Monday 27 April, 2015
#The Forest Road Rader, No 137 : It Looks Better In The Pictures

Was stood up for a phone interview this afternoon. Sat, sadly, by phone for a good 45 minutes waiting for a call that never came. *sniff*

Maybe they'll phone later in the week. Maybe not. Thanks to a serendipitous email and Natalie's amazing negotiating skillz I was at work, in the shadow of the BT Tower, on the lower reaches of Birmingham's hip'n'swinging Jewelry Quarter.

Birmingham's BT Tower is, by a distance, the tallest building in the city. Well, building might be over-egging it a bit. Close up, it's less a modern monument to the information age, and more akin to one of those training towers you see behind fire stations, albeit one that might require the services of Red, Blue and Green watches.

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» The EU, homeopathy and Norwegian vets : We can't find any evidence that there is such a directive. - Full Fact on the Telegraph's case there. The mere existence of Full Fact should be a source of shame to our national media organisations.

» First Look at Total War: Warhammer is Totally Warhammer : This is a good trailer. It’s a good trailer even though it doesn’t contain even a picosecond of in-game footage ... Anyway, you’ll want to watch this. - There's never been a completely successful adaptation of a Games Workshop game, and yet still we hope.

+++++++++

Good job I bought that MacBook. I'd have looked well out of place in that office with the Dell.

I then spoiled it by saying "I'd have looked well out of place in this office with my Dell" and mumbling something about running Linux on the desktop.


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Friday 24 April, 2015
#The Forest Road Reader, No 136 : Be Here Now

My living in Birmingham was a frequent source of confusion and amusement to my London-office colleagues. Frequently, of course, people had absolutely no idea where or how far away it was. More than once people expressed incredulity that I was traveling from Birmingham to London and back the same day. If I explained that the train only took 90 minutes, and if I really got my skates on I could go door-to-door in not much more that two hours, they'd often start to look a bit uncomfortable. Hour-plus commutes are not uncommon, and many people travelled much longer than that. Truth is, I was probably had a shorter journey than many made very day, and with far fewer train cancellations.

More recently, the subject of HS2 and how much I was looking forward to it or not was a common source speculation. I simply pointed out that HS2 and its 45 minute travel time wasn't due to reach Birmingham until 2026 and leave it at that. If HS2 does ever reach Curzon Street, its 250mph trains will probably look pretty pedestrian compared to whatever the Japanese come up with to top their 374mph maglev beast of a train.

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» Sneak Peek: INJ Culbard’s adaptation of “The King in Yellow”, out next month - INJ Culbard has never made a bad comic. Looking forward to this.

» Great city walks: Birmingham - Cannon Hill to Highbury. Talk about a soft option.

» From the For-Fuck's-Sake newswire - EU orders Britain's organic farmers to treat sick animals with homeopathy. This stupid piece of rules-making is news enough by itself, and there's really no need for the Telegraph to over-egg the EU vs Britain angle. This applies EU wide and, as the story admits, it even emerged that the British government had voted in favour of the new rules. Jesus.


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Monday 20 April, 2015
#The Forest Road Reader, No 135 : Not a proper job

In this modern age, we all take it for granted that "jobs for life" don't exist in the way we fondly imagine they once existed for our parents and grandparents. We do, though, still have a notion of what a "proper job" is. We might struggle to precisely define quite what it is but, like pornography, we know it when we see it. Mainly, anyway. As a freelance software developer - a contractor - I'm not sure if I do have a proper job. Even as contracting goes, I don't do that properly. The standard model is to find work through agencies, and work on site using equipment provided by the client. For nearly all of the past 15 years, I've worked primarily in my attic, and I haven't used an agent for at least a decade. I've been very lucky to do that, and I've been lucky with the clients I've had and the work they've given me. I've had the chance to work with on some really interesting problems, with some good people and, largely, been able to try and do the best work I could.

Last Christmas Eve, at about half past six in the evening, I realised that the best work I could do wasn't actually that good any more, and I needed to get a new job. In truth, while it was a moment of clarity (and who hasn't had a moment of clarity while sitting on the loo), it had been coming for a while.

If we spin back a few years the company I worked for, Practical Law, was, as a software development organisation, in a bit of sticky place. We'd spent a year moving from an in-house content management system to one we'd bought in. I, and many others, thought we'd been sold a duff bill of goods, but we were where we were and we got on and, through heroic effort, made it work. We finished the work on pretty much on time, without too many horrible bugs, and I don't think we lost any clients either, but we weren't in a happy place. Developing new features was difficult, our test coverage was pretty thin, getting a build done was stressful, and deployments doubly so.

