Archive for September, 2015

Who are the chair changers?

Sunday, September 20th, 2015 | Life

Many of you will know the feeling. You arrive in the office blearily eyed on a morning and collapse into your chair. But something is wrong. Someone has messed with your chair. The chair you spent ages getting just right. Who would do this? WHO?!?

The anxiety builds inside of you, you just want to rip out their organs then force feed them to them while their family watch on. And the injustice, the sheer injustice of it, is that if you were actually to do this, even after they had deliberately messed with your chair, you would be the criminal in the eyes of the law!

Oh, just me then?

On a serious note though, who are these people that mess with your chair settings?

I have a new theory. After discretely marking each chair in my office I noticed that when I got in after the weekend, different chairs were in different places. Perhaps it is an innocent explanation and the cleaners just move them all to one side, vacuum, and then try and put them back as best they can.

I didn’t actually do that, but I do leave my hoodie on the back of my chair and noticed it had moved a desk down when I got in. It seems quite diligent for the typical standard of office cleaning to actually move the chairs, but it is the simplest explanation.

This supplants my previous theory that it was someone who used my chair while talking to someone else and were annoyed by the settings so changed it, even though they were only using it for two minutes and had no right to mess with it. You would have to be a complete dick to do that but then we know people are when they can get away with things as the state of any office toilet often attests to (again, who walks away without flushing? What kind of traumatising childhood did you have to allow your conscious to do that?).

I think the next step is to deploy a discrete survillence camera, or perhaps buy some camoflague gear from an ex-army supplies store and stake it out.

The Complete Robot

Saturday, September 19th, 2015 | Books

The Complete Robot brings together most of Isaac Asimov’s short stories from the Robot series. It goes on from his early stories and some which are unrelated to the Robot series as it were, while still being about robots. As the book goes on, Asimov builds up the universe that will eventually become the backbone of his science fiction writing.

The short story format works really well for me as I can read a bit, finish a story, then come back to the book later. As a consequence, even though it was almost 700 pages long, it did not feel like a chore to get through.

Some of it is deeply philosophical. Can a robot love? Can it have rights? If you have a pet robot dog, it is less real than having an organic robot dog? How much can you bend the three laws of robotics?

The stories at the beginning were interesting and gave a nice side from everything being in the same universe, but the fiction really comes into its own as the world around it develops. Next I am going to read the Robot novels and continue on to gradually fill in the gap between this and Foundation.

The Complete Robot

Sky Leeds Bake Off

Friday, September 18th, 2015 | Food

Not all of my work as a consultant is about driving better use of best practice software development techniques. Much like Neelix, I also take it upon myself to improve the moral of the people I work with, even though that is neither required, nor wanted, by the companies I am working with.

Thus when the Sky Leeds Bake Off was announced I jumped in straight away.

chocolate-mud-cake

Sky’s slogan is “believe in better” so I was originally going to write “believe in butter” on the cake. However, I soon realised there was not enough space, so opted for some simple branding instead. In turns out I was the only person to suck up like a spineless worm in this way.

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Competition was tough. Mine scores well for taste but ended up only ranking in the middle of the field with a score of 15/20. The runaway winner was Dave, by a clear 1.5 points. His dedication really has to be admired. He demonstrated he had the skill, the dedication, and the balls, to drag his 8-month pregnant wife out of bed at 4am to make the cake for him. You just can’t compete with that tenacity.

After the results were were encouraged to throw some money into the put and have a slice of cake. Most people threw some loose change in, so doing the maths I put a note in and covered a dinner plate in cake. I have no idea which ones were the best because it was all mixed in to one mountain of cake. I felt so sick. Totally worth it.

Great British Bake Off: Week 7

Thursday, September 17th, 2015 | Distractions

Two weeks on from my Week 5 post and we have just had to endure the heartbreak of losing Mat from the tent. He was so lovely. It made me sad.

The week before we lost Alvin. Another lovely guy, though obvious choice for elimination. After that is when the competition got really tough, and as I discussed last time, this was always when Mat was going to struggle. To go from Star Baker to out though is pretty harsh.

Here are my power rankings for Week 7.

1. Tamal

Wow was I wrong on this one. Two weeks later and he has had two excellent weeks. His creations have continued to impress and winning Star Baker this week was well deserved and a clear choice. If he continues on this form it will be a struggle to beat him.

2. Ian

A couple of dangerous weeks for Ian but his show stopper demonstrated that he can work magic. He actually seems to do better when we pushes the boat out than when he plays it safe. Hopefully he will realise that and keep pushing it.

3. Nadiya

Go Leeds! I don’t think Nadiya is a likely candidate to win as her performance is a little too inconsistent. However, I think if things stay as they are she could easily earn herself a place in the final.

4. Paul

Paul has had a tough few weeks. He produced some amazing stuff early on but mistakes have really let him down. He does not strike me as mediocre baker though – I think he will go big or go home, and either is clear possibility.

5. Flora

Flora is lovely. However, she is not going to win. Her bakes are just not as good as the competition. So despite being clear of elimination this week, she falls at the bottom of my list. She could find herself in the final, but only by virtue of Paul having a nightmare one week and Nadiya having one the other. Without coasting through though, it will be all over.

Helsinki Zoo

Thursday, September 17th, 2015 | Travel

We dropped by Helsinki Zoo while in Finland. They had elk! We also managed to catch the bear feeding.

