Winchester Firework Display 2011

I love bonfire night! It’s great to celebrate a festival that’s based in politics rather than in religion.

Winchester Round Table always puts on a fantastic display, and has done so for over 50 years. It’s very popular: literally half the population of Winchester turns up to see it. It’s great fun to be out there with so many other people enjoying the display.

I watched the fireworks imagining i was watching the Houses of Parliament get blown up. Is that bad?!!

My favourite are the bright red fireworks that explode in a huge circle and light up the whole sky! :)

Unless there’s a big solar flare!

I was just listening to The Angry Atheist episode 37 interview with The Godless Bastard and i was highly amused by this exchange.

Somehow they got talking about the internet and our reliance upon it.

- It’s almost like a drug … my world comes to a screeching halt without the internet … we just become so dependent on the technology, i mean, how the hell do we get by without it? That’s what i want to know.

- We don’t have to. We’re never gonna have to. It’s always gonna be there!

- Yep, i know, i know!

- Unless there’s a big solar flare!

- That’s right, that’s right, it’ll take everything out!

I have heard the sun is getting more active at the moment, and solar flares are becoming more common and more powerful. Part of me really wants to see what would happen if a big solar flare takes down all our telephones, television and internet. How will we behave when cut off from the wider world? Would we turn to our local communities for support? I like to hope we would.

I have a few close friends locally, but i always think that i could have many more friends in my neighbourhood if it didn’t just seem so weird to go and introduce myself. I think it might take something drastic like a solar flare to get us off our computers, out of our safe little houses and connect with the people around us.

Build and launch a web shop in a day

My day yesterday began at Winchester station at 05:19 in the morning, with a big ambition:

I arrived in Kent at 08:25 and was met by Alanna who owns Aphrodite’s Desire. We got straight to business. By 08:45 we were settled in with a cup of tea and signing up to Shopify.

Let me back-track a little. We had already had several email conversations and had met previously to discuss options, and decided that Shopify was the best solution. Alanna needed something that is easy to manage, looks good, and can handle orders and payments reliably.

Our first concern was that Alanna’s debit card might not be accepted as Shopify says it wants credit cards. According to two people i spoke to at Shopify, some debit cards work, but not all. Fortunately, Alanna’s Visa card was accepted.

I began by demonstrating how to add products. Alanna’s immediate reaction was, “Oh, it’s just like Facebook!” Alanna was already uploading product photos before i’d even pointed out the option! Huge props to Shopify! Fortunately, Alanna had done a lot of good preparation work writing up descriptions for the products and getting all the photos ready. This was a major advantage to launching in a day.

In the meantime i worked on installing and customising the theme that we’d previously chosen. I asked Alanna’s opinion on a few fonts and we chose some photos for the banner.

I installed the iPhone extension. Alanna had already downloaded the app, and it was cool to see products appearing on the iPhone. We were both impressed by Shopify’s handling of discounted products, and combinations of different variations, some being available and some out of stock. I was impressed at how easily i could extend the theme and add a message that invites people to contact Alanna to ask about unavailable items.

By lunch time we had a pretty good looking shop! We were admiring it on the iPad over lunch. We went out for a quick walk and fresh air before coming back like, “Right! we have a shop to launch! Let’s get to it!”

Adding the facebook and twitter integration was fun. You can ‘like’ products and add comments and it all gets synchronized to facebook. Alanna can click a button to promote products on twitter and facebook. It’s great! Shopify extension apps are awesome!

We spent a bit of time doing the PayPal integration, and then a lot of time signing up for Sage Pay. A lesson learnt: if you want to accept credit/debit cards directly on day 1, you must apply for your Sage Pay merchant account in advance. But it wasn’t so bad to launch only with PayPal.

We had a dilemma when it came to shipping options. Because Alanna hadn’t weighed any of the products, we were leaving them all as weighing nothing. But this meant we couldn’t calculate the shipping. Alanna wanted to charge £5 for a single product, and £1 extra for every additional product. So we came up with the idea of making every product weigh 1lb just so that we can count them in the cart.

