 2: switch to something better, manually

As above, but instead of downloading and uploading an OPML file, manually re-subscribe to each blog. This takes a lot longer, but makes it easy to choose not to subscribe to particular blogs. It also gives you the option to use a third-party service like FreeMyFeed to allow you to subscribe to LiveJournal “friends only” posts (which you were never able to do with Abnib), for example.

Option 3: continue to use Abnib (wait, what?)

Okay, so the domain name is expiring, but technically you’ll still be able to use Abnib for a while, at least, so long as you use the address http://abnib.appspot.com/. That won’t last forever, and it will be completely unmaintained, so when it breaks, it’s broken for good. It also won’t be updated with new blog addresses, so if somebody changes where their blog is hosted, you’ll never get the new one.

Goodbye, Abnib…

It’s been fun, Abnib, but you’ve served your purpose. Now it’s time for you to go the way of the Troma Night website and the RockMonkey wiki, and die a peaceful little death.

Dan’s April Fools’ Jokes This Year

After JTA and I’s monster plan for a great April Fools’ joke got rained-off this year (maybe another year), I just had to go ahead with two smaller April Fools’ gags this year.

The Photocopier Prank (click for full-size)

The Photocopier Prank

A nice simple joke at the expense of the people in the office building I work in (and far less complex than last year’s prank against the same): I found a document online, printed it out, and stuck it to the photocopiers.

It instructs users that the photocopier has been upgraded with voice controls, so you can just “tell it” to copy, collate, staple etc. and it’ll follow your instructions. The document goes on to explain that it’s in “learning mode” right now and it might not get everything right while it learns your voice, so be patient and take the time to repeat yourself slowly and carefully.

I haven’t got eyes on the copier, so I’ve no idea how many – if any – people it caught.

The Abnib Announce/Joke Of The Week Prank

For the last few years, I’ve run two a text-message based mailing lists (I’ve got unlimited texts as part of my mobile contract, so it’s as-good-as free for me to do this). The first, Abnib Announce, lets people in Aber know about Troma Night, Geek Night, and similar events. The second, Joke of the Week, goes to a far wider audience and shares, every Friday, the best (by a loose and arguable definition of the word) of the jokes I’ve heard over the previous seven days.

This morning I sent out the following message to both lists:

Abnib Announce/Joke of the Week Update:

Bad news, everyone. My network has been in touch to say that running these regular bulk SMS lists is a violation of their Fair Use agreement, so I can’t run them from my “free texts” package any more. The good news is they’ve offered an alternative. These lists will now become subscription-based SMS services. This will cost you no more than 15p per message received, and a maximum of £1 per week (so £2 per week if you’re on both lists). I’m supposed to ask for your permission before subscribing your number, but I know you’ll all agree anyway. If for some reason you DON’T want to continue receiving Joke of the Week or Abnib Announce at 15p per message, please text me back BEFORE the first message, this afternoon. Ta!

I’ve had a handful of great responses, so far, including:

