An Insufficiency of tea

Sometime back in the mists of 2005, while I was working at Evolving Media in Bedford, we hired a dedicated sysadmin to solve the increasing problem of the development staff spending more time keeping servers up and secure than developing things. One of the new things I discovered from this person was the existence of Rooibos “Tea”, a phenomenon which had thus far entirely escaped my lifestyle. Rooibos tea isn’t caffinated, and is enjoyed by millions of people all over the world in the style of tea and, apparently, coffee, which I may have to try at some point.

Roobios Tea, via Wikipedia

Anyway, I don’t like Rooibos. To my face they taste like one part masala chai to three parts carpet dust, and whilst I like masala chai, I’m happy to live without carpet dust in my beverage.

My current providers of tea (and supplier of a lot of the contents of the tins in the above photograph) is, providers as – the clue is in the name – Nothing But Tea, who Mr. Williams recommended at me a while back. Recently when I bought a nice glass teapot for my new office from them, they also provided a number of sample packs for random types of tea, and one of these was a sample of the unexpectedly existent, concept of Blueberry Rooibos. This morning, for no other reason than it was Saturday and I was curious, I decided to try it. The slight aspect of carpet dust is still there, but it’s now more like two parts Masala chai to one part carpet dust to two parts blueberries, which is a great improvement. I may even try the blackberry. I’ll report on other side effects as time permits.


Veruca Salt's side effects (Image still from WB's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)


“The films I’ve most loved, as well as those I’ve most hated, are the ones I’ve known least about in advance. When I’m well briefed, my range of responses clusters more closely around the average. It’s almost impossible to find a brilliant film brilliant if dozens of people have told you it’s brilliant in advance. “You have to see it – you’ll be amazed!” they say and then I can’t help expecting it to transcend the medium – to be more than just a film, even though I can’t imagine how. A film with free sandwiches, perhaps, or useful tips for putting up shelves.”

David Mitchell

(This is why I don’t watch trailers for movies)

“Londoners are not impressed by anything, at all, ever. Everything has already happened here — including the Olympics, twice, in 1908 and 1948. Sometimes, the weary stoicism of Londoners is a boon. But it is an outlook instantly affronted by any suggestion that any future happening is going to be profitable, transformative or, worst of all, pleasant.”

The New York Times on London

(The amount this attitude to anything irritates me beyond all measure is quite high. I’m so utterly fed up with the facet of geekdom that derides everything as awful merely on the principle that it’s happening)

Quotes taken from Killed in a Smiling Accident, who I’m sure I credited when I wrote the entry, but apparently didn’t. I apologise for accidentally being a dick.


Lights, Camera, Awesome

So, today something cool happened, that has to do with this weblog, which I’ll get around to explaining when it comes forth.

Plus, Felicia Day responded to me on Twitter, which is a good thing.

Oh, and I got a haircut. But that was yesterday.

I now look like me with shorter hair.

This month’s photo background was taken with Camera Awesome!, which aims to be the fastest and bestest camera app for iPhone. It does well on fast, a little faster to start up than the native app, and a lot quicker to be able to take subsequent pictures. Their website performed a neat gurilla marketing trick over the weekend, as it contains a number of easter-eggs, the first person to find each of which got a $30 iTunes gift voucher (One of these winners was me. It’s been a good week so far).



Kickstarting your project

It’s fairly easy to get addicted to Kickstarter.

My first use of it was for Shaenon Garrity’s Narbonic Perfect Collection, a drive to get the funding to print the Compleat Editions of her wonderful comic series, Narbonic. Second was for the well-documented OOTS reprint drive, third for the even more well documented DoubleFine Adventure. Then the Elevation iPhone dock, and a project to make an open-source tabletop RPG system.

I like preordering things way in advance. It’s like buying my future self unexpected suprises, but all the things I have Kickstarted have shared one thing in common: I get to play with the item at the end.

