This Is My Island In The Sun

While it’s not all confirmed yet, it looks like I’ll be spending at least some of February in Boston. It’s warm in Boston in Winter, right? Right?

I have bought a hat. The forecast for Boston next week is a nice and warm -8˚C during the day, and as low as -15˚C during the night. But don’t worry, because it warms up next weekend…just in time to create snow showers. Let’s just say that it could be interesting.

On that front, though, does anybody have any good ideas for places to eat and visit in Boston? It’s been over ten years since I went last - I plan on going to Newbury Comics, obviously (for those of you keeping track, which is not many, Boston was where I bought my first glitter pen. I blame Kenickie, obviously. And no, there are no photos. Thank goodness for a time before digital cameras), but I don’t really have much of a feel for the area besides that.

One downside to going away is that there won’t be any Fallout Durham Valentine’s Day chocolates this year. I was going to do something with pâte de fruit, but oh well, the ideas can keep until later in the year, I guess.

So! Send me Boston ideas! That aren’t ‘stand next to a heater for 24 hours’.

One Down

Well, I guess the year is off to a decent start. After the usual long, cramped, and sad journey flying across the Atlantic in a plane that taunts you with fancy seat controls but no actual seat-mounted displays to actually use them on 12 I had my first celebratory dinner at Toast, and then promptly fell asleep. Well, almost. First I had to open the contents of a UPS truck that had been delivered while I was in the UK. Might have got a little trigger happy in the sales, but who knows, I may need those dress shirts for work this year…

And then, on Friday, I took my driving test. Well, I tried, but instead spent the day trying to organize insurance and watching Die Hard. Yes, again. And then Chucks. Deliciously, wonderful Chucks. Even if they did short me out of my malt vinegar aioli but still charged me for it. I just can’t hold it against them.

Having failed miserably the day before, I was quite hesitant about trying again at the DMV. Especially as the person I spoke to on Friday told me that I’d have to take the theory test again, which I wasn’t prepared for. But I went. And eventually I was called, and eventually I followed the instructor to the car, drove off down the road, turned into a housing estate, did a three-point turn, drove backwards, then drove back to the DMV and parked. It was less than ten minutes. I can now drive anywhere in the US. Be afraid.

Having done that, I started putting together Saturday evening with my partner in crime for the day, Tammy (after complaining about how she’s been supplying my sister with hints and tips for removing my appendix). The plan? Chicken and waffles. Yes, all the fun of Dame’s, without having to queue for an hour. There will be more waffles and waffle-related things in the future, don’t worry. I also had to watch the last Matt Smith episode again. I don’t care what the Internet felt about it, I loved it.

And today, on my first weekend back in America? Ironing, tea, and Where Eagles Dare. I’m now drinking Lemsip and watching an old episode of Horizon. I’m easing back into America, it seems. Or not willing to slip back completely just yet.

Anyway, one week in, and I’ve already knocked off one resolution for 2014. Go me!

  1. I felt sorry for the group sitting across from me - a group from West Virginia who were flying for the first time listening in rapture to a seasoned businessman talking about the joys of technology available on other flights. [return]
  2. Though I was unclear on how they got to the UK if this was their first flight. A very long cruise or a shipping container, I guess. [return]

My Year In Lists

The last moments of 2013 are ticking away. It’s been an eventful year. I changed jobs (twice), bought a house (just the once, thankfully), wrote a book, made new friends and sadly said goodbye to a friend that left us. And here I am, back at the beginning, back in Bicester, sitting at the table and typing away.

Moving house was a little stressful, as the house that we were renting was becoming more and more dangerous to inhabit due to the black mold spreading like wildfire in the basement. I lost a lot of CDs, my birthday present from my family, suitcases, and even a Christmas tree to that basement. That and unacceptable behaviour from our landlord meant we really had to find somewhere else. And while we could have probably found a rental, I thought it was time to start looking for a place where we could change things, where we wouldn’t have to worry about what the landlord thinks about pets, and where I could wire up so many things to a twitter account. Thanks to the eagle eyes of my Mum, we found our house pretty quickly, and despite some last minute jitters over the roof and a few other bits and pieces, we’ve now been in there for almost half-a-year. We may have changed all the lights by the end of next year. Or figured out how to fix the shower head on the bath…

(and a big thank you to Tammy, who despite being in the process of moving from two homes (long story), still helped immensely during and after we moved from Trinity. And Luke for painting the door back to a non-dog scratched state!)

