Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Encoding Issues

A technical blog post for a change:

I've been having a really frustrating problem with my development environment recently, something that I've encountered before but never really understood or resolved definitively either: character encoding in source files.

Thanks to this blog post I think I've finally got a handle on what is going on and why. Essentially I had assumed that it was something odd in my environment but I think it's down to the fact that developers using Windows aren't setting the correct, UTF-8, encoding in their files which is therefore causing the problems for me.

The ultimate solution seems to be to fix these files by converting to UTF-8 and re-committing but I also have the issue that Maven appears to be using ASCII encoding by default so I'm not entirely sure if converting to UTF-8 will fix things. Unless of course it is expecting UTF-8 and is converting to ASCII to compile and the error message I'm getting is misleading. Will experiment later.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

SeeSaw Launched

In previous companies it's been the usual policy (or at least accepted practice) not to link blogs and any other public, non-work, sites (forums and the like) back to my employer. Given the publicity around SeeSaw and the fact that they have no problem with their brand being spread far and wide around Twitter for example, I find myself in unfamiliar territory.

So now, given the evidence on my Twitter, it wouldn't take a genius to work out that I'm employed by Ioko and since October I've been working on the SeeSaw project! I'm obviously biased but it has been one of the most fun projects I've ever worked on and the team, client, and everyone has been so nice and fab to work with!

The project has been espescially fun when when you get to see something that looks so impressive - again, yes, I'm biased but I've thought all along that it looks fantastic and the web developers that pulled that together are amazing. I've been working on the Java side of things, along with many others, and while no-one outside the project sees that code I would still say it's pretty elegant and impressive in itself (sorry, it's a geek thing).

So, after the official launch this morning we're all busy working away on further development and just getting on with normal activities ... though we have got a big TV screen showing all the stats from the site and it's interesting to see it ramping up now.

Anyway, back to work for me.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Chinese New Year

Sunday was spent in Manchester with my son seeing the Chinese New Year celebrations. On the plus side we had a good time, managed to see some of the performances (the Dragon for example), took a few pictures and ate some nice food. Ultimately though it was rather over-crowded and we didn't stay into the evening to see the fireworks.

It was lovely to see my son again and I must mention what really made the day extra special. For a start I was able to pick him up from his house rather than meeting somewhere else. This in itself is an amazingly huge step and I am thankful enough for that alone. But I also got to stay for a while when I dropped him off and got to see the wonderful home in which he lives and also his bedroom.

I know that sounds a bit silly, it's just a room after all, but it had changed so much since I was last there and ... I really don't know how to explain it. It was just something I wanted to be able to share in and be able to picture in my head when I talked to him on the phone.

When I left I was close to tears I was so grateful and happy, I really can't describe how much it meant to me. All I can say is Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Thank you.

Photo Shoot

I haven't been with Rachel on a photo shoot for quite a while now so it was nice to actually be involved with one again in York, even if I was mainly there to setup lights and help out as I've done before. I still think it's fantastic fun and I love meeting new people who are always so nice to work with and chat to.

We were doing a fair bit of swapping on lenses for this shoot - Rachel has been using the new 50mm f1.4 (prime) lens that I bought which can, if like her you know what you're doing, capture some fantastic detail and clear, crisp shots. I made plenty of mistakes with the lens while in Paris and alot of my pictures looked terrible (when Rachel used it, her pictures come out fine or quite simply amazing showing again that it really isn't as easy as it looks).

Anyway, lots of help, advice and encouragement from her and some luck actually meant I didn't do so bad; the picture above is one that I took! Couldn't believe it when I processed it, it's come out just how I wanted (though it needs a little more processing to get the colours right). I also tried to be a bit arty and took this picture as well:
The full shoot was over fairly quickly and we managed to get everything dismantled and packed away in plenty of time - I think we're just getting practiced at this now! The full gallery of pictures of Sasha (the lovely model - who had some fab Vivian Westwood boots, need to try and get some myself) can be found on the Random Acts website. I should say that all but two of the pictures are Rachel's (though the ones of mine she used have been processed so much better by her) - again, this highlights another big difference between enthusiastic amateur and pro; I got one of two pictures that were "wow", Rachel got a few more than that!

Finally, I decided that the whole corset-trying-on experience had been so inspiring that I managed to find one of mine that a very good (and generous) friend gave me, and wore that. So I couldn't resist getting a few pictures of me as well.

I did quite well with the corset on, managed to wear it most of the day, in fact only started to get uncomfortable after Rachel re-tied it at the back and tightened it quite a bit in the process! Also quite pleased that the blouse that I'm wearing fits and doesn't look too bad! I bought it a while ago and never thought I'd 'grow into' it!