If I’m helping to fund a game, and I’m donating more than the game will cost, I want to get the game at the end of it. Not just a beta-tester credit, a thin T-Shirt and five bits of concept art wallpaper, but the game. Think of it less as a cannibalization of our future sales, and more an advanced preorder. Paying $30 to help develop a game is nice, but another $30 to buy it afterwards? I’d rather send you $50 up front and get both the warm fuzzy glow *and* the l3wt.

And my top two Kickstarters right now:


Adventures in Gymnasia

(This was written last night, and then I forgot to post it)

The important thing about gaining fitness is to make it part of your routine, I’m told. At the conclusion of the prologue to this adventure I narrowly avoided joining a gym. They were going though a restructure of their prices, and a few days later my sunny and proactive rep emailed though to say she’d got the new prices together, and I should book another free session so we could go over them. So I did. Then I didn’t make it because I had a deadline, and then I didn’t make the next one because I forgot my PE kit, and eventually me, my PE kit and my schedule all lined up in a neat little row on a Monday near to the end of December…

…and I was suddenly very glad I didn’t have a gym contract, as I no longer had a job to fund it. Then it was christmas, and while we do have a gym below our block of flats it’s all the way over there. Plus, I’m not entirely 100% confident in how to use them without accidentally recreating iconic loony tunes moments. I have small wooden signs with “Oh dear” and “I suspect this is going to hurt” prepared for these occasions.

New Employers are talking about free gym memberships, which will be nice, but with some calculation I realised a few days ago that while it currently takes me an hour and a half to get to work in North Finchley by bus/train/train/bus, it would take only about half an hour longer than that to walk to Turnpike Lane and get the same final bus. Today, I arbitrarily decided on leaving work that I would do this today. Deciding shortly afterwards that a better and possibly saner idea would be to do about half of it today, bus the other half, and see how much my legs hate me in the morning. So, iPhone loaded with a walking route and a three hour radio show about Spike Milligan to keep me entertained, I set out.

It was fine, handily. If I hadn’t stopped at the “I’ll bus from here” point to do some shopping, I’d have been happy to walk the rest of the way, I think. We’ll see how this turns in to tomorrow when my feet settle their oncoming debt, but it seems like a nice way to earn a couple of hundred Fitocracy points ever few days. And maybe – whisper who dares – I might end up buying a bicycle, and join the elite and superior race of beings who cycle though London. Not yet, though. I’m not crazy.

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home Random webcomics

Not Lovingfilm enough


Shoebox » Chuck & Beans.

So I unsubscribed from Lovefilm DVDs today.

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Uses for an iPad

So, it’s been 190 days since I bought an iPad.

I bought the magnetic cover and a bluetooth keyboard for it. At Charlie’s suggestion I also picked up the Origami case for the keyboard, bringing the price for the whole caboodle around the same as a cheap laptop. A couple of months later I also bought the new iPhone, and I’m already sizing up Airs against the fact I’m probably going to have to move house soon. So far, deposits are winning.

English: Apple iPad Event
Image via Wikipedia

The iPad became part of my default carrying stack from the day I got it, and I haven’t touched either Laptop since I bought the keyboard for it. I can see that changing if I want to start doing dev work on it, but mostly if I’m getting out of the house to type it’s blog or story related. To and from work it’s a great video device. I’ve subscribed to a few series on iTunes (notably, the currently airing US series of Castle) and moved most of my physical magazine subscriptions to Newsstand, plus the Guardian iPad app is a wonderful thing. With the addition of the Kindle App and the Buzzplayer for non-apple formatted video, I use it a lot as a media consumption device more than most other things. It’s more comfortable to watch and read than a laptop (although for long-term book reading the Kindle beats it hands down, unless I’m going on a long journey it’s this I’ll take with me).

Evernote for iOS icon
Image via Wikipedia

The larger size on-screen keyboard works for me, although I kind of miss the haptic feedback from android devices, and is good enough to keep notes on in meetings or jotting things down on the bus. My primary software for this is Evernote, primarily because its absolutely seamless syncing between slate, phone and desktop means I can start a shopping list at home on my desktop, update it on the bus when I think of something, and then check it on my phone when I’m in the shop.

