Month: October 2015

Fancy Dress Shenanigans


Playing dress up is fun. However, over the years I have come to despair more and more at the costumes on offer. Boys seem to get the coolest outfits, whilst us poor girlies are more and more being inundated with costumes such as ‘Sexy Batwoman‘, ‘Little Red Riding Hood‘, and ‘Alice in Wonderland‘.

The one thing these all have in common? They would be well at home in an Anne Summers catalogue. Which I have no problem with, because Anne Summers rocks. I’m more than happy to dress up in clothing that will flash a bit of boob and leg. That said, I have things like Rocky Horror for that.

More to the point – in the UK, Halloween is at the time of year when temperatures are dropping, and it’s usually raining. I’d rather wear something a little bit warmer. So this year, I’m rebelling.

I shall be The Shadow Witch! Which I may have just totally made up.

Shadow witch is down with modern technology.
Shadow witch is down with modern technology.

She even has a back story. Which again, I may have just made up.

Once upon a time, in a forest on your doorstep, a woman was walking on dark path on All Hallows Eve. Nary a star was in the night sky, for it was the deepest dark of dark nights. The moon hid behind blackened cloud, wary of the creatures lurking below. The woman was walking, and came across an eldritch grove, lit up by an eerie luminescence. Curious as to the cause of this light on such a dark path, the woman found herself a curiosity stick, and stepped further into the grove. She poked around the sparse area, jabbing tentatively at anything that was sticking up. Into the grove sneaked a mischievous imp, who promptly bound our heroine with strands of light.

‘Help! Help!’ cried the woman.

The imp laughed manically. There was no help forthcoming.

‘On this, the darkest of dark nights, I must sustain myself on the light within others!’, cried the imp.

‘Please, oh fearsome imp, my light is small and un-nourishing. Will you not allow me to win my freedom?’ wept the woman. The imp, not really all that bad a sort, pondered for a while.

‘Very well!’, said the fearsome imp. ‘Answer my riddle, and I shall feast elsewhere this night!’. Our unlikely heroine eagerly nodded assent, desperate to escape. The imp smiled, and through wicked lips, hissed:

‘What is brown and sticky?’

The woman, unversed in puns and riddles, was unable to answer. The imp laughed manically, and gobbled up all of our heroines light, until she was but a shadow of her former self. As she cried, the imp, indeed unsatisfied with the meager meal, began to feel pity for the woman.

‘On this night, every year, I will give you a chance to win back your light,’ said the imp. He gave our heroine a rather dashing hat. ‘Wear this, so I can recognise your shadow, and return with the answer to my riddle.’ The imp disappeared in a puff of green smoke, and, free from his grasp, our heroine dashed away from the eldritch grove, desperate to solve the riddle and win back her light.

Even now, she can be found, clad in darkness, still wielding her curiosity stick, trying – and failing – to find that which is brown and sticky, never realising that she had been in possession of the answer all along.

The moral of the story? Never let your curiosity get the better of you.

Anyways, I personally think my costume is bad-ass. The morph suit will keep me warm. I get to wear my coat. The hat will shield me from the rain. Plus, I’m sure that the morph suit can be re-purposed for future fancy dress shenanigans, which is all over a win in my book. More to the point, I won’t feel self-conscious if I happen to go out trick or treating with a couple of little girls. 🙂

It looks like a broom stick, but it *is* a curiosity stick.
It looks like a broom stick, but it *is* a curiosity stick.

Falling off the wagon

Today I cracked. I’m not actually sure why. I wasn’t feeling particularly stressed out.

I just really really wanted a cigarette.

So, on my lunch break at work, I went to do my usual weekly shop at the supermarket around the corner. On my way out, I brought a pack of cigarettes and a lighter at the lottery counter. Cue hearing what no one doing something they don’t particularly want to be caught doing wants to hear:

“I didn’t expect to find you here!”

Busted. By none other than the blokes mother. Standing at the counter waiting for my cash back, cigarettes and lighter on the counter in front of me like a beacon of ‘Look who fell off the wagon-ness.’


We proceeded in typically British fashion, of course. Neither of us made mention of what was on the counter in front of me, and exchanged pleasantries. Then I excused myself with the reasoning of having to get back to work, now I’d done my weekly shopping, frantically gesturing at my fully laden shopping trolley. Trolleys give legitimacy in panicked moments, see. That’s logic!

I haven’t quite decided how much trouble on a scale of 1-10 I may now be in.

I probably would have confessed to the bloke anyway, but now I suppose I should regardless. As an adult, I am responsible for my own poor decisions, as well as the consequences. Or something.

