Frost Fair

Yesterday we went to the Frost Fair at Hatfield House. We thought it would be an enjoyable event to take Max to but in retrospect we should have left him behind. Unlike the Living Crafts fair in the early Summer, which has plenty of room available to move around, this event was held in a series of smaller marquees and confined spaces and was very busy, making it extremely unpleasant pushing Max’s buggy around. It also meant that we didn’t want to spend a lot of time looking at things as by doing so we were getting in other people’s way.

On top of all this our offspring decided that the only thing he was interested in eating was ice cream. Unsurprisingly, given the time of year and the nature of the event, this was unavailable. Fortunately, we did manage to persuade him to have a chocolate cookie.

After a lot of pushing and shoving about we decided to give up and leave. Feeling that we should eat, and wanting to go somewhere that might cheer Max up a little, we decided to head for the nearest McDonalds. Yes, yes, I know. I fired up the navigation on my phone and off we went. Little did I realise, foolish me, that the nearest one was at the Galleria. If you’ve never tried to park there, you won’t believe how hard it can be unless you go into the  main car park, which we didn’t want to do as we were only making a quick stop. So we spent some time driving around the outside car park looking for a space and unable to stop and wait for one as by this point there was a fire engine behind us with lights flashing. Naturally, Max had spotted our destination by this point and was anxious to get out of the car.

Eventually we were forced to give up and take Max to visit his grandparents instead, where he did at least cheer up, but the whole day felt a bit wasted. I don’t think we’ll be doing that again in a hurry.

A Brief Note on Star Trek: Discovery

Like, I presume, most other Star Trek fans I’ve been watching the new series, Star Trek: Discovery, on Netflix for the last few weeks and I’m not entirely sure I like it. No, scratch that, I like it well enough but I’m not sure I love it. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why that is and have yet to reach any firm conclusions. Perhaps it’s just early days and by the end of the first season I’ll feel differently. Perhaps it’s the continuous narrative rather than the previous series’ format of discrete episodes, sometimes overlaying a longer story. Perhaps it’s just that what I’d really like to see is something set further into the future than the other series were, rather than sandwiched between Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: The Next Generation as this one is. I want to find out what happens next, not what happened before.

Whatever the reason, I’m not entirely happy. Oh, I shall keep watching and hoping it gets better and maybe it will. Does anyone else have any strong feelings about Discovery?

Please Sleep!

Last Wednesday my son, who is three and a half years old, began his school journey by entering the nursery at the place he’ll go to for the next few years. He’d been going to another nursery for three half days a week but this is proper, full day, every weekday, stuff.

I was expecting him to be tired and, indeed, after the first couple of days he was, but last night he was back to his usual bouncy evening self and this morning he was wide awake and itching to get up at 5:30am. My wife managed to hold him off until six but was then forced to get up with him, it being her turn. I can only hope that he will, eventually and hopefully quite soon, fall into a new pattern of going to sleep quickly at night and staying in bed until a sensible hour of the morning. Any and all advice for helping to get him there will be received gratefully and, if it works, with tears and professions of undying love.

PHP Font Ligatures in Atom

If you’re a user of the Atom programmer’s text editor and you’ve installed a font which uses ligatures, such as the excellent Fira Code, you’ll have found that although they work fine in most languages and even with plain text files, they don’t work with PHP. Here’s a simple solution which I found here.

Open the stylesheet for editing (Atom -> Stylesheet… on MacOS, File -> Stylesheet… on Windows) and add the following, remembering to save it when you’re done:

// Enable ligatures
* {
    -webkit-font-feature-settings: "liga" on, "calt" on;
}

// Turn off ligatures inside strings and regular expessions.
atom-text-editor.editor .syntax--string .syntax--quoted,
atom-text-editor.editor .syntax--string .syntax--regexp {
    -webkit-font-feature-settings: "liga" off, "calt" off;
}

You should now find programming ligatures working in PHP.

The Gooseberry Harvest

A little while back I bought a couple of plants at a local garden centre, one of which was a gooseberry bush. Over the weekend I decided, having noticed that there were plenty of ripe berries, that it was time to pick them. Now, bearing in mind that it is, at present, quite a small bush, I reckon it’s a pretty good little harvest. Not enough this year to turn into jam or anything, but definitely plenty for a tasty snack.

Holiday Booking Blues

Last night I finally got around to booking our family holiday to Exmoor. I found a really beautiful self-catering house in Exford and booked it for the only week that was available, the first week in September.

This morning I realised just how stupid I’d been. I’d got it into my head somehow that Max wasn’t starting school until the second week in September, goodness knows why. It is, of course, the first week.

To cut a slightly involved story short, I contacted the agency I’d booked through and they were extremely helpful. Because it was within twenty four hours of the initial booking they can rearrange things without penalty. I’ve told them exactly what we’re looking for and they’re going to see what they’ve got on their books that’s free over the last week in August and get back to me. Problem solved, but I do feel like an idiot.

Could Brexit End the Monarchy?

Something that has occurred to me recently is that if the appalling rise in xenophobia in the U.K. continues, one of the major justifications that monarchists use for maintaining the royal family, that they bring in tourist money, disappears. After all, if the environment we have created here is so hostile to foreigners that they don’t want to come here for a visit, let alone to live and work, then clearly our whole tourist industry will suffer.

Incidentally, I don’t believe in the tourism justification for the monarchy. We have plenty of other attractions, and the whole unelected head of state thing is, in my opinion, simply wrong. It’s long past time we ditched massive hereditary privilege and focused on improving people’s lives.

Also incidentally, this is not an argument in favour of Brexit. I voted to remain in the EU and I haven’t changed my opinion on that.