One of the things I missed from the Apple

Image via Wikipedia

Ecosystem when I stopped having devices attached to it was Omnifocus, Omni’s Getting Things Done organisation tool. Omni are firmly a mac-focused company, which does very well for them, but I wish they’d open the API for their syncing server, or write a web client for it, or something (One of the things I like about Omnifocus is that you can chose to sync on their servers, or on your own if you have a WebDav server you could use. I could write something myself to parse the files, I suppose.) Stuff I need to remember to do goes in Omnifocus, and I tend to keep that open and propped up on my desk at work as a running to-do list.

It’s not a perfect device. The refusal of iTunes to automatically sync files to a non-apple App whilst simultaneously refusing to play non Quicktime files is irritating, even if I understand why the latter is necessary. It makes getting video files to the device harder than necessary.

Mostly, though, it Just Works. Almost all the actual problems I’ve had with the device have been due to iTunes rather than the iPad itself, and iOS5 has been a great upgrade that has improved the battery life and usability of the device. It just works, which is mostly what I want from it.

When I bought it, I wondered if I was making a mistake, getting a new device that I didn’t really have a model for using. It was one of those things that would either be a boost to my day, or an expensive digital camera frame. I know a few people who have found the latter more true than the former, but I’m not one of them.

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Draft Excluder, Volume 2

Because the last one was so popular.

The Tyranny of Bone China – In which your humble narrator attempts to find the name of a plate pattern.

A Dark Tea-time – In which I explain the soul-sapping nature of unemployment.

Between a rock and a hard tweet – In which I try to figure out how Twitter is suddenly responsible for ensuring international free speech instead of, say, the United Nations.

Dear – In which I get very annoyed at a DNS provider for being a dick about transfers.

Dear – In which I get very annoyed at another DNS provider for being a dick about SOPA

Money where my mouse is – In which I consider the nature of Piracy and how my personal piratical nature has decreased since I can now actually *buy* most of the stuff I used to pirate quickly and easily.  Today, the Oatmeal produced an effective counterpoint, and between this and the increasingly limited selection on Netflix, we do appear to be going backwards.

Odyssey – In which I attempt to explain LARP. All of it. At once. This entry has been postponed due to a scoping issue.

Projects Random

Stick Figures

I can’t imagine anyone reading this who has any interest in it hasn’t heard by now, but Rich Burlew’s OOTS Pledgeathon for new books is coming to an eventual conclusion in about 9 hours (5pm GMT), having beaten his original $60,000 target just a smidge, the totalometer reading $1,172,452 as I type. One for the Kickstarter record books, second most funded project of all time (until Doublefine’s multi-million dollar drive ends next month, at least).

It’s really interesting to see this whole new method of funding take flight. It’s not for everyone. Rich has got ten years goodwill behind him, Doublefine – via Tim Schafer – has twice that, and for every successful project to make a revolutionary new form of coathook, there’s a dozen scientific magazines, animated films or arthouse flicks that have fallen more than 90% short of their funding goal, so while it’s a good way to *get* the money people want to give you to make your thing happen, you need that audience to exist *first* to a large extent. (The Elevation Dock people got around that, but they were heavily featured on tech blogs too, so you either need an audience or PR).

Also, it’s interesting that the most popular Kickstarter drives haven’t been for support, or for the money to make something you’ll pay for, but to a large extent a massive pre-ordering of something, in a way that can be used to make the eventual item better (rather than the current system, where pre-ordering a book, game, DVD or whatever is merely gaining interest for the retailer until the release date.

For myself, while encouraging Mr Burlew to make more comics is important, I’m mostly using the funding drive to plug the holes in my OOTS book collection, since the ones I’ve been missing have been out of print for a while now. That I get extra free stuff is very much a bonus 🙂

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Don Camillo

I’ve got out of the habit of practicing reading stuff aloud, which is a shame. Also, I was reminded of a series of short stories I read a long time ago, amusing tales of a somewhat irreverant priest and his battles against local communists in rural Italy, called the Little World of Don Camillo. So:

Don Camillo – A Confession