I suspect that I will soon be getting tutted at by a few people in my life. Which is fair after all the bragging, I guess. I only smoked one of the things in the end before throwing away the rest of the packet in disgust. So not worth it, and I’m pretty annoyed at myself.

I’ll get back on the wagon, and back to being self-righteously smug as soon as possible.

Revisiting old haunts

Quite a few years ago, I spent a lot of time playing an online game called Guild Wars. I wasn’t that great at it, but it was a lot of fun. I played for about seven years. The thing that kept me playing wasn’t the game itself, but more the people that I was playing the game with. I fell in with a fantastic group of people, who have in part remained online friends even now. Some, I’ve even met in ‘real life’, so to speak.

I did play Guild Wars 2 for a while, but it just didn’t have the same draw for me as its predecessor did. That said, I still occasionally get the urge to log on, if only to ‘see’ some of the people I used to play the game with. Which I guess is odd – I’m not getting the urge to log on to play the game. I’m getting the urge to log on to just virtually hang out with some awesome people.

Many of these people, I never met in real life. Which I guess means that just because you’re not interacting with people physically, it doesn’t make the whole experience pointless. Many of the people who I have only ever met online are people I hold in high regard.

I’ll probably try to log on over the weekend when I have some free time. And probably give away all the loot I accumulated on the trading post whilst not being online – before I stopped playing, I was playing the ‘trading post’ game to get rich with no real purpose. I’m hoping to run in to some of the familiar people who made Guild Wars such a fun time of my life.

Money well spent … ?

My Dad taught me to keep a bank book upon my getting my first debit card. A fairly simple concept, that strangely isn’t taught in schools – but simply put, the book was a place to write down all incomings and outgoings so that I could keep track of my bank balance without waiting for a monthly statement.

Things have changed somewhat since then, with the advent of things like internet banking, but I still kept my bank book.

Back in 2009, I found myself with a few financial issues, and decided to log what I was spending money on – as you can’t control spending unless you can identify what you’re spending it all on. I created a spreadsheet, with categories, so I could track my outgoings more efficiently. Even after I had my situation under control, I kept going with my spreadsheet, as the nerdy part of me liked being able to generate pie charts of what I was spending money on. I even added extra categories to log spendings against.

What has this given me today? Well, for starters – I have spent £53,990 exactly on rent. This would be enough to get a deposit on a home of my own. Which is pretty annoying, since home ownership was something that I thought I would be enjoying by the time I was 30. My wage is good, yet the area I live in (an area I had to move to in order to do the job I wanted to do) is crazy expensive in terms of house prices and rent costs. I know I have yet another rent increase coming up in the next 9 months or so. Add on top of that the knowledge that I could easily get a mortgage on a property in the town where I grew up, and you can bet that the word ‘frustrating’ does not even *begin* to cover my feelings on this.

So, that covers the ‘dead’ money. What about flat out wasted cash?

Since 2009, I have spent £13,511.23 on smoking. Ouch! That figure has not been going up since I converted over to zero nicotine vaping, which pleases me. But still … that is money that could have gone into my savings account quite nicely to bring me closer to the magic number that would be enough of a deposit to get a mortgage. Oops.

What don’t I regret? The £965.60 that I have spent on cheese since 2010* is money well spent, and I regret nothing. Even if it later turns out to be cancer causing like everything else I like to consume, apparently.

The conclusion I have come to is this – I’ll have to start logging my spending on bacon, just so I can start getting an accurate total on my spending in relation to things that will give me cancer at some point.

* I added the cheese category after the first year of starting my spreadsheet. Before that, it was lumped in with the ‘food category, which incidentally, is £8389.14 since 2009.

Why do phones have to do everything?

This weekend, the bloke and I were watching TV, and there was an advert that kept coming on – in short, it was a badly dubbed advert with a teenage boy asking his neighbour why his phone can’t control his cars features (because there’s an app for that!!!).

This in turn led to a discussion about why everything has to be controlled by a phone. We both agreed that it’s getting beyond silly now. Your phone can now control your central heating. And probably your fridge. Or your washing machine. But like the bloke said – ‘Hey, phone! Fill my washing machine for me!’.

It really is going a bit far now.

I get the whole temptation to see if something is possible. But central heating control away from home? Why is a thermostat and timer not enough? You don’t need your heating on full blast when you’re not in – so don’t you already have that under control? When I’m in my car, I shouldn’t be pratting around on my phone full stop.

As it is, there are enough apps nagging for my attention on my phone. I try to limit it to the ones I see the point in. A few games, etc. Although I did uninstall a game this weekend, when after playing it once, it started notifying my that I hadn’t played for a few hours. I mean, really? Was the app developer so enamoured of the push notification feature that he just had to play with it? It was a wordsearch game, for goodness sake!