Software Is Never Done

Software Is Never Done

This is all too true. I’ve worked on a fair few different projects in my time and, apart from those that were only ever designed to be used once to produce some very specific output, not one of them has ever reached a state that could be described as ‘finished’. Even the small personal projects I’ve embarked on over the years, although to be fair that’s largely because I’m an inveterate tweaker and twiddler. I suspect that most programmers are the same.

Max Likes Moths

Last night there was a small moth in the house, which had alighted on the wall in the hall. On his way up to bed I showed it to Max, who took one look at it and declared, “I don’t like moths.”

So Juliet and I explained a bit about what moths are and how pretty their wings can be (“a bit like a small butterfly,” we said, which Max really latched on to). I touched it gently to make it move and flutter its wings. All this clearly had the desired effect, because Max then turned and said, “I like moths.”

Gosh, at this rate I might become a half decent parent.

Scary Motorcycle Near-Accident

James Hillier having a bit of a moment at this year’s TT. This is why I love motorcycle racing so much. It’s simultaneously exciting and scary, especially if you ride a bike yourself.

Trump Not Coming to UK

Trump has put his state visit to the UK on hold. According to the article it’s because he fears widespread protests. He’s right. Whenever he comes there’ll be protests aplenty. Big ones. I plan to be at as many as possible myself.

A Self Cleaning Child

This morning Max was eating a bowl of Coco Pops and had chocolate stains all around his mouth and on his hands, in the usual manner of small children. He asked me for a sweet and I told him he could have one if he’d let me wipe him clean. He agreed and by the time I’d fetched the sweets so he could choose one he’d found the wet wipes, got one out and done a pretty reasonable job of cleaning himself up.

I know it may not sound like much to some people but I felt like such a proud father. Every little step he takes as he grows up has the same effect on me. Now, if we can just crack potty training…

Not So Wow After All

It looks like the famous 1977 ‘Wow!’ signal’s origin has finally been determined. Sadly but not unexpectedly it’s not aliens. It turns out it’s probably comets. I guess we’ll have to keep looking and trying to answer the question, “Where is everybody?”

Not Quite Vegan

I’ve recently been trying to cut down on the crap I eat and drink, and also to think more carefully about the ethics of the food I consume. To that end, I’ve been choosing vegan food quite often. It’s healthy, tasty and no creatures (cute and fluffy or otherwise) had to die to produce it. Of course, I know it’s not as simple as that. Intensive farming, mistreatment of labour and a whole raft of other dodgy practices can still produce food which is labelled ‘vegan’ but I’m doing the best I can with the information at my disposal.

Anyway, one very nice thing I’ve discovered is Pret’s coconut hot chocolate, which has more or less completely replaced the lattes I was drinking before. It’s unbelievably sweet, which appeals to me as I really go for extremes of flavour, but doesn’t contain the huge amount of caffeine that I was ingesting until recently.

So now some kind person is going to tell my why I shouldn’t drink it and I’ll feel bad. Right?

The Smallest Room

I’m staying at my in-laws’ place for a few days and I couldn’t help but notice that the airing cupboard in the spare room has a handle on the inside of the door. Maybe it used to be a room for a goblin.

How Lego clicked: the super brand that reinvented itself

How Lego clicked: the super brand that reinvented itself

Oh, how I love Lego. It’s easily the best toy for both children and adults. Endlessly creative and virtually indestructible. I can’t wait till Max is old enough to graduate from Duplo to Lego proper.

Stewart Lee On the Election

It’ll take more than cheese and ceramics to reunite our divided country says the ever funny Stewart Lee. Worth a read if you need something to make you smile today.

My Wildlife Friendly Lawn

I’ve just been outside strimming my lawn. Most people, I know, use a lawn mower. I do have one of those but I quickly found, after buying it, that my garden is way too lumpy and bumpy to make it anything other than a real hassle to use. So, I have an electric strimmer that does the job much better. It’s never going to produce a nice neat lawn but, even if my garden was flat and the grass was uniform and of good quality and not full of ‘weeds’ I’m just not that interested. Besides, leaving the grass longer, rougher and full of wild plants helps to provide a good home for wildlife.

The only down side of using the strimmer is that the battery doesn’t last long enough to do the entire garden in one go. On the other hand, its running out usually coincides nicely with my energy and ability to continue doing the same.

A Green Memorial

Gooseberry bush
A few weeks ago I visited my local garden centre and bought a couple of plants in memory of my mother, who died last year. She was always a very keen gardener, so it seemed an appropriate thing to do and I’m sure she would have approved.

One of the plants I chose was a gooseberry bush, because I have very fond memories of the one in our garden when I was little and because I absolutely love gooseberries. Anyway, it sat outside the back door for a while in its pot while I kept saying, “I really must plant that.” Then, one morning the urge became overwhelming and I did the dirty (well, my hands did get a bit grubby) deed.

This afternoon I went out to check on it and I was really quite excited to see that it’s doing surprisingly well. I am not, by any means, a gardener but I feel really, properly and unjustifiably proud of myself.

So, what piece of garden magic to attempt next? I’m open to suggestions.

All Change Again

For the few who care about such things, I’ve recently moved this site to a Virtual Private Server, which gives me a lot more control over how things work. In the spirit of change which this has brought on in me, I’m contemplating changing the WordPress theme to something a little more interesting and, dare I say it, modern. Hopefully it’ll encourage me to write here a bit more often.

I know I’ve said it before but I really do intend to post here more frequently. It just seems that life gets in the way sometimes, and then I’m so tired that it’s hard to find the mental energy to compose posts. If I had it in me I could, for instance, tell you about the KT Tunstall gig at the Barbican last Monday, which was fantastic, by the way, or the visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour on Tuesday, which was wonderful and breathtaking and fun and just thoroughly enjoyable.

So, I’m going to try to do better. Promise.