Archive for March, 2005

Are they conspiring against me?

I needed a stock photo. I figured I’d get one from one of the usual free/low cost places around on t’internet. First up I tried stock.xchang, and was greeted with:

sorry for this unexpected downtime. we’re having trouble with one of our servers and we’re going to have to install some new hardware. don’t worry, stock.xchng will be back as soon as possible!

Fair enough thinks me, I’ll try iStockPhoto, only to find that they’re down too!

iStock is temporarily down, we will be back soon. We promise.

Bah and indeed humbug. And its going to rain forever.

The Easter Collection

The Easter Collection

Who’d have thought they’d have Zebras, Monkeys, Lions and Leopards just up the road from here eh? Pictures in The Gallery.

Oh, it was the Cotswold Wildlife Park. I spent a couple of years working a few miles down the road, drove within spitting distance of it on the way home, and never once registered its existence. It took my mother (who lives about 130 miles from me) to a) point out that it exists and b) drag me there. Glad I went though – its not every day that you get to see White Rhino and eat/drink slush puppies.

I should point out that Great Grey Owls are very sinister looking creatures in real life (as opposed to the quite friendly looking specimen on that page). They seem to belong in some sort of gothic horror film. Perhaps that’s not too surprising, considering their native habitat is the dark and remote forests of Alaska and Lapland.

Learning another language

I was writing something funky[1] with JavaScript at work today. It meant taking my skills up a notch.

Its like my knowledge of French. I remember some of the basics from school, so I can ask for a beer and a pizza, or fumble my way through a leaflet. There’s no way I could hold a proper conversation or write extensively myself though. I use it so rarely that I have next to no idea how to do anything meaningful with it.

Yet here I was today having to write something new. I couldn’t just copy and paste this time – it required real thought. Trying to work with a foreign language when you know so little about it is a frustrating exercise to say the least. I spent quite a lot of the afternoon swearing under my breath, sighing loudly and frantically googling for answers. Then all of a sudden it began to click. It all started to make sense.

Its a good feeling when that happens. That stupid little thing you’ve been trying so hard to do all afternoon works perfectly. Its only a simple bit of code in the grand scheme of things, but the page would be useless without it, and what’s more, I made it do that all on my own. I feel better about having it on my CV now.

I should probably go through and give the variables proper names though. if (heffalump = document.forms[0].monkey.options.length) doesn’t look too professional does it?

[1] That’s funky in the loosest possible sense of the word.

Comedy Sunburn

I do it every time I go on holiday. I’m fine up until the last day, and then for some inexplicable reason I fail to apply sunblock. As a direct result of this, my cheeks and the tip of my nose are currently a somewhat different colour to the rest of my face. To me it says “No worries, you’ve just spent the week snowboarding in the Alps”. No doubt to the rest of the world it says “FREAKAZOID!”.

Olly in Belle Plagne

See, I’ve just got back from a week spent playing with my friends in the snow. Charlie drove Gary, Emma, Rob, Brett and myself down to Les Coches in his fantastic VW Transporter Caravelle Minibus thing, where we met up with Neil, Simon, Pete, Owen and Anne.

I spent most of the first day desperately trying to remember how to ride a board. The first run we did – a steep blue from Les Coches to Montchavin – was a nasty bugger and I spent most of the time falling down it. Luckily things got better quickly and my confidence grew quite quickly from there on in.

Brett on an off-piste hike near L'arpette

By the end of the week I was joining Charlie, Gary and Brett on their mad off-piste adventures. Our final run of the week saw me have a fantastic crash in the trees. Tired legs got things wrong and I ended up lying with my head pointing down the hill and my board caught behind a tree. Escaping that one would have been interesting had Charlie not come to the rescue…

There’s loads more to tell (the dutchmen, Brett’s rock trotters, the flirty waitress, Si’s cooking, the fosters girl, the flashing bouncy ball, the world’s hottest fajitas, the list goes on…) but it can wait for another day. You can find a load of pictures in The Gallery.

Like I could forget…

Outlook Reminder: Holiday

Live Wrong

Live Wrong Bracelet

There’s loads of people at work wearing a variety of charitable bracelets. You know the ones – Live Strong (yellow), Anti-Racism (black and white intertwined), Anti-Bullying (some other colour) and so on. Thats all well and good, but there’s something about the whole thing that doesn’t sit quite right with me.

The Live Strong ones were a good idea, but then umpteen other charities jumped on the bandwagon and they lost all of their meaning. Its become fashionable to get the latest Nike charity bracelet. In many ways that’s a good thing — after all, it means more income for the charities involved. On the flipside, I think the message has been lost somewhere along the way. There’s so many around now that nobody can remember what they’re all for.

