Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Last night was fun, a group of us met up in the Victorian in Bramhall. Nick Charlotte Helen Ian and Myself. As we arrived to a very packed bar, I saw one of the weirdest sights I have ever witnessed while stood at a bar. A young and very drunk young lad stood behind us guzzling a takeaway including shovelling a pie into his face and a cup of peas, it was very entertaining.

The Victorian was very very packed, and very humid so we decided to switch the venues. Mark and Helen joined us and we strolled over to Beluga. Unfortunately it was ticket only so we ended up sat outside Nappa. Eventually the cold had us move back inside.

Bruce, Wooller and Andy Bruce joined us in there. Bruce was in a great mood, still waiting on Nina to give birth. It was nice to see everyone chat and catch up.

I cadged a lift home with Bruce, and we exchanged our presents.

Today I went to my parents for Christmas dinner, they made the full works turkey stuffing sausage meat. It was delicious, and there is plenty more to have with Kath when she arrives. Kath bought me a new lens for my camera which is awesome. Wanda got me a gorilla tripod, cant wait to get out and try them.

Kath arrives from Poland tomorrow I cant wait to see her, that is the best Christmas present.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It was the night before Christmas

Nearly Christmas, next year I will be spending it with Kath, this year Christmas Day will be at my parents.

I had to work this morning, leaving at lunch in time to get my presents wrapped. I tok my parents theirs round, finding Jono and my aunty there. Was nice to say hello and merry Christmas. Next stop was Phil and Caroline, I dropped off their presents and saw his mum there. We had a quick chat and a coffee before I headed home for dinner and a change.

I am waiting for Ian to pick me up with Helen, we are planning an evening in Bramhall with Nick and Charlotte and maybe a few others.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Using to secure communications

I has been over a year since Edward Snowden first started releasing information on how the American secret service along with the "five eyes" (USA, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Australia) have been monitoring email, and network traffic of millions of people across the world. Including harvesting private pictures of peoples instant messenger chats and maybe even paying private companies to deliberately reduce security of encryption technology.

In the post Snoden era it pays to secure some of our communications to ensure rouge elements are not snooping.

I have used PGP in the past, however it has always been a  real pain to manage the keys and identities.  Finally it looks as though there is a solution. A new service called enables you to link Social accounts and emails to a PGP key. Basically making sending secure encrypted communications simple. It is well worth signing up, I have associated my twitter and github accounts.

If anyone fancies an account I have some invitations, tweet me a private message to @cookiesworld.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

All for the best

Friend or foe?
Wearables or technology that you can wear have become a big thing of the last few years. This is set to accelerate with he launch of the Apple watch next year. From the simple pedometers these devices have evolved to recorded detailed information about sleep, movement and even heart rate. Combined with mobile phones they can track a large amount of objective information.

These devices generally collect information to the cloud, held on third party servers. Now lawyers have cottoned on to the fact  a wealth of information is available. A case in the USA is using data from a Fitbit account in a personal injury case to demonstrate the objective and measured changes to the plaintiff's lifestyle.

I myself own a Fitbit  I use it to monitor my activity, it certainly has helped me walk more and be a little more active. It is disturbing to me to realise that lawyers could request this information. I imagine the intelligence authorities are or will be attempting to access this data soon, does elevated hear-rate mean somebody is running a marathon or, maybe planning a terror attack?

Saturday, October 25, 2014


This time last week I was arriving in Poland, after an early morning wake up, a short flight and queuing for what felt like an eternity at Modlin border control I met Kath and we boarded the coach bound for Bialystok.

That afternoon Kath, Wojciech and myself headed out to the Alpha department store to watch a Gone Girl at the cinema there. I had very much enjoyed reading the book and wondered how it would transfer to film. I really enjoyed what they did with the film, it lost a few details of the book but the characters really shined, especially Neil Patrick Harris as the creepy ex and Rosamund Pike.

We were a little speechless after the film, its pretty dark and asks a lot of questions so we went for a walk through the park to  get some Sushi at Tanoshii. We had an excellent platter of Sushi and some Japanese beer.

On Sunday Kath and I decided to have a lazy morning watching TV and enjoying each others company. We don't get enough time together so it was really nice. In the afternoon we went for a walk around Bialystok from her flat to the little Zoo. The wildcats and bears were out. I really enjoyed the wildcats, one of them was stalking round the cat like an more angry, less fluffy version of Coco, with a black harry potter lightning marking on his back.

The bears were being fed as we arrived so we only saw them for a few minutes as they headed into there home for dinner.

In the evening went for drinks, starting at Sherlock Holmes pub then onto Castle, then to a few more before taking a kebab back to the flat. Originally we had planned to meet up with some people but we ended up spending the evening together.