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Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 | Books

Jon Ronson’s 2012 book “Lost at Sea” looks at the many weird cases he has reported on. There are loads. Over the years Ronson has covered many memorable stories and scandals.

Other times he has just gone for a nosy around. Take Deal or No Deal for example. He takes us inside the strange world of the constantly hyped up contestants. Accommodated together in a hotel in Bristol the producers report back to Noel Edmonds on how everyone is feeling. As Ronson points out:

Endomol realised that isolation makes good cults, and good television

He visits Indigo Children. These are children that have psychic powers, the next evolution if you will. They communicate telepathically, but also on the internet.

He signs up to do Alpha at the Holy Trinity Brompton Church and meets Nicky Gumbel. He does not find god, but he does go on their weekend away to see if anyone starts speaking in tongues. Lots of people do.

In an experiment to see who is offered the most credit cards and loans he sets up a dozen personalities with different magazine subscriptions and hobbies to see what happens. Predictably it is the unemployed gambler who is offed them all.

When he borrows an Aston Martin to re-create one of Bond’s journeys, he cannot help but note that everyone is checking out the car – thus would actually make a rubbish vehicle for a spy.

In a surprise twist he signs himself up to a Paul McKenna week-long workshop headed by NLP co-founder Richard Bandler and finds that NLP actually helps his anxiety. Not sure what to think now.

Finally he ends on a story about actually being lost at sea. Apparently every two weeks someone disappears over the side of the cruise ship. International waters are essentially lawless, especially as cruise companies register their ships in “flag of convenience” countries.

I really enjoyed reading the book as they were all interesting stories. Do not pick it up expecting resolutions though – most of the mysteries are just left unsolved and without conclusion.

lost-at-sea

Finland Restaurant Guide website

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 | News

finland-restaurant-guide-website

Check out the website for the Finland Restaurant Guide. It’s super. It contains all the reviews that can be found in the guide. It is not quite as good as the real thing as it does not have the introduction, information on ratings, or high quality images, but will still give you an option, or maybe even two, if you are looking for somewhere to dine.

Finland Restaurant Guide

Monday, September 14th, 2015 | Books, News

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I am pleased to unveil my new book, Finland Restaurant Guide.

It is a very short book. I have not visited every restaurant in Finland. Believe it or not, we are not even close. However we have reviewed twelve of the restaurants we visited while in Finland and will be expanding the guide over time.

It is available on Amazon now. I had intended to give it away for free. However, the Kindle Store does not support giving away free books, so I have set it at the minimum price possible – 99p.

Finland wedding

Sunday, September 13th, 2015 | Events, Family & Parenting

What do you get when you book a party barn and fill it full of Fins and Brits for a wedding? The answer is a damn fine party. I like to think that is down to the excellent team that Elina’s mum Riitta and I make. Riitta organised everything, and I resisted the urge to try and control everything, and everything worked out well.

We started with a champagne reception. Elina and I even had our own non-alcohol tray. We then sat down for a formal meal and then the cutting of the cake, which involved the usual awkwardness of everyone gathering round taking photos. Then we partied.

party-barn

The barn had seating areas downstairs, including a bar with saloon doors and a dart board, and then an open area upstairs with a poker table, pool table, ping pong table, two table footballs and an air hockey table. There was also a TV with a variety of games consoles and a karaoke machine.

Oli won the book on Kieran’s arrival time after he turned up 2 hours 34 minutes late, beating out Cara’s guess with four minutes to spare.

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I don’t have many photos of the day because I was busy being the groom and everything, but some more should hopefully turn up.

Elina and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who made the trip over from the UK, from Sweden, and from the various parts of Finland too! It was wonderful to celebrate the day with so many special people!

group-laitila

Finland trip 2015

Saturday, September 12th, 2015 | Travel

For the first half of our wedding we travelled to Finland. I do me “we”! All together we took a contingent of 17 people there. Elina and I flew out in advance to spend some time in Helsinki.

We stopped by Stadi Talkers Toastmasters club and then checked into Hotel Haven. Haven is my favourite hotel in the world. However, Helsinki is the only place we stay in a luxury hotel, so there isn’t really any competition. But it is really nice. I couldn’t blag us a suite for the wedding, but they did give us a celebratory box of chocolates!

Moomintroll looked very pleased to be back.

hotel-haven

We then headed off to have dinner. The first time we were in Helsinki we had seen Ravintola Nokka but decided it was too expensive. This time, we were here for our wedding though, so decided to splash out. It was awesome. The best food I have had in Finland.

Below is a panorama from our dockside meal.

nokka-panorama

On Tuesday we visited Helsinki Zoo who had elk this time, and in the evening meet up with my family for a steak at Goodwin. We spent the day with them on Wednesday when we visited the island of Suomenlinna.

On Thursday we set off on our own again to visit Moominworld, before having lunch on a river boat in Turku and meeting Elina’s mum for dinner in the evening. We even had time to stop by the yarn shop.

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Then on Friday we headed up to Pori to spend a day on the sandy beach up there, before having a late lunch in the town.

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James took this photo of the beach.

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Saturday was the big day itself. I will write that up separately.

We spent Sunday touring the lakes around Laitila, going for a dip in two of them and making use of the beach sauna too. Trouble was ahead when Norman managed to lose his glasses in the lake, but Dr Barr came to the rescue by managing to dive down and find them – and they laughed when I said I would go fetch the PhDs…

Helsinki was good, but relaxing over in the west was one of the best parts of the trip. We’re already eyeing up summer cottages for when Worfolk Limited makes its IPO.