  • Nice try.x
  • Them: The rotters, what a bargain, keep the jokes coming please sir
    Me: Seriously? When I made up those prices this April Fools’ Day I should have put them higher!
    Them: Hahaha, got me, first one too. Love to the crew
  • Halfway through a serious response to this i remembered what day it is…
  • April fool?
  • Totally not falling for that, sorry! Happy April Fools
  • Them: Hey dan. Sorry i cant do that on my phone as my mum Pays my contract
    Me: Happy April Fools’!
    Them: Hee.very good
  • Them: I dont want to pay thanks. I have enough problems with arguing with orange over my phone bill at the minute, thanks. Hope you are good.
    Me: April Fools’!
    Them: Is it april already?! Damn i fell for it again! Nice one :-)
  • Them: Take me off the lists please! Ill get info from [other subscriber] and jokes from sickipedia
    Me: Tell you what: because it’s you I’ll negotiate with your network: you’re on Orange, right? I’ve kidnapped the dog of the CEO of Orange; I’m pretty sure I can get him to waive the charges in your case.
    Them: Is vodaphone, and their ceo only has a parrot and 5 fish.
    Me: =op
  • Them: Im confused, if its 15p per message why is it £2 a week?
    Me: NO MORE THAN £2 a week (well, £1 per week per list). So 4 Joke Of The Week messages would be 60p, 8 would be £1, 20 would be £1. Remember that it’s usually a multipart message spanning 4/5 messages each week. Full terms and conditions apply.
    Them: Lol, sounds confusing, being a poor student i’ll have to pass i think, though i’ll miss moaning at your messages ;-)
    Me: Really? You’re actually going? And, even more unbelievably, you’re actually falling for this obvious April Fools’ gag?
    Me: Gotcha ;-)
    Them: Yup and yup lol :-P
  • Happy April Fools day!
  • Them: oh arse, i can’t as i don’t pay the phone bill. is it possible for you to put them online?
    Me: April Fools’, dummy!
  • Lol, good one. Did you manage to snare anyone?
  • Them: Textin back.no joke
    Me: Gotcha! April Fools’.

Man, I love this day of the year.

Claire Goes To Pisa

So, last weekend Claire moved out of The Cottage and into her new flat, the top floor of a somewhat-slanted building on Queen’s Road which I’ve tken to calling Pisa. I gather she’s planning a flatwarming party in the afternoon – if you’re on the Abnib Events SMS list, you’ll already have heard about this, and I’ll let you know more as soon as I have it.

For those of you for whom this comes as a surprise, I apologise. I’m aware that in some ways it’s become my duty to keep those of you who’ve left Aber for brighter pastures up-to-date about every little bit of gossip about what’s going on back here in the West, but between all of the things that have been keeping me busy of late – not limited to helping Claire gather all 700 pairs of her shoes, or however many there are (it certainly feels like somewhere in the region of 700), into boxes for her to transport to her new home – I’ve simply not had time to put regular effort into keeping you all up-to-date.

Claire stars in a video tour of her new place, if you want to look around.

To provide answers the questions I anticipate, before they’re asked:

No, nothing else changes. We’re still together, and, in fact, our relationships (already too complicated for some of you, I know) are all still just the same as they already were. I’m still right where I was in the middle of a wiggly W-shaped chain of people in a series of more-open-than-not relationships, with all the same people you’re used to. If you’ve been on another planet for the last couple of years, that is:

Sting (no, not really) – ClaireDanRuthJTA

Yes, everything still happens at The Cottage. Well, everything that already happened at The Cottage: that is – Troma Night, Whedon Night, and the ocassional Geek Night at those times when both (a) Rory is elsewhere and (b) I am not. And, as usual, my door is open for guests just about any time.

So, why the change? That’s a question sufficiently-complex to not be answerable with anything as short and catchy as this blog post is planned to be. The short answer is that Claire wanted some space that was “hers”, as in – hers alone, not something shared with me and, for half the week, with somebody else!

And how do I feel about all this: well, a little poorer, for one – it’s obviously more expensive for the pair of us to have a house and a flat than just a house, especially as this change coincides with a (long-overdue, to be fair) rent increase at The Cottage: we’re both going to have to budget significantly more carefully than we did previously. It’s also a significant change – after six and a half years of living together – that’ll take some getting used to, and it’s sometimes hard to remember that this isn’t a step backwards. But that apprehension aside, I’m still supportive of Claire’s wish to have a place to call her own.

Beth Sends Her Love, Aberites

While I was out having lunch at SALT with Ruth, JTA, and Claire, I missed a message from Beth, who’s currently out in Indonesia. She writes (or click the piccy, above, which also includes a great photo showing exactly what she seems to want to say to us all):

greetings!

you’ve left yourself signed in and buggered off I guess. Well, love to all Aberites xx

So, there we are, Aberites: I’ve passed on Beth’s love to you all. Never say I don’t give you anything.