That being done, we just needed to tidy up the additional pages and navigation links. I was keen for Alanna to do this, so as to be able to do it again in the future. Shopify provides a very nice content management system which is simple to use. I did a little bit of graphics work on images for Alanna to use.

I think it was about 17:00 when we launched! We spent about half an hour tweeting and facebooking about it like crazy … and then an order came in! Alanna was just looking at the iPhone app and said something like, “Oh, is something wrong here? It says …” and it was an order from one of my friends!

Fantastic! A working web shop in one day! It is totally possible! The shop had 171 unique visitors on its first day.

My day ended with this from my mentor:

I went to bed feeling very satisfied and utterly amazed at knowing i get paid to have a lot of fun and do what i really love to do. It was a brilliant day!

Please visit aphroditesdesire.com to have a look at what we did. Kisses to shopify.com for making it all possible!

Memories of BiCon 2010

London Docklands from the University of East London

BiCon 2010, the 28th annual bisexual conference/convention took place from August 26th – 30th at the University of East London, Docklands campus. It was combined with the 10th International Conference on Bisexuality, and the first international Bisexual Research Conference. About 450 people attended, from 28 countries!

I got up ridiculously early on Thursday 26th August in order to take the coach from Winchester to London leaving at 06:30. The journey was smooth and I was at UEL by 10am, in time to check in and drop off my suitcase in my accommodation.

The research conference was utterly brilliant, full credit to Meg Barker and Christina Richards for running it. Most of the talks were of exceptional quality, and i feel i learnt a lot. I enjoyed hearing about Helen Bowes-Catton’s research into how people perceive and visualise bisexual spaces. Kaye McLelland spoke about bisexuality in the works of Shakespeare, and i marvelled at how well my English teachers at school managed to hide it all from us!

Robyn Ochs at BiCon 2010

I was thoroughly inspired by a keynote talk from Robyn Ochs, a public speaker, writer, and long-standing bisexual activist. Robyn spoke of the importance of the impact that we make when we create space for people to be comfortably bisexual. I was touched by Robyn’s description of the reward when somebody tells us that we make a difference for them. I felt so proud at that moment that I helped to found Bi Wessex in Winchester: proud that people come along and gain something from the group, and that some of the members were there at BiCon.


Miguel Obradors Campos speaks at BiCon 2010

On Friday i bought Robyn’s book, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World and attended the workshop where we heard from ten of the people who contributed to the book. They stood up and told us something about themselves and read an excerpt from the book. It gave such meaning to hear them speak personally, and when i reach their stories in the book, i will remember them. Their contributions will be particularly meaningful for me. I asked several of the contributors to write in my book, which they gladly did.


Sexual orientation self-definitions

I enjoyed hearing Heidi Bruins Green and Dr. Nicholas Payne speak about the results of a workplace survey on bisexuality. It was very interesting to hear the results analysed and validated from a mathematical perspective. Their results showed that bisexuality is not a phase on the way to something else, but a valid destination point, as are many other sexual orientations. They had some interesting data to show that happiness at work is directly correlated with LGBT support groups in the workplace, and anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Saturday’s discussion about words and phrases for bisexuality in other languages was intriguing. I shared my Esperanto knowledge about the etymology of the word ambaŭseksema and the positive phrase borrowed from shipping terminology navigi per vaporo aŭ velo (to navigate by steam or sail). We learned phrases, both positive and negative in German, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Sri Lankan, Welsh and Hebrew. Everybody contributed something, and the results will be published … somewhere.

Knitting a bi pride bracelet

I knitted a bi pride bracelet in the amazing craft room, and then on saturday afternoon i took some time out to visit Central London. I went to Covent Garden to visit the new Apple store (the biggest in the world) and enjoyed spending time by myself.