Spin forward a bit and things were very different. Builds were a snap, our test coverage wasn't bad, and deployments, while still taking a bit of time, were reliable. We'd worked hard to improve, and were reaping the benefits.

Then came the corporate seimic shift - Practical Law was sold to Thomson Reuters and became part of Thomson Reuters Legal Services. There was a great deal of uncertainty, but the mood, for a variety of reasons, was generally positive. Not only would we be fine, we'd bring our new colleagues with us.

Come forward a couple more years to December last year and, mid-Boxing Day constitutional, I realise that not only are we no longer improving, I'm not even sure we're staying still. We weren't fine. We didn't win. We didn't carry anyone with us. Instead, the sheer weight of corporate status quo-ism slowed and flattened and muffled and dampened and stifled. As I sat, I knew I'd had enough.

It took another three months for me to finish up and finally get my release into production. I was sorry to leave, and I've feel like I've let people down, and I'm sad that I won't get to do some of things I was working on. But now I'm out, and searching the job ads, ringing agents, and, after all these years, acting like those all those other contractors. Still not sure it's a proper job, though.

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Hello there. I had a bit of a tickle in my throat, coughed, and that just splurged out. Breathing a bit easier for it, though. Better out than in, and all that.

How are you? Keeping well? Have an owl.


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Monday 23 March, 2015
#First ice cream van of the year ...

... was plinky-plonking away when I got out of the car on Sunday afternoon, that's the 22nd of March, at 14:16. My Solihull and Olton correspondent writes that he heard one out and about on the 31st of January, but if I don't hear it, it doesn't count.

Previous years:


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Sunday 17 August, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 134 : A Small Story From The Internet

Once, yes once in the far distant past my office up at the top of the house was as tidy and as organised an office at the top of the house as one could wish for. Those days have gone, but in an effort to regain something of my past tidy office glory I had a bit of tidy up. In the middle of a pile of bits of paper I found this

In August 1991 I did not know a Jessica or Sam Colman, and in any case was newly arrived in Northampton, living in digs. Faced with such a mystery naturally my first thought was to tweet about it. Others could perhaps smile at our own past childish enthusiams, and then it would be forgotten and we'd all go back to whatever it was we were doing.

But no ...

By this time, I'd remembered that the people who lived here before we did were called Colman. That solved part of the mystery, although it still doesn't explain how the note ended up in a pile in my office. I clicked through @Jesscolman, who turns out to be the producer of Coast, and then ...

Well, blimey!


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Wednesday 13 August, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 133 : The Manila Cocktail Lounge

The Manila Cocktail Lounge is a deliberately dingy cocktail bar. The drinks menu focusses primarily on gin martinis and vodka gimlets. Unless requested otherwise all martinis are dirty without ice, gimlets are mixed using the recipe given by Terry Lennox in The Long Goodbye. Other spirits may be available on a limited and occasional basis.

Salted pretzels are available at the bar. A small selection of sandwiches are available for you to enjoy. No crisps or other fripparies are sold. No coffee, no tea.

Music is provided by resident trio who play Warren Zevon songs Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, Tom Waits songs Wednesdays and Fridays, with a two hour Nick Cave swing party on Sundays.

Closed Mondays.


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Monday 11 August, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 132 : A Bit Shit

Logistically poor holiday planning meant this year we spent a weekend in Edinburgh and Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games before returning to Birmingham and almost immediately leaving for Pembrokeshire. Holiday was great. In a development I had never expected I spent an hour waxing my surfboard.

Usain was right about the Commonwealth Games. Compared to the Olympics they weren't as good. That's not a reflection on the quality of the sport, which was great fun and which I enjoyed thoroughly, or of the atmosphere in any of the stadiums, which was warm and appreciative even during Scotland vs England in the Rugby 7s, or on the logistics of getting in and out, which were efficient and friendly. It simply wasn't as good because everything was spread about the place. I realise this is how it has to be, but the fact that the bulk of the Olympics took place in one big park added hugely to fun and the feel.