Personally I prefer the alternative route: Get hold of a Live Wrong bracelet (cheers Rich) to antagonise the aforementioned colleagues, and make a donation to my charity of choice. Much more fun.

Cumfest 2005!

Lets see what google searches a post title like that brings in…

So, I arrive home on Thursday and go bike mad. There’s a vague plan to swap bits over from the DH to the XC bike, in order to create some sort of burly XC bike with gears and enourmous disc brakes. It comes grinding to a halt quite early on, when it becomes clear that an 203mm disc brake rotor blatantly doesn’t fit into the back of the Cove. In the end I settle for just sticking a spare disc brake on the front – I’ve had the bits lying around forever and just never got around to fitting them to the bike. Unfortunately, a quick test ride around the block reveals that it quite blatantly doesn’t work anymore. So I spend quite a lot of Friday morning bleeding it, which is always a fun operation. It seems to work now though, which is a bonus.

So why am I doing all of this? Its the inaugural [and ambiguously named] Cumfest this weekend! Friends, bikes and all manner of other things all weekend up at Andy & T’s house up in Garrigill, Cumbria.

Mike D spent most of Friday afternoon driving myself and Rich up there in his absurdly practical Peugeot Partner (holds three people, four bikes, all of our kit, some food, drink and a big box of choccy chip cookies easily) with Green Day, the Chilli Peppers and The Pixies blasting out of the stereo. We make it fine despite driving up through some full on millenium falcon style blizzards on the M6, and begin to party in earnest. It goes a bit wierd at one point when a somewhat inebriated Bez puts a beer bottle between his bumcheeks (probably best not to ask – mainly because none of us can remember bquite why he did it). Comedy injury of the weekend occured during the bicycle-pursuit races around the inside of the village hall. Rich managed to fall off of his bike and onto a radiator, puncturing one of his bumcheeks. There’s a slightly disturbing trend developing there isn’t there? I should probably point out that both incidents were entirely unrelated and even happened in separate buildings, but that might calm some of your fears so I don’t think I’ll bother.

Saturday brought one of the best bike rides I’ve had in a long long time. A group of about thirty of us headed out of Garrigill into the hills. The amount of bike porn on offer was silly – there were at least three pairs of the rare-as-hens-teeth Maverick SC32 forks and a mad variety of machinery going from Shaggy’s fixed-gear rigid Spot all the way through the spectrum to Lee’s Orange Patriot 7+.

Photo by Simon Barnes

Within half a mile we hit snow, but carried on regardless – we’re hardcore like that. About a mile into the ride we’re all walking through knee-deep snow and its snowing, hard. I’m wishing I’d brought the snowboard instead. Most of the group turn back at this point – bunch of jessies. However, about ten of us continue upwards and onwards – some have scampered off into the distance, leaving myself, Mike, Bez, Dr Gray and Grant in the chasing pack. We never did catch up, though we did discover that you could ride through quite a lot of the snow, and when you did fall off it didn’t hurt. This meant that riding back was one of the all time classic descents, with all five of us flying over the handlebars into snowdrifts countless times and laughing most of the way down.

We finally got back to Garrigill just in time for the pub to stop serving food, so Mike and Timmah went off to Alston and returned about a pint later with ten rounds of fish and chips! Rocktastic! Cue another evening of eating, drinking and being merry – this time largely without injury.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny. A small part of me wanted to go and go and attempt to climb that hill again, but it was outnumbered by the other 96% of me, which was only really up for being downright lazy. I settled for riding around the village on Mike’s Dialled Prince Albert. It was far too big for me (even though it was about half the size of Phil “Nightfire” Tonkin’s ludicrous Ferrous 29’er), but I loved the huge handlebars on it. About three feet wide with much the same rise on them. Meanwhile, Make, Bez, Drac and Timmah competed in the Tour de Garrigill -a five lap race around the village. At the end of each lap all of the competitors got pelted with snowballs. I think Tim lasted one lap, Lee did two, Bez managed three and Mike romped away to a crushing (if a little hollow) victory.

With the riding over it was time to pack most of our kit into the car (I seem to have left my shorts on the radiator in the village hall – D’OH!) and head for home (this time with a soundtrack from The Damned and The Beastie Boys). A fantastic weekend all in all.

Big big big ginourmous thanks to Andy and T for hosting it, Mike for the lift up there and back, Matt for being mum and cooking a couple of fantastic large-scale meals, and to everybody else for making it well worth making the trip up there. Roll on next time…

Oh, by the way, there’s some pictures out on t’internet, by Simon, Rich, Lee, Grant.