You learn something new every day (part 2)

I wrote this post and then realised it’s now over 3 months since the last one. Oh well. “You Learn Something New Every Three Months” wouldn’t have sounded as good. But I do have not just one but several facts that I didn’t know until embarrassingly recently this time (I’ve been collecting them since the last entry, you see!).

  • The thing that prompted me to write this sequel post was looking at this web page… there’s a table on there that lists release dates and version numbers of Xubuntu (the flavour of Linux currently nestling cosily inside my littleย netbook). While idly scrolling past it I suddenly had one of those “Aaaah, that makes more sense!” moments of dawning realisation when I noticed that the Ubuntu version numbers match the year and month they were released (so the new version that’s just come out is 12.04, for April 2012). Hence the reason most of the version numbers end in .04 or .10 is because the release tends to be on a 6 monthly schedule, and the reason the first Ubuntu was 5.04 and not 1.something is because it was released in 2005. I honestly never noticed this before. I just thought whoever came up with the version numbers was slightly crazy. (Come on, I’ve only been following the Linux world for about ten years… you can’t expect me to notice everything straight away).
  • Also netbook-related: I only just noticed that my own netbook does, in fact, have an SD card slot, after about 18 months of assuming it didn’t. This after wasting ages on one trip away (I think it was the Alton Towers one) wrestling with cables and Nikon software trying to get my camera to connect to it so that I could upload some pics… and all the while I could have just popped the memory card out and put it in the slot just like I do with the big laptop. Oops.
  • Also (sort of) road-trip-down-south related: I made it til last year without realising most car sun visors can be detached at one end and swivelled round to the side to block the sun when it’s coming through the side windows as well. Eventually I saw Gavin doing it in my own car. “What are you doing, you’ve broken-… aaaaaah, that’s actually pretty useful!”

But the crowning achievement of my everyday ignorance has to be living alone in this flat for three and a half years before discovering that council tax single occupancy discount exists. My indignation at having been paying an extra ยฃ30 a month all that time quickly evaporated when Edinburgh council agreed, to my amazement, to refund the whole lot in one go. (Though I didn’t ask them to also refund the extra I paid during the two years in my previous flats. I think that might have been pushing it).

Ironically, it now seems I might have finally claimed single occupancy discount just in time to end up having to cancel it due to not qualifying anymore. Maybe more about that later… but I’m kind of excited ๐Ÿ˜‰

PS you should take a look at my brother’s new blog, because it’s awesome and much better written than mine. I’m also very taken with the project codenames he’s made up for the stuff he’s working on right now… I might have to shamelessly steal the idea and write a post on here about all the projects I’ve got planned.

Beyond Studios Advent Calendar

Some friends and I have just launched a new project which, if you’re one of my regular readers, you’ve quite likely already seen splashed all over Facebook. Anyway here’s some more information.

Beyond Studios is my friend Gavin’s film making group, with which we’ve done several fun and often quite silly video and audio projects. (Some of the more recent ones are on Youtube and hopefully not too difficult to find). The Beyond Studios Advent Calendar’s actually been around a few years now (I think 2006 was the first one). To begin with it was just a collection of (usually) funny photos that Gavin would post on our private forum each day of December, but it’s got progressively more ambitious every year since – the last two have involved a comedy sketch or something similar every day, made by various members of the group (and taking up a significant proportion of our free time over the festive season!).

Anyway, there have been murmurings among the group for the last couple of years along the lines of “are we going to have time to make one this year?”, and “we can’t possibly make it any bigger than last year’s… can we?”. Oh yes we can, said Gavin, getting into the panto spirit already. Let’s make a public one that we can show to the world, with a much expanded team, and something else we never had before (drumroll please)… a budget!

That’s where you come in. We’ve launched a crowd funding campaign on IndieGoGo to try and raise the money. Even if you can’t afford to or don’t want to donate, the pitch video is worth a watch – it features an eccentric old man who makes hilariously suggestive comments and throws money at the silliest of ideas! (But enough about me ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

Pictures from the launch event we held at the Voodoo Rooms yesterday afternoon:

Setting up the technology.

Gavin in full sales pitch mode.

Gavin through the looking glass…

We even had business cards!