Take our Sunday trip - netball at the SECC in the morning, Rugby 7s at Ibrox in the evening. We took the train from Edinburgh in Glasgow Queen Street then walked to the SECC. It's a couple of miles. The route is relatively straightforward, but it wasn't well signposted. At the start you got pointed off in the general direction of the SECC, and then once you got closer there signs but the bit in the middle was vague. It's further hampered by the fact you have to cross over an urban motorway. The route we chose took us over a footbridge so long and so steep it's like some kind of public health intervention. For later onward walk to Ibrox, another mile and half, we navigated by walking against the flow of the crowd coming out. Ibrox itself is fair stadium, but it sits in the middle of bit of Glasgow you probably wouldn't include on your sight seeing itinerary. Again, the sport was great and we had a really good time, but the bits in between venues? Bit of slog.

» Bicycle, a 90 minute document about, well, bicycles is showing for two nights in September at the MAC. While I've not yet seen the film, it's had good notices and these showing include a Q+A with the director and producer. The production team are based down in Digbeth and in one of those horrible our kids went to the same school chains of acquaintence we ended up in it - the kids and I fleetingly, Natalie a bit less fleetingly. Being filmed was good fun actually - Pip even shouted ACTION! To head off any Frozen Planet style scandal, I want to be clear that what we did was slightly staged but reflects the truth, and I should stress that we were filmed in our natural habitat and released back into the wild afterwards.

» File under "approach with caution" - A Lisp implementation in sed.

» From the "why the hell not" desk - Hullcoin: The World's First Local Government Cryptocurrency. I'm not convinced by the logic, but why not, eh?


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Tuesday 01 July, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 131 : Bicycle


Bicycle, The Film Official Trailer

Hey look! That's my bike! And that's my wife riding it!

Bicycle has its VIP premiere this evening up in Bradford. We were invited but had to turn it down. Work, you know, and school and stuff. I'm in London today, so even further from Bradford that I ordinarily am. As the film opens, I'll probably be putting in a few laps of Regents Park on my folder before catching the train. Chapeau!


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Friday 20 June, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 130: Electric Ballroom

On the 14th of June last year, I took a slightly round-the-houses trip to a wrestling show in Bethnal Green solely to see Jushin 'Thunder' Liger work a match. It was a pretty special thing. This past Sunday, exactly a year later, I went back to Bethnal Green to see another of Revolution Pro's wrestling shows. While it's pretty common for UK wrestling promotions to bring in well known workers from the US and Japan, RevPro seem to bring in bigger names and more of them and bloody hell they stack a card.

The closing match of first half featured Kevin Steen. The "Internet dirtsheets" would call him an "indy wrestling darling", but they can take their smart-mark snark and shove it up their arses. Steen is possibly the most complete wrestler I've ever seen - he connects with the crowd, he's quick and funny, improvises in the ring, and he can "really go". He's off to the "big leagues" of the WWE and so is effectively on a farewell tour at the moment. Working with Marty Scurll, they really put on a show. It was a privilege to seem him wrestle.

I could left then and been pretty happy, but the match I'd made the trip to see was up next - Shinsuke Nakamura vs Zack Sabre Jr. It was just amazing. Zack isn't the biggest guy in the world but looked like he belonged in there - the match was terrifically stiff and energetic. But Nakamura, Nakamura, Nakamura. Nakamura is just electrifying. He just has something - you can't take your eyes of him.

When the MC asked York Hall? Are you ready for the next match? my honest response was no I'm done, just send me home so it's a credit to guys in the final two matches that they managed to not just engage, but reignite the crowd. In truth, the final match of Prince Devitt vs Adam Cole probably would have got people going even if they'd come out and just jabbed each other in the chest for a bit. Devitt, after many years at the working at top level in Japan, is also joining WWE shortly and so this was probably his final appearance at a RevPro show. Cole is the top star in Ring Of Honor, one of the largest of the American independents. Booking logic said Cole should win but emotion wanted Devitt to go out on a high and, in the end, he did.

I came out of York Hall so hopped up I eshewed the tube, with its standing and waiting and its heat and its shuffling crowds, instead walking, striding, loping even, from Bethnal Green along the length of the City Road back to Euston and the train home.


» ProWrestling Torch Glossary of Insider Terms - defines the term insider in a kind of meta-glossary ahead of the glossary itself

» Kevin Steen might be heading to WWE - includes the phrase "independent wrestling darling".


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Friday 13 June, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 129 : And Breathe. And Relax.

Home again. Two full englishes but only one falafel wrap. Went to some interesting talks, which were mainly useful. Drank some beer. Used four pairs of socks - could have done with a couple more. Left computer behind. Walked a lot of miles around some new bits of London, serendipitously taking in two of Hawksmoor's churches en route. Watched wrestling on the train back. Didn't read Overload - sorry Fran.


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