Tuesday was my last day in Poland. We had breakfast at Kaffka bistro, it was excellent fresh eggs delicately fried with bacon sausages with salad and fresh coffee. It filled me up until the evening. After breakfast we had a wonder round the park and took some papers Kath needed to the Polish GMC. Before boarding the coach for the long drive to Modlin before the flight home. Modlin airport is tiny, its a modern building but its overstretched supporting Ryanair. The gates were too small to hold the number of passengers getting on we flowed out into the next gate. After being hurried through by dire warnings over tannoy. I stood in a mass of people waiting, first we were let outside to stand under bus shelter type contraption while watching the passengers from another flight disembark.

I was fortunate with the weather while there was a storm in the UK Poland enjoyed a gorgeous Autumn day, I must have flown over the storm as when I arrived back in the UK there was no wind left but plenty of tree branches blown off.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

R.I.P iPod

Wired are reporting Apple have killed off the iPod. It had been on the fall every since the iPhone had been introduced. Oddly phones back then could play mp3, I remember my Nokia could, the problem was it was clunky, the Apple iPod was a thing of beauty, Jonny Ives industrial design. It did only one job playing music, but it did that very well.

A decade ago, I bought my first iPod, a 3rd generation, before they came up with the click wheel. I felt so excited getting it out of the box. Apple were far more generous back then, my 20GB iPod came complete with a dock, a combined USB and Firewire cable for super quick transfer of files.

In those days Apple were on the resurgence, they were cool but not popular in the way they are today. They were not the first company to have an MP3 player, but the iPod was simply better than the other players out there. I remember Bruce had bought a Creative DAP jukebox. It held a lot of music but it was large, clunky and took forever to load music thanks to the slow usb 1 interface. I steadfastly hung on to my sony mini disk player, which while it had better sound quality thanks to the Sony ATRACK compression only held an hour worth of music.

Buying an iPod considered with my second trip to Australia, I remember sitting on the flight playing what track is this with Danny, and listening to music in Paul's apartment in Kings Cross Sydney. I am sad to see iPod disappear, even if I didn't own one for years it  is linked to some special memories for me.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Holiday in Sicily: Taormina

After braving Etna we decided to go and visit the Greek / Roman amphitheatre in Taormina. It was a slightly longer drive than to Catania, again taking us onto the autostrada.
This time I failed to understand the signs and ended up taking the wrong lane and missing picking up a ticket for the autostrada. That meant when exiting at the super busy Taormina exit I had a problem. At first I had visions of a huge fine, fortunately playing the dumb tourist paid off and after serval minutes talking via intercom we paid the 1.60 euro fare.
Making the mistake of setting the sat nav to search for the amphitheatre we drove into Taormina, around and up up up way into the hills on narrow steep and scary roads with nowhere to turn. After about 40 minutes driving up down round and through the pedestrian zone we gave up and parked, parking was a ruinous 3 euro per hour but after the ups and downs I would have paid any price to get out of the car.

After a strong coffee, we found the the theatre is in the pedestrian part of town which we hadn't driven around. It was however worth all the effort, the views were spectacular, and the amphitheatre its self is incredible. Build by the Greeks then extended by the Romans perched with views over the Ionian coast. It must have been a thing of true wonder when it was build, they still do concerts there now, indeed they were setting up for an event. I think Philip would have been impressed.
After having a good look round and taking many pictures we headed back into Taormina for a wonder around the town. It is much more touristy than Acireale, indeed there were plenty of English tourists. We bought some souvenirs and had a walk. It is a picturesque and nice town but not so impressive as Dubrovnik was last year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Holiday in Sicily: Etna

What holiday in Sicily would be complete without a trip to Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. We decided to take one of the excursions in offered by Geo explorer after seeing their brochure in our hotel, and have it recommended to us by the receptionist.

Our guide picked us up from the hotel at 9.30am. Getting into the back of the 4x4 Landrover it was a little bit of a tight squeeze in the back with three other couples. The trip cost 50 Euro each plus 5 Euro shoe hire. I certainly would recommend the show hire as the scree could be difficult to negotiate in light shoes.

Our tour guide drove us up to the Etna park stopping first to the park a view inside a cave formed after a lava flow, a walk around an old crater at 2000M and a snack.

After the cave we headed further up Etna, looking at some of the past lava flows. The next stop was a basalt quarry, it was interesting to see how the lava cools, and where all the stone for the roads and buildings come from.

The trip then took us further up the Etna, first to a rest stop then on to the highest point of the trip the Silvestri Craters. These were old craters forming a line, one of which we walked round. The guide explained the process of their formation and pointed out some of the features like the rocks ejected out of the volcano. The views up there were nothing short of spectacular, though it was very crowded.

