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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Wednesday 11 June, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 128 : Travelling Light

I'm in the middle of packing my bag to head to Devoxx tomorrow. This should be a pretty straightforward thing. I'm only away for one night so I'm travelling light - toothbrush, socks, smalls, couple of t-shirts. Put clean stuff on when I get up, avoid chucking food down myself for the duration, and there's no need for anything else clotheswise. Add to that wallet, phone, Nexus 7 (it has assorted books on it that I'm unlikely to read, some comics that I might read, and some wrestling videos I probably will watch), battery pack, main adaptor, pens, A4 pad (a new Pukka Pad that's only a couple of days old), the copy of Overload which arrived at lunchtime, the current bedside paperback, and that pretty much covers it.

The question I'm really spending too much time wrestling with is do I take a laptop. Without wanting to sound all I'm-so-busy-and-creative-and-amazing, I've got all kind of things I could spend a hour or two or three or four in the evening poking around at, all of it interesting, and all of it pretty fun. Some of it I even get paid for. Even if I don't look at any of that, there are events at the conference where whipping out the laptop for a quick bit of hands-on action might be just the thing. But if I do take it, I'm worried that I'll feel obligated to crack it open. No point lugging it all the way down there and only to ignore it. On the other hand, it might be pretty cool just to treat the whole business as some kind of city minibreak but with technical talks instead of art galleries or something. I can have my full English, hit the conference, have a couple of beers and falafel wrap, stroll over to the hotel, watch a bit of wrestling, sack out, do it again on Friday, then head home. In that case, if I am overwhelmed by the sudden urge to write some code, I'll just have to bottle it up until Saturday.

Might do that.

» Seven Ineffective Coding Habits of Many Programmers - Let's be careful out there.

» Email Self-Defense - guide to email signing and encryption. It's not hard and you really should be doing it. End-to-end encryption is coming for you GMailing types too.

» Forget these 'Trojan horses' – the real issue is faith schools - Too right. Without wanting to get to caught up in what might have been going on at the various schools recently investigated, I was struck that one of the things that was considered inappropriate were posters in Koranic Arabic exhorting the power of prayer. Curiously enough that kind of thing is considered absolutely appropriate for religious schools. St Bernard's Primary School, just down the road from here, has a lovely big picture of the Pope in the entrance way just for starters. The first duty of 'the family' in their Home School agreement is Support the Catholic ethos of the school. I imagine that rather sticks in the craw of the non-Catholic contingent. But that's tough, because it's a religious school, so it can plaster as many posters about the power of prayer about the place as it likes, build its school policies around Christ's message of love, discriminate in favour of Catholics in its admissions, and so on and so on. Quite how that meshes with working in and for the community must depend on your definition of community, I guess.

I have no idea what a city minibreak actually is.

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Tuesday 10 June, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 127 : Inconvenient Timetables

I'm heading off to London on Thursday for a conference and stopping overnight. I spent a chunk of today plotting walking routes that will take in the station, the venue, and depending on which end of the day it is either a Full English or a falafel wrap. Breakfast and dinner options seem to have become one of my primary preoccupations whenever I visit London at the moment, even if I don't necessarily go all in for fry-up or chick pea oriented comestibles.

I head down to London approximately once a week. In the past I had a brief dalliance with Moor Street-Marylebone, but it took longer, wasn't that much cheaper, and meant cycling through fucking Fitzrovia, an area of London with highest concentration per square foot of rich self-important twats driving ludicrously enormous cars. So I stick to New Street-Euston, which delivers you into slightly less up itself Camden. The cheapest time to travel down is before 6 in the morning and the cheapest time to travel back is after quarter past 8, so that's what I do. It's knackering, but thrifty. I get up at the crack of bleeding dawn, arriving in London at quarter past 7. Quarter past 7 is, in anyone's language, breakfast time. Quarter past 8 in the evening is, generally speaking, well after tea. Consequently it's perhaps not a massive shock the options for both have come to occupy my travel thoughts, although I did surprise myself by deciding that a two mile diversion to hit my preferred breakfast spot on walk to the venue wasn't remotely unreasonable.

The gap in between will be filled by Devoxx UK, which probably doesn't tell you a great deal. It's a two day conference focused on Java, web, mobile and JVM languages, which might tell you a bit more. Encouraged by m'chum Russel I took a chance and bought a super-early-bird (i.e. heavily discounted) ticket even before the programme was announced, but that looks to have paid off because it looks like it's going to be pretty good indeed.

» The first dedicated Fighting Fantasy convention, Fighting Fantasy Fest 2014 is awkwardly scheduled to coincide with the weekend immediately before the start of term. Ah well.

» Woodland creature story sizing in practice : A badger has no equivalent time value and a squirrel has no ‘completed by’ date. I do like the sound of this. I really do.

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Sunday 08 June, 2014
#The Forest Road Reader, No 126 : Birmingham Bears?

Birmingham Bears?
You're having a laugh!
Birmingham Bears?
You're having a laugh!
Birmingham Bears?
You're having a laugh!
La la la!
La la la!

It's fair to say the Edgbaston crowd hasn't really taken to Warwickshire's rebranding as Birmingham Bears for this season's Twenty20 competition (itself rebranded as the T20 Blast). Even the club itself didn't seem fully behind things - it said Warwickshire on the scoreboard. Good fun game of cricket yesterday evening though. It's always good when Warwickshire bat second and win in the last over. The crowd are more loosened up and engaged, and so the cheers more full blooded. It's childish, but after one of the Durham players dropped an absolute sitter of a catch, my kids enjoyed the quick and friendly chorus of Whoever you are, you're shit. And, I confess, so did I. We're off again in a couple of weeks to see the game with Lancashire Lightning. Hopefully we'll see Freddie Flintoff biff a few quick runs for Lancashire followed by another Warwickshire win.

I don't disagree with anything in the blog post - in fact it's a rather good list, but I absolutely disagree that's the job of university to prepare people for work. That's something employees and employers should do together. Even the most vocational of vocational courses don't produce people who can step right out in to a job. Nor do those courses aim to, nor should they, nor can they. What any course should aim for is the core of the subject, to show the student just how much more there is out there, and to show how much more there will always be. Nothing stands still.

» The New Zealand National Anthem sounds like a bit of a dirge (even when compared to God Save the Queen), but its history is fascinating.

» This recipe for Chocolate Orange Cake is terrific.

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