Work was busy. I started out quite happy at Rho, found myself at ReverbNation, where the Diet Cokes ran freely, and everything was Rails-y, and yet when I came back from the UK in May, I was contacted by OSI, and I was back there by mid-August. So two years in, and three jobs later, I’ve come full circle. And I haven’t been sent to California yet! Somewhere during this transitional period, I was emailed by Packt asking if I would like to write Instant Zepto.js. So I’m now listed on Amazon. Somewhat surprising, but hurrah!

2013 was supposed to be a year of making things. And I guess I did do some things - there was the SMS / Arduino game that I made back in February, chocolate molds I had laser-cut by Ponoko, and various sensors that I cobbled together to start the HouseOfPi twitter feed. I also explored the limits of Lulu and delved into the internals of iOS for a James Bridle-esque adventure of bringing the virtual world into the physical one (it ended up looking a bit like this). But still, I hope to do more next year.

Finally, we said goodbye to Melanie Cuplin this year. I think we probably talked more over email than we ever saw each other face-to-face (due to being in California and other events that occurred over the last couple of years), but she was a good friend with a lot of weird and wonderful stories. A life compressed, but very well lived.

Six Years To 2020

And what about next year? I do have a few things I want to do. So, a list!

  • Driving — I’ve lived in the USA for over two years now, and I have survived, and perhaps even thrived. But I think it’s time that I got my driving licence, so I’m not relying on my friends and wife every time I need to go to Whole Foods (or take the two-hour round-trip walk). Besides, having been there for a couple of years, it’d be nice to be able to explore a bit of the surrounding parts of North Carolina. And beyond!
  • Blog — I think I’ve been a bit better in regular updates this year, but it still feels a little threadbare around here sometimes. It would be nice to update a little more regularly, and I think it’s time for another face-lift. Haven’t decided whether to go for Tide Sans or to dip into my H&FJ subscription yet, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. I’ll try to make it a bit more than a rip-off of Svbtle, anyhow.
  • Chocolates — I produced more chocolates in 2013 than I have done in any previous year since I started in 2008, and sold more too (including my first company order!). We also finally found a commercial kitchen that was conducive to making chocolates suitable for selling, which was rather useful considering how many people inquired about Christmas orders this year! However, after the marathon of making the Holiday chocolates, I think it’s clear that I can’t see myself being able to do that every weekend. So my plans for 2014 are to focus on three or four collections (probably with a theme), spread out across the year, selling them on-line as usual and perhaps at locations like goMarket or the new pop-up shop on the back of Motorco. This should allow me to keep my sanity and fit in with any travelling I have to do for work in the next twelve months. Oh, and if anybody wants to spring for a melanger, I will totally get on with bean-to-bar experiments.
  • Side-projects — Spurred on by the success of Instant Zepto.js, I really need to get Scaling Node.JS sorted out in the first half of 2014. And I have another book project I’m working on. I’m also trying to work out something to send off the Green Wall before it becomes a 26-storey tower block. More on that as it progresses.
  • Cooking — I have been getting better at this, but I want to keep it up and go further in 2014. Cook all the things! And bake bread! As I got a few new cook books for Christmas, it’d be nice to set up something like a monthly Saturday or Sunday meal where I try and do a few fancy recipes…so hopefully you will come and eat them!
  • Exercise — And on the flipside to the cooking, the last few months have seen a rather worrying ballooning in size. Some of this is probably due to Winter-style hibernating, but not all. Which is not good! While I’m walking to and from work most days, I have become a bit more sedentary, especially at the weekends. So I’ve bought an exercise bike, but don’t worry: this blog will only feature half-marathons to point, laugh, and eat half a tub of salted caramel ice-cream.
  • Writing — This goes hand in hand with working on the blog more (and the side-projects as well, I guess), but I would like to write more next year. And not all technology or ‘what I did this week’ either.

We’ll see what happens! Anyhow, hope everybody has a happy New Year, and will be back in the US in a couple of days…

Just Like Christmas

It’s impressive how easy it is to slip back into the house; it’s been four days, and it’s like I never left. I’m stealing Bonnie’s chips, watching Neighbours, fixing computers, and putting a fez on top of the Christmas tree. And yes, Bonnie has threatened to kill me many many times. Only some of which were deserved, I swear.

Bonnie and Dad are now fighting over the cherries. It really is Christmas.

Anyway, a merry Christmas to all my readers. Will be back in Durham next week, but London on Monday!

and now the plug: My Zepto.js book is apparently on sale for during the holidays, if you fancy it - just $5 at! Hey, I have to get it in where I can…

I Hate Chocolate

That is all.