The final part of the trip was an excursion to a viewing point on the Southern side of Etna, here there were less lava flows but sometimes you can get a glimpse of the active area, this time we did not. The views were stunning though.

Finally we were taken down to the village of Zafferana for a snack. The snack was Arancini, a Sicilian delicacy. They are basically rice balls stuffed with ragu coated with breadcrumbs and fried.

I thought that the trip was a good value, especially considering the excellent context given by the guide and the lunch. I don't feel I would have appreciated some of this had we taken the trip alone. We did not get to see the active area, nor to the higher part above 2000 meters.

Holiday in Sicily: Catania

After several relaxing days we decided to venture from the Hotel and see some more of Sicily. We decided to start with Catania. A tourist and student hub Catania was destroyed by earthquake and volcanic eruptions in the 17th century and rebuilt in the baroque style.  Etna is still a visible presence on the horizon.

The drive to Catania was my second attempt at driving on the right. Again it made me curse Italian drivers for the total lack of empathy. They seem intent of barging through the smallest of gaps only to sit in traffic, honking their horns and gesticulating from behind the wheel.

Stall on the Catania fish market
We made the trip parking a short walk from the centre. Heading first to the fish market, we were pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant market with all sorts of fish from swordfish stake to sea urchins.

After absorbing the sights and smells of the market we stopped for a granita and a coffee in the centre of the town, the Fontana dell'Elefante. An impressive centre flanked by the Cathedral, the centre of which is taken by a rather odd looking statue of a smiling elephant topped with an Egyptian obelisk.

Bellini Theatre
We took a walk around Catania taking in the Cathedral, and the Bellini Theatre. As with Acireale there were many boutique shops. The outsides are sometimes scruffy but looking inside they are often incredible displays, almost art like in there objectification of the wares.

Holiday in Sicily

After arriving we spent a couple of lazy days enjoying relaxing by the pool. I read The Impossible Dead on my new Kindle Paperwhite.

The pool area was lovely, from the pool area you could see out to the sea. The pool itself was a good size if a little oddly shaped, we divided our time between the sun loungers, and the pool itself. Taking lunch al fresco on the terrace. The lunch menu consisted of either salad or a sandwich and a tall glass of Italian beer.

We did also find time to explore the town of Acireale. It is essentially a small compact town full of Churches. It is a popular place to get married and we witnessed a wedding virtually every day we walked around. Similarly to Spain the Sicilians take a siesta during the warmest part of the day, the shops close for this and reopen in the evening.

The architecture is particular to the region a mix of baroque, building are limestone with added basalt lifted from the many volcanic outpourings of Etna. This black and white effect has a pleasing effect and the buildings can be pretty.

There were a few decent restaurants in the town our favourite was Vecchia Aci. They commandeered a strip of park next to the Basilica creating a lovely outdoor area. There was took a bottle of Wine and a pizza, enjoying cool of the evening after a hot day.

Oddly we found in many of the places the starter before pizza is a plate of chips or crisps!

Holiday In Sicily: Arrival

Saint Sebastian Basilica
Kath and I decided to take our summer holidays in Siciliy this year. Neither of us had ever visited this part of Italy before, and the climate though hot being an Island was more hospitable than mainland Italy.

We left on Sunday morning flying form Manchester Airport Terminal 1, via EasyJet to Catania, Sicily. The flight was a brief 3 hour jaunt, slightly elongated by a delay leaving. This was thanks to the security at the airport.  They were really being thorough checking us in the security crewe, much more throughly than I remembered.

This year we decide to hire a car, I have never driven on the right side of the road before, and the car we were given was an automatic, another new experience. There followed a hair raising 45 minute drive, during which I learned, Italians don't follow any sort of traffic rules, Red light appear to be optional and right of way is determined by who gives first. We drove part of the way on the autostrada, a kind of low rent motorway which requires a toll. The toll from Acireale was 1.60 though the collection desk was closed so we didn't pay.

Fortunately we made it to the hotel safe and sound in spite of the super tight roads, my driving Kath's navigation managed to get us safely to the hotel.

The hotel was small and welcoming. We strolled passed the pool area to the desk and picked up the key. After a short siesta we headed out into the town to find some dinner. We stopped at a restaurant opposite the Saint Sebastian Basilica. I ate seafood pasta and Kath had a ravioli with spinach and ricotta in fish stew. It was a great way to start the holiday.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Uptight downtown

Mr Storm having a rest
Yesterday I dog sat Storm for my parents; they were going on a day out to Chester. Storm didn't seem too enthusiastic to start with. I took him for two walks one in the morning and one later before his tea time. He is getting old now only managed a couple of throws before he wanted to head back home. On the way back from the second walk he flopped down half way to have a rest.

