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Archive for November, 2008

Christmas Market

Bath Christmas market

Bath Christmas market

This weekend Sam and I were down in Bath for the Christmas Market. The market is huge – some 100+ stalls around the centre of the city. I think we managed to see just about all of them!

The number of people there is simply staggering. Every square inch of the city seems to be filled with people meandering from stall to stall. Thankfully though, there are plenty of stalls selling mulled wine to keep the crowds buzzing along happily!

We managed to pick up a few bits and pieces: some awesome cheese, some amazing spice mixes and some sloe gin liqueur. We also managed to pick up the last few of our Christmas presents. Just two more to order off the intarwebs now and we’re done. This must be some kind of record for us: Christmas shopping done and its not even December yet!

Unfortunately we left it a bit late to book anywhere in Bath itself, so we found ourselves staying in Keynsham. The hotel Sam found – the Old Manor House in Keynsham – turned out to be an amazing find. Although a way out of Bath, it’s only 5 miles from Newbridge park & ride, which gets you into Bath for £2.50 return. The hotel itself is a wonderful, old building – although the room we stayed in hadn’t been updated in a while, everything was functional and in good order and they have apparently renovated some of their rooms. However for £89 for a double room for the night they’re a fraction of the price of rooms in Bath, particularly at this time of year – making this a really good way to visit Bath.

My only gripe would be the price of food in the hotel. We ate in the hotel on the first night – so naturally since neither of us were driving consumed our fair share of wine (and probably somebody else’s fair share). The food itself was very good – but at over £30 a head for three courses, plus drinks it seems a bit overpriced. But this was a minor gripe – otherwise the hotel was excellent.

On Saturday we went back to a pub we discovered last time we were visiting Bath. The Kings Arms in Monkton Farleigh is an incredible country pub. A roaring fire and plenty of good ales on tap – just what you need at the end of a long drive down treacherous country roads!

Thankfully the food was every bit as good as I remember it being from last time. I had chicken liver parfait followed by venison steaks. Delicious. I’m not normally one for going back to the same place twice, but in the case of the Kings Arms I’ll make an exception!

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Got an interesting email today that very nearly got deleted instantly as spam.

I’ve been contacted by someone at See Film First, wanting to advertise their service on Book Chain in exchange for providing content. Doesn’t seem to be any money in the deal though, which is a shame :)

See Film First is a free service where you sign up and they give you the chance to get free tickets to previews of upcoming films. It’s an interesting idea – I’m not really sure there’s too much overlap between people who want free books and people who want free cinema tickets, but the service itself looks really cool. They’re currently pushing “Slumdog Millionaire” and seem to have free tickets left at a number of cinemas across the UK. I’m not just going to post the code here, though. If you’re interested you’ll have to email me I’m afraid.

This leaves me in something of a quandry. There’s no money to be made out of it, but it’s a useful service that Book Chain members might benefit from and it can’t hurt to have some new, interesting content for the site.

Should Book Chain continue to sell out? Or are cinema tickets too far removed from what it’s supposed to be about?

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Update

Wow it’s been a busy few weeks – so unfortunately I’ve not been able to post. Hopefully now things have calmed down a bit I can get back into the habit of posting. So what have I been up to?

  • Trip to Barcelona
  • Releases, releases, releases
  • Trip up North to see parents
  • Christmas shopping
  • Met with Mitch, Clare & Emily
  • Book Chain release

 

Barcelona

Getting out to Barcelona was excellent. Had a great long weekend there staying with Paul, Anna & Michael. Didn’t really do any touristy stuff – did all that last time we were out there. *cough* a couple of years ago *cough*.

Just spent a few really nice days catching up and spending time together. As always the food out there was amazing. I’m always surprised by just how effortlessly the Spanish seem to eat well. We’re really starved of good food in England – I’m continually surprised by the shit we’ll put up with.

Coming back home was a bit of a shock. One day we were walking along the beach in t-shirts, the next we’re back in cold, wet, wintry Britain. Joy.

Releases

After our doomed release we had several more patch releases. It’s taken a good 3 weeks to get clear of that release. It’s been an unmitigated nightmare from start to finish. I can’t put up with another one of those – we’re a big, grown up company. Isn’t it about time we sorted our shit out?

Up North

Drove up to see my parents and Sam’s parents. That was really nice – realised we’ve not been up there since, I think, July. So had a good catch up. My parents are really feeling the credit crunch at the minute. My Dad (who runs his own courier firm) hasn’t had much business – obviously when everyone starts to feel the pinch paying for couriers is one of those expenses everyone cuts. Still, things are ticking over – so hopefully as long as he can keep things going he should be ok.

My sister’s boyfriend, Richard, has been made redundant. Which sucks. Don’t think he’s taken the news too well, understandably really. Being made redundant is very much like being kicked in the head.