(I was also going to blog about seeing Derren Brown‘s Svengali show on Saturday, but he specifically asked anyone writing about it not to give away what happens, so the post probably would have boiled down to “Yeah, it was pretty good. The sort of thing you’d expect from Derren Brown, really”. So I don’t think I’ll bother giving it its own post… it can have this footnote instead).



This week I’m determined to seriously start trying to sort out my sleep.

It’s been messed up for a while. I never seem to get quite enough and don’t feel refreshed even if I do… or I wake up in the early hours and can’t get back to sleep for ages. Either way, not good. I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m existing in this sort of not-fully-conscious state with a haze of tiredness that I can’t shake off clumped around my head. (I have my suspicions about how this started. A few months of receiving abusive texts and phonecalls that you can’t get away from at all hours can do a lot to make you view sleep the way a starving African child probably views food. I think it left me anxious that I’d never get a decent night’s sleep again in my life. But that’s in the past now and it’s about time I stopped feeling that way).

So I bought Paul McKenna’s sleep book. Having grown up watching him on the telly using his hypnosis skills to make people act like chickens and forget that the number seven exists hasn’t actually put me off him too badly as a serious self help author. Some of his suggestions are a bit out there and possibly not backed up by much science. But on the plus side he writes in a very positive and engaging tone that I find more helpful and easy to read than most authors. Usually when I read a self help type book I find myself feeling alienated and thinking “This doesn’t really apply to me, I’m different from the people they’re talking about”. I never get that with Paul McKenna’s books. They have a way of making me feel that yes, this was written for me, so I’m more likely to actually take notice and persevere with the advice.

There are lots of very useful little practical suggestions, some of which I already knew I should be doing (cutting down caffeine, not napping during the day), but some new to me (like keeping a notebook beside the bed so you can write down ideas that come to you rather than have them go round and round in your head keeping you awake). I’m going to attempt to do as many of them as possible for the next few weeks. Multi-pronged attacks are good in my experience. They’re more effort up front, but there’s also much more chance of things changing enough that it feels worthwhile carrying on. There is also a hypnosis CD to help you fall asleep; I’ve tried it three times so far and twice I fell asleep before the end. So far, so good.

One “prong” is giving up alcohol (again) for a while. It may be that it’s fine to go back to drinking in moderation, but for the moment it’s another thing that could be interfering with my sleep, so worthwhile eliminating it and seeing what happens.

I’ll let you know what happens…

(Actually, maybe I won’t. I have a feeling I’ve said that about things before and then probably never did. Sorry).


Chocolate Fudge Cake… mmm…

When I’m in the kitchen while my girlfriend’s cooking, I still tend to feel a bit like the nurses you get in operating theatres, just standing there slightly in awe and fetching various utensils when the expert says “Knife, please”, plus of course trying not to spill or sneeze on anything important. But recently I’ve been getting a bit more adventurous with cooking myself.

One of my new favourite recipes is chocolate fudge cake, from a book called “The Big Book of Baking” (I think it’s this one, but Amazon are out of stock unless you fancy paying 20 quid or more for a used one… my copy was a kind Christmas present from Mari ๐Ÿ™‚ ). I made it for my workmates to mark my ten year anniversary of starting in my job… but I expect you could use the same recipe for a 9th anniversary or maybe even, with minor modifications, an 11th.

Ingredients for the chocolate fudge icing, waiting to be melted. There’s two and a half bars of solid chocolate in that pan! (along with other stuff, including a type of sugar I’d never even heard of before).

Starting to mix up the actual cake. Electric whisk… what’s that?

Icing is ready to be chilled! Just got to resist the temptation to drink it all instead.

Beating the eggs and adding them to the mix.

Finally adding the flour and cocoa powder. (Bonus fact: “cocoa” was my first word, apparently. It couldn’t be something normal like “Mummy” or “Daddy” with me, could it. Oh no).

The finished mixture!

The finished cakes!! (Note: only normal metal cake tins in my kitchen. None of these freaky looking silicone “tins” that look like they shouldn’t survive the oven ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

The finished cake, iced!!! (Stop laughing at the back. It may look a mess, but… but… ah, I don’t know how to finish that sentence ๐Ÿ™ ).

I didn’t actually get to eat any of the cake myself, though I did eat plenty of the icing. It seemed to go down well with my colleagues, one of whom said I should have a tenth anniversary more often. I said I would try.