Yesterday evening I met up with Bruce, he was showing off his new car; an Toyota Hilux. It is very awesome, leather seats aluminium lined trailer, I was very impressed.

Bruce myself and Jono went for a drink at the Unicorn, Bruce drove so we could have a ride in the beast.

The Unicorn was quiet, I wonder in contrast to the Bulls Head which was very busy.

Today is Kaths' birthday. Unfortunately I could not make it to Poland to visit as the flights are currently very expensive. Instead I surprised her with gifts I had her brother intercept, and with a bouquet of flowers. She seemed very happy, so win for husband.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bendy Man

Last night in an attempt to help improve my posture and flexibility I went to a Yoga class. I found BendyYoga via google.  I liked that this was a drop in class, mixed ability and open for all. I wanted to avoid making a block booking as required by yoga Bramhall. Just in case I didn't enjoy the class.

Last time I went to a Yoga class it was with Martina back in 2007, that class was in Cheadle on a Wednesday night. It was mostly middle aged women so I didn't feel like heading there on my own. Also given the instructor Julia was a friend of Martina, and the way Martina and I fell out with each other I decided there were too many reasons against.

There were about 9 people in the class plus the instructor. He started by working through some basic stretches, then more complex ones. Moving on the posture then finally meditation.

I found 80 minutes doing various poses was very challenging, I am anything but flexible. I knew my hamstrings were tight, however I had not realised how tight my arms and shoulders were. The room was very warm thanks to the day being hot. In spite of the heat thought I felt much better at the end.

Falling down

Last night Bruce came round last night. We watched the classic 1980s film falling down. Starring Michael Douglas as D-Fens a man struggling to cope with what he sees as flaws 1980s society.

The film opens with D-Fens sat in his overheating car, a fly buzzing round his head. Something snaps inside and gets out of the car and starts a long walk towards his home. During the walk he passes through the latino, and affluent areas.

It is an excellent, and complex film. The main character is D-Fens, a man who thinks of himself as the hero, on his way home to his family. On the way we learn more about D-Fens life and why he ended up so angry.

Oddly its one of the first films I can remember where the central character is so much of an anti hero, even if he doesn't know it. I also liked that there were good back stories for the cop on his last day came out from behind his desk to track down the man in the suit. The final scene in which the cop confronts d-fens suggesting that he always knew that he was on his way to kill his family and then himself; point of no return.

My favourite scene is in the burger joint where, firstly he in 5 minutes late so they wont sell breakfast, then after pulling a gun on the manager the burger he is given looks nothing like that image behind the counter delivers a speech about the ills of America to the terrified diners.

The sense of place and time was palpable, the phones booths, huge mobile phones graffiti, strong colours.

I think that the depiction of gangland were naive, the 80s was a time when the city was a dark and dangerous place crumbling while people escaped to the suburbs. Over my lifetime that has changed. Cities cleaned up there acts, now the city centre is a place people want to live and work.

Overall its a classic, well acted well shot and despite what be modern standard (think the wire ) has a naive portrayal of the Latin Americans is a great watch.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


I have just finished reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasionby Dr. Robert Cialdini. I picked up this book after hearing it talked about on Radio 4 a good read picked by Daniel Finkelstein, Associate Editor, columnist and leader writer for The Times, was also an adviser to John Major and William Hague.

In Influence Cialdini writes about the power of persuasion. Using examples drawn both from his own life and psychological studies he examines some common themes which lead us to be manipulated (or to manipulate). Each chapter is about a particular method including;
  • Reciprocation
  • Commitment
  • Social Proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity 
Each method is a unique example of how people in groups or as individuals react in certain circumstances. He gives specific example of how marketeers use this tactics, sometimes they do so even sub consciously to make us buy, buy more or give references. He also tells us how we can realise when specific methods are being used on us and to say no. I find it quite hard going their are a lot of psychological terms. It was however incredibly rewarding illustrating perfectly moments I have exactly felt. The chapter on commitment and consistency was particularly interesting to me as I have certainly been taken in. Hoisted by my own words by a clever salesman, getting me to commit and have my own words used against me, so much so I felt like I could not back out of the sale.

I would recommend to anyone who has an interest in marketing, or wow has ever felt powerless to salesmen or charity people.


I went for a walk yesterday evening to get out of the house. My back is getting better at least now it more discomfort than pain.

As I walked to Tesco I saw an official looking sign indicating that the footpath is planned to move. Looking at the planning website it appears they want to turn the current footpath into road access to coppice way.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Bye bye Orkut

Time moves fast on the internet, remember back in 2006? It wasn't that long ago really. Facebook was still a niche player only really open to specific universities and schools in the US. I stumbled upon a social network called Orkut. It was at the time quite unique, it allowed user created communities, and you could rate friends as Cool or Trustworthy. Facebook didn't really let you do photos beyond profile pictures properly until 2007, remember having to link to use sites like photobucket?