Saturday evening was the BiCon ceilidh which i enjoyed immensely. When it comes to dancing, i really like being told what to do! :) I made a new friend that night, somebody who i feel could become a very good friend. We danced together a lot and had some lovely conversations. Later on the music became too loud but i joined the Corridor Club upstairs where it was quieter and i enjoyed chatting to more people. We were actually the last to leave because we didn’t realise when the music had stopped and everyone downstairs had left!

Sunday was the disastrous “Bisexuality in Science-Fiction & The Future” workshop. It was marred by the speaker being late, a church group being in the room we were supposed to use, the laptop being broken, the projector refusing to work, and the speaker’s corny sense of humour which did not go down particularly well at 10am. I gave up and left after about ten minutes of technology fail, and went and joined the church, which i actually really enjoyed! Those who stayed said it only got worse, and by half way through several of them had started their own alternative science-fiction workshop out in the atrium!

The highlight of Sunday was “Smutty Storytelling” which was very well attended, and the storytellers did not disappoint! The stories were well written, and delivered with humour and enthusiasm! There were cheers and a standing ovation by the end! I sat with my new-found friend and mentioned that I had “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” on DVD, which we watched later that evening.

Monday morning seemed to go quite slowly. Things were winding down but there were still a few workshops left. I went to one on sensual play, which was well facilitated, and led to discussions of how we might turn the results into an amusing website! Later i went to have my photo taken professionally, so that hopefully i will appear again on the front cover of Bi Community News and maybe in other publications about bisexuality.

Latimer "the buck" and a lion from BiCon 2008 share a hug

Before i knew it, it was closing plenary. Awards and thanks were given, we celebrated the success of this BiCon, and met the team of BiCon 2011 which will be in Leicester from September 1st – 4th. Registration is already open!

The bi community is amazing. So totally inclusive and unquestioning. I am so happy that i went, I am sad that it’s over, but writing this is my therapy: recording my happy memories and celebrating the joys of the last few days.

Thanks so very much to the BiCon 2010 organising team – you did an incredible job!

don't you just love an awesomesauce #tupperwarebox

This weekend the world went mad for Tupperware Boxes.

Key output:

Some rather bizarre songs:

My dog’s favourite thing is my #tupperwarebox, it’s full of treats and nom, she behaves so well when it’s around, I think I’ll tie it on.

I’ve got a massive #tupperwarebox it’s got a special lid that clicks and locks

Come on and let’s rock! Everybody let’s rock! Everybody in the whole cell block was dancing to the #tupperwarebox!

How I love my little #tupperwarebox! You can a-store my cheese, you can a-sit on my knees, feels like a picnic right here at home…

A quiz: “Which #tupperwarebox would you be?”

A twitter retweeter bot: @tupperwarebot – the cool thing about this was i learnt how to use Yahoo Pipes and made a pipe that finds relevant tweets and manipulates the stream to become retweets with the hashtag #tupperwarebox

A Justin Bieber in a #tupperwarebox which gained the @tupperwarebot a lot of Justin Bieber fans!

Justin Bieber in a #tupperwarebox on Twitpic

This is actually quite disturbing when i found there is a rumour that Justin Bieber got stuck in a toy box at age 7 and suffers from claustrophobia. But anyway, the fans seem to like it. They appreciate the randomness of it and came up with the hashtag #justininatupperwarebox!

Finally, there is a Facebook group: Tupperware Box! If you are a fan of Tupperware and/or pure random nonsense, please don’t hesitate to join! :D

FB.init(“f76c8ae933a8204f4a989f77369fa340″);

Tupperware Box on Facebook

A website in a day

Sometimes it’s excellent fun to work with somebody to produce a website in a day. With no requirement for ongoing support, just get it up and running, instant gratification. In a way, it says, “Look what we can do when we set our minds to it!”

New site for the Winchester Web Scene
winchesterwebscene.co.uk

Yesterday, @sydlawrence phoned me to ask if i’d like to help make a new site for the Winchester Web Scene. Without a second thought, i said, “DEFINITELY!” We got together at 3pm today at the Bridge Patisserie. We drank lots of coffee, went on to the Bishop on the Bridge, then went back to Syd’s house and ate pizza. We got the whole site designed, coded, integrating with Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps, Gravatar and Campaign Monitor for email subscriptions, with a blog plus comments, events list and RSS feeds … in about 5 hours.