Enough with taking the internet of things to silly places! Enough with having to make everything an app on my phone!

tl;dr: Stop the silliness!

My top 5 current favourite Visual Studio 2013 extensions

I’m a fan of things that make my working life easier. Here are my current top 5 (free!) extensions for Visual Studio 2013. Bear in mind that I’m currently working mainly with C# and XAML.

  • ClipboardHistory – Keeps a history of anything that you put on your clipboard.
  • Pretty Paste – Kills extra line spaces or line numbers when pasting wodges of code around. Very handy for reusing XAML when a template won’t cut the job!
  • Productivity Power Tools 2013 – Just install it. This is awesome.
  • ResXManager – Too many languages to deal with? This helps you to manage all of them. Highly useful!
  • XamlFormatter – Formats XAML sensibly. Fixes any dodgy indentation you may have inadvertently left behind.

Morning Coffee

I was woken up this morning by the bloke bringing me coffee in bed.

This has never happened before. I suspect that his reasoning was that he needed me to get up to let him out of the car park (the car park entrance is secured by a remote key), and the safest way to wake me up is by providing a suitable caffeinated offering. He is a wise man.

There are worse ways to be woken up at silly o clock on a weekend morning. This small gesture has also set me up for being in a good mood for the day, inspite of the early hour. Which I guess is probably the whole point of the post – such little things can be so awesome, and cost so little. I’d like to say that I’ll try harder, but really – a small thing like coffee in bed costs very little in terms of time or effort. So, I guess I’ll try and go forward by being more mindful that the little things can make someones day, and just make sure that I take the few seconds required to act on that.

My thoughts on Quotas

In the UK at the moment, there have been rather public criticisms that our Police are ‘too white’. In my internet reading, I also often come across articles about how there aren’t enough women in the board room. And various other quotas for different industries.

On one hand, I can see what is being driven at – equality, and this is all fair enough. However, I get very nervous at the all too predictable demand for ‘quotas’ to be put in to place to address these issues.

Here’s where I stand on it – I beleive in equality. I firmly beleive that every person should have an equal chance at a given oppurtunity. Quotas are, however, a slippery slope to reverse discrimination. Where does it stop?

As things are right now, I sometimes wonder if I have an easier time getting a job in my field due to looking great on a HR check sheet – female, wanting to be a software developer? Awesome! It’s demoralising to wonder if I have received a job offer not through virtue of being good at what I do, but through virtue of possessing lady bits.

So, I’m against quotas. They just reverse the problem to a different demographic. What I’d much rather see is the right person in the job – whatever it may be, and regardless of if the applicant is white, green, alien, etc.

If there is a worry that a minority is not being represented enough, by all means encourage anyone in that minority to apply for the job. Just don’t hire them based upon meeting some quota to show how ‘diverse’ you can be. That’s insanity – especially if the job role is something involving responsiblity. Hire the best person for the job, and see the job get done well.

Memory vs Understanding

I have a pretty good memory. Call it an ability or skill (I prefer the latter, personally), it was something I got thinking about today.

Now, I don’t remember *everything* – my memory is not photographic. I do remember anything I happen to pay attention to, though. It’s generally an ability I use to annoy, though it does let me sail through quite a lot of things. I can remember conversations word for word *, random numbers. Sometimes, entire modules of code if I happen to be the person who wrote it.

Here’s the thing though – while it’s handy, it doesn’t bring with it the ability to understand things. I think this is an important distinction, especially when I think about my education. I was able to get through my GCSE’s not by understanding the content, or even revising – but mainly by remembering things, and using logic for the rest, Later, I got more disciplined. and started actually revising. Although if I’m completely honest with myself, my academic success is down mainly to an ability to recite by rote as opposed to actually understanding things. I did get better at understanding the underlying material later during studying for my degree, as my own interest in the subject steered me that way.

There’s not really much point to this post other than random musing, I guess. What does bear thinking about – for me, at least – is that testing metrics throughout academic subjects are slightly off, if I can acknowledge that I didn’t always understand the underlying material, but still scored highly anyway. Maybe that’s why I always preferred coursework to exams, since it seemed more challenging, if only because I had to demonstrate an understanding of the work.

None of this means that I won’t continue to use my memory for evil to annoy to make life easier, of course. If anything, I may actually start looking into ways to improve my memory further as a little side project.

This is most likely down to the fact that I am female. All women have this ability, so that they can beat people around the head with what they said *years* after the event. True facts!