Communities were most like GeoCities allowing people with share interest to comment post and share. Nothing really replaced this until Facebook beefed up groups and twitter appeared.

I joined up on Orkut amused met a couple of people, used it for a while, migrated first to Myspace then to Facebook, twitter and google+.

Today I got an email informing me that on the 30 September 2014 Orkut will be closing. I hadn't logged in since 2011 so its no real lose, it does go to show how quickly a site can go from popular to zero in internet land.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Paradise Circus

I managed to injure my back while doing deadlifts with my trainer at the gym last week. I have spent the week in pain mostly laid in bed unable to walk much further than the bathroom.

It rather changed the plans I had made given Kath was visiting last weekend. We were supposed to visit Phil house for a house warming bbq, however I had to cancel that and a meet up with Ian on Sunday. It was a shame because I was really looking forward to meeting Helen.

I got some strong pain meds from the doctor, however they wont do anything else for six weeks. I decided to try an alternative and went to see the Osteopath on Wednesday. He immediately suggested that my part of my back was twisted. He did some manipulation after which I felt in pain but somehow more free in moment.

While laid up I have managed to do a couple of things. I caught up on American Horror, a series exploring the darker side of human nature, and luther the title track of which I am obsessed with. The series itself was good, I watched 1 & 2 on Netflix. I read also two books Mindfulness: Be Mindful. Live in the Moment. and The Son.

Mindfulness is a very interesting book which explains some strategies to be more in the moment, calmer collected. It reminded me of a book Paul lent me ages ago called the power of now. Though while the power of Now seemed (at least to me) fairly cultish Mindfulness has some excellent practical strategies to be deal with modern life, improve work life and cope with change. The point of the advice is to be more in the moment, let go of the past and don't focus too much on the future.

The Son is a Jo Nesbo standalone book about a Son who has thrown his life away after his father a believed mole committed suicide. As usual Nesbo paints a compelling set of interlocking stories, well paced and full of intrigue. It was a really enjoyable crime novel, though while it is more confidently written I still prefer his Harry Hole Novels especially the Oslo Trilogy. Having read so many of Nesbos' books I actually feel like I know Oslo pretty well, hope to visit one day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

On point

I had an unusual evening. My back has been causing me problems for a few weeks so I decided to go and visit the osteopath. He was in a very good mood, since I last visited him we have both got married.

On the subject of marriage congratulations to Ian whom got engaged to Helen, romantically proposing in Time square. Congratulations to them!

On the way home from Hartford, my route took me through Knutsford. I saw a women walking down the street clutching a bottle of Champaign, it makes a change form Wild n' White cider ;) Going through Wilmslow I was sat behind a World War two Troop transport with a few burley looking guys in the back (not in military fatigues though). Hopefully they aren't part of a paramilitary group planning to take over Manchester.

I decided to go for a walk after dinner, the days are pretty long now, and the sun is out which is perfect for my solar panels. I decided to walk round Handforth Dean, past Tesco there are a few empty industrial lots mostly populated by rabbits.

I have generated close to 1000 units of power, and on average more 50% of my electricity usage is covered by solar. Its looking like it will pay off pretty well, though I wont know for sure for about a year (as the generation is cyclic).

Monday, June 02, 2014

Orange is the new black

On Sunday Kath and I spent  lazy morning together then in the afternoon we headed to Matt and Christelles' house for a BBQ. We arrived to find Matt in full BBQ mode. We started with sausages and salad made by Christelle. Next up were lamb kebabs then steak. Christelle made a tarte for desert which was very tasty, served along with homemade ice cream. The ice cream was a little solid but very good, and despite Matts dire warning about ice cream being one of the most dangerous things in terms of food poisoning we were good the next day.

The kids were amusing themselves on the trampoline while we eat. We had a great evening, chatting about kids, life and many things.

Matt recommended Orange is the new black which Kath and I ploughed through. I found it an interesting series with some good characters. Kath and I enjoyed sitting together in each other company watching TV. We see so little of each other that just enjoying each other company is amazing.

Today we went out for a meal with my Parents and Jean to the Bull Head. Kath and I shared a fisherman's platter, while my parents and Jean all had fish and chips. The food was very tasty, I think that we had a great meal. Afterwards everyone came round to our house to see the garden and give coco a stroke. Coco certainly enjoyed the attention. It is always nice to see Jean she is such a lovely person, its hard not to be happy when she is around.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

You make me

Saturday I picked up Kath at 13.20, her flight had been delayed leaving Modlin. We planned to meet our friends in the evening for the Stockport Beer Festival. We went an did some shopping and had lunch.