It was nice that two Winchester web companies, Marmalade on Toast and Eden Development were able to combine talent to work on a fun social project together. The two of us had a great time making it!

The site gives a far greater prominence to the Winchester Web Scene than the old Ning site did. Still in its first few hours of existence, the site has already had 71 unique visitors. The future of the Winchester Web Scene is looking very bright!

The next event is a barbeque at the Hyde Tavern on the 6th July from 7pm. If you live near Winchester and are interested in anything to do with the web, you’re very welcome to come along! :)

Let's Disqus!

Just a little notice to say that i have enabled Disqus on my blog. It’s a pretty clever tool that links up comments on blogs all over the Internet. When you hover over the picture of somebody who has commented on my blog, you also see some of the comments they have left on other blogs. You might also see their Twitter status, or get a link to their Flickr account, their Delicious account, their Facebook.

Here’s an example of how it can look:

Disqus

It’s a really neat way of bringing the web closer together. For me it’s also a great advantage in that it immediately gave me nested comments and the ability to send email replies to people who have commented. I thought i was going to have to make some fairly hefty changes to my WordPress theme in order to enable nested comments, but it turns out Disqus can just do it all for me!

Oh yes, you also get to rate other people’s comments up or down, youtube-stylee! ;)

Disqus is particularly good in that it works across multiple blogging platforms. So i installed the WordPress plugin, but there are also plugins for Blogger, Moveable Type, Tumblr and more. Wouldn’t it be great if LiveJournal would take it up? :)

Thank you to ChrisMDP for finding Disqus and telling me about it! :)

So long, 2008

Approximately a year ago, you may have wished me a happy 2008. If you did, thank you! I had a pretty awesome year!

Reading back in my blog, it feels like a long year. In fact, i noticed a stark contrast between the two halves of the year, pivoting on the moment i got my new job. I was amazed by how much of a difference it made in my perception: the first half of the year feels much longer than a year ago, but everything since my new job feels very recent. Yet the two halves are separated by just one weekend! I also noticed how many more blog posts i made in the earlier half of the year compared to the latter.

So it’s new year’s eve again, the time when i get all retrospective and nostalgic. I actually quite like staying in on new year’s eve and blogging. Here is a summary of the year.

Continue reading

The joy of GitHub

Who knew that coding could be such a social activity! I really like GitHub, with its ability to fork people’s code base, apply your own changes, offer it up to be merged back in, see the difference logs, comment on the difference logs … ah, now that last one’s genius!

Somebody happened upon this quiet little commit from DHH … yes, the DHH, creator of Ruby on Rails. The bright spark goes and posts it to Reddit, prompting the world and its duck to chime in with an opinion! It’s quite funny reading through the comments, both on Reddit and on GitHub.

What does the commit do? Not a lot. It’s what we call syntactic sugar: aliasing something in code as something else. It means we’ll be able to do this:

['a', 'b', 'c', 'd'].third
=> 'c'

Of course, i have an opinion too. I can see why it could be useful, but i don't really think it is worthy of being in the Rails core code. I doubt i will ever use it. I also agree with the person who says it widens the gap between Ruby and Rails. When Array#first is available in Ruby, people will wonder why Array#second is not.

I do wonder, if anyone other than DHH had submitted this 'patch', whether it would have been accepted into core Rails.

After laughing at this thread over lunch today, one of my colleagues sent me an instant message:

Coffee.third?

I replied:

return true

I think it's good that people are looking at the commits, seeing what's going into Rails, and having their say about it. This is community-driven development at its best! Cheers, GitHub! :)

Update: DHH has responded! It now only goes up to fifth ... but Array#forty_two has been added in as compensation! DHH calls it accessing "the reddit".