My gran’s not doing too well either. She celebrated her 90th birthday this year but they’ve just changed all her medication, which always upsets her. So she’s having a difficult time of it.

Christmas Shopping

Then last weekend was the joy of Christmas shopping. Woo. I love Christmas shopping. At least in November the public haven’t yet got the Christmas rage – so its not an entirely soul destroying exercise, just mostly.

At least that’s the bulk of the presents bought now. 

Mitch, Clare & Emily

Met up with Mitch, Clare & Emily over the weekend as well. Went for a nice Sunday lunch in a pub near us. Had a good catch up – although it’s slightly concerning that all my friends now seem to have small children. *sigh*

Book Chain Release

The new Book Chain release finally makes it out. I sorted out the code to add tags a few weeks ago – but what with one thing and another I’ve not been able to release it. I finally found some time on Sunday to sort out a performance problem with a particular bit of SQL and get it released.

That went live last night, with an email announcing it this morning. So far only one bug (if you get your login details wrong you get an error. Boo). And it looks like people have started tagging books in their library – which is great news.

 

Well that’s me over the last three weeks. It’s been busy, slightly depressing but looking positive. How about you?

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Hot on the heels of the Brand and Ross affair the complaining classes are now whining about a remark made by Jeremy Clarkson in last weekend’s Top Gear. During a lorry driving task on the show Clarkson joked:

This is a hard job and I’m not just saying this to win favour with lorry drivers, it’s a hard job. Change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder. That’s a lot of effort in a day

Over 500 people have now phoned the BBC to complain about this according to Reuters.

Have these people nothing better to do with their days than phone the BBC? Get some perspective and move on. Clarkson is well-known for his outrageous opinions – everyone tuning in to Top Gear knows exactly what to expect. 

If you’ve got a delicate constitution and don’t like to hear people spouting off I’ve got a simple suggestion for you: don’t watch!

Just when did we lose our sense of humour and start taking everything so damned seriously?

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This was a great story from last week: http://flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/hedge-fund-managers-run-over-by-porsche/ also covered at the BBC

Those so-hated hedge funds have had their comeuppance in a brilliant move by Porsche. In their takeover attempt of Volkswagen they ended up controlling so many of the VW shares that the hedge funds that had gone short on VW shares ended up losing huge sums of money.

What seems to have happened is that many hedge funds borrowed shares from Porsche to sell on the market and sold those shares to Porsche. When the time came to close out their position they are then forced to buy back these same shares from Porsche at a huge loss. Brilliant.

It doesn’t put the German market in a particularly good light – but you’ve got to admire the chutzpah of a company fighting back against the hedgies.

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What a race!

What an incredible finish to the formula 1 season! With Lewis passing Glock on the final corner of the final lap to get the vital 5th place he needed to win the world championship. Amazing stuff. The most exciting finish to a race ever. A great end to a great season.

Massa’s driven well this year – to have come so close must be heartbreaking. But just as Lewis could claim to have been unlucky last year, Massa can feel the same this year – it just wasn’t to be his year.

Interesting factoid: the last British world champion, Damon Hill, won in 1996 – the last year formula 1 was shown on BBC. Since then coverage has been on ITV – but this is their last year, it returns to BBC next year.

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Release hell – update

Holy shit – what happened to last week?

Well our release finally made it out on Wednesday, one day late. Only caused a small outage. Oops. That’s the trouble with a release in the early hours – it might be quiet in the UK at that time, but its middle of the day in Australia. Just when is a “quiet time” when your customers are all across the globe?

I really should write up this release as a case study in how not to deploy software. Everything we could have got wrong we did: error prone manual processes, poorly documented byzantine systems, crucial business logic implemented haphazardly. You name it – we fucked it up.

I’ve gotta hand it to the team though, we stuck at it and got the release out in the end. I feel sorry for the poor IS guys that have to do the release, though – a team full of developers bitching and whining at them when they’re the only hands and feet able to do anything. That can’t be any fun at all – so I think we owe IS a few beers after this week.

Last night

Went out last night with Romi, Tim, Jo, Rosy, Jim & Sam for Tim’s birthday. Started off in a really festive bar in Camden – apparently its normally really nice, we obviously just caught them on an off night. So we left there pretty quick and headed off to Joungleurs.

The acts were really good: started off with some crazy Canadian dude and a really funny geordie lad finished up the night – not that I can remember any of their names. Ended up staying on for the disco afterwards. Much drunken dancing ensued. Hehe. Was a good night.

Ended up missing the last train home – for some reason I was certain there was a train at 1:30. Turns out it left at 1. Next train was at 5. So we ended up crashing at Tim’s.

Dragged our sorry arses back to Twyford this morning for bacon sarnies. God’s own hangover cure. So this afternoon I think I’ll sit and veg and watch the F1. Go Lewis!

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