Matt S picked us up in the evening, he decided to leave his car at the office. Arriving we met Bruce, Nina, Caroline, Phil, Jo Holly and Wally. Nina and Bruce had some amazing news, Nina is pregnant, due in December. She looked very happy (and despite the setting was sticking to soft drinks), Bruce looked happy too.

It was a great evening, I spent a lot of time chatting with Phil Bruce and Matt. Phil and Matt had a little game of whom could buy the strongest beer for each other. matt started by getting Phil a rather dodgy looking Cider rather than an IPA, Phil responded getting Matt a Old Tom.

After the beer Phil, Caroline, Kath Matt and I headed for some food. We went to the Kantipur Nepalese. I had the spicy ginger, I was sweating eating it but it was incredibly tasty. It took us a while to get a taxi home we were stood on the A6 trying different companies before we managed to hail down a minicab.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Tuesday night was the 20 year anniversary of Pulp Fiction. I was 14 when it was originally released so never saw it in the cinema. I think the first time i saw it was on a Pirate video at school.

I also remember one night watching it with Phil and our then girlfriends when he lived about the wedding shop in Woodford. It feels like yesterday even though its over a decade ago.

Re watching it today had several effects. Firstly its still shocking, strong violence and the language it is certainly not politically correct. I could certainly see that it was made on a budget, but despite some aspects being firmly 90's only a couple of mobile phones, people using pay phones, it didn't feel dated as some films of the era.

The violence in Pulp Fiction is less comic, and less bloody than in Tarantino's later films like kill bill and inglorious bastards.

In my opinion Tarantino redefined cinema with Pulp Fiction. Prior to its release that films had become extremely formulaic, to the point when with ever single line of dialogue existing to further the plot. Pulp fiction turns that on its head, presenting the narrative out of sequence and adding scenes only to entertain with dialogue. Yes the language and tone are shocking, again this is a pastiche of 70s cinema (where some of the visual style comes from and what was considered a golden age of cinema). There scenes with Samuel Jackson discussing burgers or John Travolta dancing badly (remember he was best known for his dancing in Saturday night fever).

Overall I really enjoyed re watching a modern classic.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


I have just returned from the airport after having dropped off Kath. We have spent the last week together, I think it's the longest time we have spent together since Christmas.

She arrived last Tuesday evening, I picked her up after work on the late flight. I had to work Wednesday and Thursday so she relaxed and visited with my mum.

Thursday evening we went out to Lobster Steak at the Radisson Blu hotel in Manchester. An interesting concept they only have two menu choices, lobster or steak. You get unlimited fries and salad on the side whichever you choose. Kath and I both ordered steak medium rare. Kath's was more on the rare than medium (almost blue) so we had to send hers back for more cooking. The meal was very pleasant though I think my steak had a little too much gristle, and personally would have preferred chips to fries but overall a very nice restaurant treat.

Friday, I had the day off so we went round the shops. Primarily we were looking for some new furniture for the garden. Nothing seemed to be comfortable at a price we wanted to pay. Stopping in at Waitroise we bought some nice cheeses and meat to make a platter which we ate watching the Wolf of Wall Street. It was an enjoyable film, Di Caprio was on top form.

Saturday we had a leisurely
morning then went off to see the garden at Tatton Park. The Japanese garden there is amazing, the best I have seen outside of Japan. Its well worth a visit.

Inspired by the Gardens we decided to have an evening meal at the Samsi in Wilmslow. Chatting to the waitress apparently she and her partner have taken over running it. We did noticed a few new touches and the food was excellent, especially the sushi rolls.

Afterwards we headed into the Bollin Fee for a drink. Taken in by the marketing we enjoyed a Captain Morgans served in a plastic cannon ball, living like the captain!

Sunday, we went to my parents for a roast pork lunch. It was very tasty, even got some crackling. After lunch we had a chat with my parents, enjoying a coffee. Then Kath and I headed to Bramhall Park for a walk.

Monday, we decided to tackle the garden a little more. Replacing the old rotten tub out the front with a more contemporary pot. At the back we turned a small patch of dirt near the gate into a rockery.

It looks really nice, with golden grit and new alpine plants.

In the evening Nina and Bruce arranged for another curry at the Sangam. It was basically a replay of two weeks ago with the addition of Kath and Ian. Apparently Ian has managed to sell his flat and is enjoying life with Helen. Unfortunately she wasn't able to join us, hopefully I will get to meet her soon. Bruce was telling us all about a website where you can buy surplus equipment from the armed forces. He was after an ICBM launcher from the Cold war era, or an armour plated Bentley! Overall a throughly enjoyable evening.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Last night I went out for a meal with a few people. Jo and Holly had arranged for us all to meet at the Sangam III in Heald Green. Jono joined me after walking round from his house, I asked him if he was going to walk home, but he declined.