Abnib Quotes

It only occurred to me the other week that there are lots of people who would probably want to know about Abnib Quotes – people, even, that are quoted on it – that don’t. And that’s probably my fault for not blogging about it.

So yeah – there’s an Abnib Quotes. It replaces the long-defunct RockMonkey wiki quotes pages, and it’s got cool Web 2.0 features like tagging and voting and Facebook integration and all that bollocks, and you, yes you, should be using it. If you haven’t already, go take a peep. If you haven’t in a while, go vote on the dozens of new quotes that have appeared since you last visited, and don’t forget that you can subscribe to the feed and get updates in your favourite newsreader.

Abnib Events

Abnib Events, InlineIn order to reduce the amount of time my blog spends being used to organise events like Black Red Dwarf Adder Nights and whatnot, I’ve launched Abnib Events, which aims to centralise the organisation of such get-togethers. You’ll also find that the next upcoming event appears on the Abnib front page, in the upper-right – like the upcoming Eurovision Night.

Obviously I’ll still end up mentioning these events here sometimes, but this still feels like a step forwards.

You’ll find that you’re able to subscribe to the XML or ICal feeds for the list of upcoming events, so if you use Google Calendar or similar software, you’ll be able to have Abnib Events appear right alongside your existing appointments. I’ll sort out RSS/Atom feeds for you newsreader fans at some point soon.

Right now, Paul and I are administrators of Abnib Events. If there are events you think are worth publicising to the Abnib community at large – Troma Night or other related film or TV series nights, barbeques and bonfires, house parties, nights out, board game or poker nights, for instance – get in touch with one of us two.

AbNib & Str8Up!

[this post was lost during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004; it was recovered on 21st March 2012]

Oh yeh; and, in case you hadn’t noticed – AbNib is down. And it’s not my fault! The server fucked up something rotten, but seems to be okay now. And whoever posted a comment to one of my entries the other day and had it not-appear; sorry: same issue.

I’ll try to get AbNib up again on Wednesday – my backup is at the office, and that’s when I’m next at work.

Went out to Str8Up! (Aber’s LGB Society’s event) at Bar Retro last night. Great night out with silly cocktails and dancing and general merriment. And I’d forgotten quite how horny it is to watch two guys – or two girls – getting it on. Fun in the sun.

And in other news, Tonari no Totoro, which I ordered from Japan on DVD last week, hasn’t arrived yet. It’s a great film. I hope it arrives in time for Troma Night on Saturday.

Next stop: Mecca, for lunch!

Thursday Afternoon

Good progress at work today, easily catching up on the things I didn’t get done yesterday on account of having been at the Royal Welsh Show.

AbNib is proving itself popular, but I’m still not happy with it: there are a load of really cool features I’d like to add, yet. But that’s a job for another day. I’ll be up in Lancashire this weekend for Andy‘s party and to visit my folks, so I can’t do it then, either.

Claire’s gotten herself temporarily sterilized with a fantastic hyperdermic full of progesterone and with the aid of the nice people at Aberystwyth Family Planning Clinic. Woo and indeed hoo. She’s (theoretically) a lot less likely to forget to have an injection every three months than she is to forget to take the pill: something she’s demonstrated herself to be very proficient at.

I’ve been excessivley stressed for the last 48 or so hours. I think it’s mostly a result of having no money and my paycheque still being a week away, and having to live off my credit card in the meantime (which I don’t like doing). Also that my crisp-wound in my mouth from the other day has developed into a spot which would probably heal faster and hurt less if I could stop playing with it, but I can’t. And that I’m not making nearly as much coding progress on Three Rings as I should be.

I have a strange urge to go for a long walk in the rain this evening. I hope it rains.

AbNib

I’m almost ready to launch AbNib (main site may be down during development, but try the temporary mirror), a site dedicated to the weblogs of Aberites: people who live in or love Aberystwyth.

There are some funky new and cool features to come. But this is a weblog-community in the making.

Rock on.