(Okay, I will probably return to it in the New Year, once we’ve both had a bit of a break and I don’t shout ‘TEMPER, YOU PITIFUL EXCUSE FOR AN EMULSION!” at random hunks of chocolate as I walk by them in the supermarket.)

The Weather Outside...Isn't Frightful?

26˚C in the middle of December is just wrong. Unfortunately, while it has been that hot here in Durham, there’s been ice storms in Texas (!), so Stacie is currently stranded there until further notice. Hopefully she’ll be back in time for the chocolate weekend of doom next weekend (orders at close on Thursday!), and manages to get out of the airport today.

Not much to talk about at the moment, sadly; I’m winding things down and packing for my return home in two weeks, making checklists for the upcoming chocolate marathon, and so on.

Instead, I’ll leave you with the TATE MODERN IN GINGERBREAD. YESSSSS.


(I would resize it, but then you’d lose the wonder)

Black Friday Again

I intended to pass on Black Friday. I had nothing to get. Or so I thought until I noticed a gaping hole in one of my trousers earlier this week. That broke the floodgates, ending up with me going to Chapel Hill Comics and walking out of Target with three seasons of Community (hey, $8 each! That’s a good deal, right?). Oops.

I am getting into the Christmas spirit by watching The Wild Geese. Nothing says Christmas like British mercenaries being double-crossed in Africa. Especially when it’s Richard Harris, Roger Moore, and Richard Burton. I feel like I should be drinking something with it though.

Thank you everybody who has ordered from Fallout Durham so far. Still a couple of weeks left to get your order in! Tomorrow, we begin making some of the orders in so far. In particular, tomorrow, we make around 7kg of peppermint bark. For a single order. It’s going to be a long December. And I may hate chocolate by the end of it…

The Eyebrows Will Rise

I don’t have too many childhood anecdotes about watching Doctor Who. I started watching during Dragonfire and saw it through till the end of Survival. My Doctor tricked the Daleks into blowing up Skaro, eliminate the entire CyberFleet with a sentient weapon used against its will, and manipulated the life of his companion just to take a shot at Fenric. I like to refer to the Seventh Doctor as Bat-Doctor. Always a few steps ahead, sometimes even ahead of himself.

It’s odd, really. During that period, Who was slung against Coronation Street by Michael Grade as part of his (rather successful) campaign to take the programme off-air. I always thought that revenge came a few years back when the Christmas episode of Who came top of the day’s ratings, destroying all the usual soap stalwarts, including Coronation Street. But this weekend was something else - a simulcast across the planet of an odd old man in a blue box, a blue box that ceased to make sense about forty years ago. And yet, is now more famous as a shape of a spaceship than its temporary use for policemen. Everybody got to see The Day of The Doctor at the same time. Or, if you were watching it via iPlayer, you got to see it at 30 second intervals, making it last two hours rather than an hour and fifteen minutes.

It was vintage Moffat - all plot, a smattering of character, fun and japery involving the Doctors, a few surprises here and there (THE EYEBROWS), and a surprising redefinition of the Doctor after the special; a ret-con that left everything previous in place. And a fez. I couldn’t really ask for more, except for being home in the UK to see Eleven turn into Twelve. Or is it Twelve into Thirteen? I don’t really know any more…

Inbetween Days

November is running out and there’s still so much more to do. It’s actually been quite cold for some of this week, colder than the UK, even, but tonight and tomorrow, it’s going to be 21˚C. Crazy scenes.

I’m trying to get some things organized before the year runs out. While I didn’t have time to complete my Hoefler & Frere-Jones-inspired, fully-responsive and buzzword compliant version of Fallout Durham, I can say that we’re likely to be ready to take orders in the next couple of days - just a few last tweaks and tests left. Secondly, I’ve started work on my second book, Scaling Node.js, of which the beta ebook should be out in mid-December. For all your Node.js scaling needs! If you have some, that is…

Meanwhile, the most important thing this week:

We have a Christmas tradition that makes my mother frown every year. Since I was about 18 or so, my sister and I have hijacked the top of the Christmas tree. It used to be an angel, but over the years, our tree has been topped by protesting Domos, Dory from Finding Nemo, a Heffalump in a bridal outfit, and much more besides. We’ve been racking our brains for what to do this year when the answer came to me last night. This year, of all years, it could only be this:

The Fez!

One more week, and it’s Thanksgiving. Two years since I was living it up in Santa Monica…