We arrived last meeting Phil, Caroline, Bruce and Nina along with Joe and Holly. They were sat having a drink waiting. I got myself a Diet Coke and the waiter showed us to our table.

Jo and Holly told me about their break to Yorkshire. It sounded really nice time. They both looked like they had caught the sun and been able to relax.

I ordered a Jalfrezi, it was very tasty. The waiter was really fun, having a few jokes with us, even daring Phil to eat some Naga chillies.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Green shell suit

I am typing this blog on my new mechanical keyboard. IU have wanted one for ages but this purchase was prompted by my colleague at work buying one. I had some vouchers from doing surveys for IPSOS so I finally bit the bullet and bought one. I ordered a Cooler Master CM Storm Quick Fire TK Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - Brown. It has Cherry MX Brown mechanical switches which has a good combination of noise, feedback and actuation pressure to be useful for typing and gaming. So far I am really enjoying typing on it. I have used a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard for years but the key-presses were starting to fail a little, typical of a traditional keyboard as the domes wear out over time.

Its been a touch week, I managed to hurt my back on Sunday so I have had to take this easy this week. Next week I am off to London for DevWeek.  I am excited to go, I have never been to a developer conference before so its going to be an interesting experience.

I just finished a book given to me by my mother. The City of Strangers by Michael Russell. A book set just before the outbreak of the second world war. A country garda Sergeant is sent from Ireland to New York in order to bring back a murder suspect. He gets caught up in intrigue. It is in interesting insight into the beginning of the Irish state, the IRA and the pro German and pro Irish groups in America. It was well worth a read and I enjoyed it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lucifer son of the morning.

I met Matt yesterday, he wanted me to go with him to Scan. He decided that he wanted three monitor at work as well as home. We spent a lot of time deciding, he wanted size, but suggested that he spend a bit extra and get a 24inch with 16:10 ratio running 1920x1200 rather than the more common 16:9 1920x1080. The extra 120 pixels vertically make for a much more usable desktop. He opted for three IIyama 24inchs and they look gorgeous set up in the triple monitor stand.

Triple monitor

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Solar Installation Day 4

Today the installation was completed, the panels went up and the final wiring was made. I took the pictures in the morning before going to work, if you notice on my consumer meter the red light is solid on. That means at 7:33am the array was producing more energy than was being consumed. Indeed the meter was flashing "rEd" which means reverse energy, so I am exporting to the grid, I hope my neighbours like solar energy :)

Generation meter

Consumer unit

Solar array

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Solar Installation Day 3

Today the installer, Karl arrived. He went onto the roof and installed the mounting rails for the panels.

Karl was an interesting chap to talk to as he had been working with P.V. for many years, being involved in some huge projects, the week prior he had been doing a 50KW commercial installation on a farm. Year ago he worked on the first active solar (where the panels track the sun) installation in the UK.

The inverter and wiring went in, including the new generation meter. All the energy generated by the solar panels is metered. then flows into the standard consumer unit. Solar generated energy is use first saving you money as using the power generated means not buying units from the gird.
My power company doesn't measure power exported to the grid, instead they make an assumption that 50% of the generated units are exported back to the grid.

Roof mountings (and no chimney!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Solar Installation Day 2

Today the builders removed my chimney, I don't have a fireplace and the chimney would have shaded the panels. According to the figures from Solar energy firm this would have resulted in an 8% drop in output. Given that is close to taking away one whole panel, and the cost of removing the chimney was not too high we decided to have the stack taken down.

The gear arrived today, filling my garage full of panels, an inverter, mounting points and a wattson energy monitor.

The panels are Sunpower E20/327. They are rated for 327 watts per panel, generating 3.27KW at peak performance across the 10 panels. They are highly rated panels both in terms of efficiency and in terms of longevity. Solar panels degrade over time, and Sunpower are supposed to have the lowest level of degradation at the end of the 25 year warranty they are rated to perform at 87% of the minimum peak. As this is a twenty year investment I thought it was better to pay a bit extra for the better warranty and long term performance.

10 Sunpower solar panels

Mounting and roof gear

Inverter and Monitor

Monday, March 17, 2014

Solar installation Day 1

I decided to go ahead with solar panels, and today was the first day of the installation. Not a lot happened other than the skip arriving and scaffolding going up.

Scaffolding up

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Look how far we have come

I was looking at vintage computer advertisements and it made me both nostalgic and amazed at how far technology has come. From having to explain to users what copy and paste did, and how fast electronic mail is most people now have these things in their pocket on a smartphone.

As predicted by Moores Law technology has roughly double in power or put another way more power is increasingly cheaper. So much so that the smartphone in your pocket is considerable more powerful that the computers in these adverts.

My first computer was an Acorn electron it was 8-bit running at 1Mhz and loaded programs from tape. My mobile phone (which itself is a little dated) is a Nexus 4 running a 32-bit processor running 4 cores at 1500Mhz. Incredible really.

However one area which maybe hasn't come so far is design. I recently saw this amazing video on design.
Aral Balkan: Superheroes & Villains in Design from Thinking Digital on Vimeo.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Gone girl

I just managed to finish Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It is really an excellent read. The title like a lot of things in the book has a double meaning. It is hard to talk about the book without ruining the experience, so I can't really say much about the novel without ruining the surprise.  It is the sort of book that you will get to the end of and immediately want to talk about.

There is a forthcoming film, however from what I have read about it, they have changed the ending of the book.

Bitcoin mining

I decided to try some bitcoin mining, after reviewing a few options like buying an ASIC (application specific integrated circuit). I decided the the least effort seemed to be to buy mining on a rig someone else has paid for. I bided on 4 GH/s on ebay at one of the largest cloud based mining solutions.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Interesting solutions

I saw an article that today that brought me back to a directors throwaway comment, only this one was for real.

Years ago I worked on a site for a company, it had been developed at a huge cost by an external company. The client and outsourcer had fallen out at some point and the application was brought in house. That was my job to support this application. The only problem was it was a dogs dinner, the commercials were all wrong and in the end less than 100 clients signed up for the package only two for the site. The director decided to can it and stated "It would be cheaper to pay for spearmint Rhino to personally delivery the statements than continue this project".

I remember being a little upset at the time after working on the site for months. However it was the right decision. I though of it today after reading about Nursing jobs in the US who have decided it makes better sense to buy new PC's for their clients stuck on IE7 than to optimise their website to run on it!

I am going to try this on my boos next time a feature breaks in an old browser.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

All of Me

I have just finished reading the second Inspector Rebus book "Hide and Seek" by Ian Rankin. Jono had given me the first book "Knots and Crosses". I was very impressed Rankin has a real feel for the dark underbelly of Edinburgh.

In the first novel John Rebus is a troubled policeman haunted by events from the past and present. His past some of which he can't remember following a nervous breakdown after a terrible time in the SAS. Add to this a troubled relationship which his daughter and ex wife, and overachieving brother. Then mix in the dark drug dealing parts of Edinburgh.

The second novel follows almost immediately from the first. Following the events of the know and Crosses Rebus has been promoted, but his relationship with Gill has failed, she taking up with a DJ. A junky is killed and laid in a satanic pose leading Rebus into a dark underworld of crime, run by Hyde.

Both novels heavily reference Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a book that I have never read but certainly will try and pickup.

The action takes place in the 1980's so there are some weird anachronisms reading today. I couldn't help but think, how much mobiles phones have changed things so much. No more calling bars, and other places where someone might be. Or struggling for change at a payphone are a distant memory, the internet generation wont even know what it was like not to be constantly available.

Fight the power

I wrote before Christmas about my weird case of the water meter that wasn't there. After much convincing they had given me a month from which they worked out the average water usage and then backdated the payments. Today I received a revised statement, I am very happy with the result!

They calculated that over the last five years I have overpaid to the tune of £1,437. They are going to refund this to my water account. So no only has getting a water meter meant I save around £20 month on my payment but I am also getting a huge cheque back too. It's well needed after the Christmas excesses.

In other news I have been evaluating getting solar panels for the last couple of months. It might seem an odd idea living in the North West of England, however with the government subsidy the figures stack up well as a long term investment. If you are planning to stay put for at least 10 years and have a southerly aspect its really a no brainer (at least in financial terms, at lot of people argue the eco benefits but I was less concerned on that score). The cost is easily repaid by the governments feed in tariff over the lifetime 20 years. Unfortunately for me on balance the chance of staying put for 10 years seems unlikely at best. Therefore with a heavy heart my idea of self generated power goes on hold for now.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hollow talk

Yesterday Jono came round for dinner, I made chilli. I got a text from Bruce who was in the Kings Hall with Nina, Philip and Caroline.

Bruce and Nina are jetting off to Mexico next week, by the sounds of it they are going to have an amazing time. Phil was telling me about the diving he did there, it sounded incredible.

We sat and chatted, bitcoin came up a lot, I think I have missed the boat but it we live in interesting times. I have decided to try and do a bit of mining. The window of opportunity is nearly closed but hopefully I can get in and mine something before it snaps shut.

I felt a little tired and was missing Kath a lot, but it was really nice to see everyone.