Empowerment Through Style

Friday night was the event that Rachel had organised at Stonegate Yard in York, "Empowerment Through Style" brought together several independent, local, boutiques as well as the Body Shop, to show how feeling good about yourself isn't always about fashion but simply putting together your own look that you can be confident about. My friend Jen (see earlier post with her posing in a red corset!), very kindly, offered to act as a model for clothes and make-up (the picture above is Saskia from the Body Shop doing her make-up which looked amazing!).

We all had alot of fun, the clothes, as provided by One (Responsibly Gorgeous Clothing) were fantastic (so much so that Jen actually bought the outfit she was wearing) and everyone mingled and had a good chat. One thing that really stands out in my mind was trying on the corsets that Sarah from Elizabeth Wells had brought along. They did look fab but I wasn't initially thinking of actually having a go myself but I'm so glad I did!

I should say first of all that this isn't the best picture of me, nor of the corsets that Sarah sells, in fact I'll add a second picture below of Hannah who looks so much better than me anyway and utterly amazing in the gorgeous white corset (I tried this on as well but no pictures of that unfortunately).

The black corset I'm wearing isn't full size, though it's slightly on the large size for me apparently (didn't feel like it) and Sarah didn't fasten it very (relatively) tightly but it still did give me more of a figure and actually was very comfortable. Yes, I know that doesn't sound right but really I didn't feel like I couldn't breath or that I was being painfully squashed, it felt fine and also made me sit straighter and with much better posture. It also made me feel pretty good as well.

Trying on the full size white corset was amazing! I wasn't brave enough to do this will no t-shirt or bra on, which I should really have done, and I've kind of regretted that as it would have been fantastic. I am definitely going to get a proper fitting and try on a few different corsets when I get the time (and the money) to do that. Really I'm not sure how to describe how good I felt with the corset on - it's not anything kinky (though I can fully understand why people like them for that reason) it just feels really amazing to have that shape and feeling of being so poised, stylish, feminine I guess. And it affected everyone there, loads of people wanted to try them on and everyone was thrilled once they did. Really I haven't got the words to describe it!

Anyway, a fantastic night was had by all and I really hope Rachel organises something similar, only bigger, better, and starting sooner and finishing later, sometime soon!

Out and Out in Paris and London

I'm sorry, that is a really pathetic pun on the book Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell that I vaguely remember reading for English at school. I just couldn't resist the blog post title as, with the visit to a lesbian bar in Paris and then the brief look in The FairyGothMother shop it did feel like a bit of an 'out' weekend.

As I mentioned, the reason for being in London for some considerable time was because our train back wasn't until 10pm so we had some time to kill, which always sounds rather wasteful and, in fact we made good use of the time by meeting up with Misae Richwoods who I'd got chatting to on Twitter (@minxymoggy). She'd suggested meeting at Spitalfields Market which is somewhere neither Rachel and I had been before but once we got there we wished we'd known about it before.

Basically Rachel was in hog's heaven as the place is packed full of the latest bleeding edge style with market stalls for designers to sell their own creations. It really was quite inspiring and I wish I'd had the money left after the holiday to afford several things that I saw!

Anyway, I think Rachel managed to chat to quite a few people about photography and we also had some valuable help and advice from Misae as well as all three of us having a really nice meal and a few cocktails to boot (Happy hours is fantastic). Will have to head over there again when next time I'm down in London and maybe this time get to spend some money on some fantastic clothes.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Seems so long ago but it has only been a week since we were sat in the lesbian club drinking mojitos and looking at the fantastically stylish people around us ... and sticking glow-sticks down my bra (yeah, one to many drinkies on my part I think). Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself!

The trip started at a reasonable hour on Thursday, from a rather cold York train station with us both rather laden down with bags containing camera equipment and, for me, a ridiculous amount of clothes, make-up, and assorted shampoo, conditioner and other bathroom 'essentials'. I travel heavy!

We had a nice trip down to London, then carted all our bags across London to first go to Rachel's GIC appointment (stopping off for lunch at a nice little pub first where I gleefully remembered I could actually have a drink in the middle of the day since I didn't have to drive at any point over the weekend!). Though against my usual 'rules' of footwear (and style) I was wearing walking boots which frankly was the only sensible option, I'd have very poorly feet if I'd worn my other kind of boots!

Getting to Kings Cross St Pancras and we had a pre-trip Starbucks before going through the check-in and security - same as airport setup but nowhere near as busy or time-consuming! You go through French passport control on the way out as well, bit odd as we weren't in France yet (nothing in Paris in this respect at all). We didn't have to wait long before they opened the doors to let us up onto the platform so we could get onto the train.

The trains are a little dated by today's standards but they are quite comfy and the legroom is reasonable. I was cheeky and got some plastic cups from the lovely man in the buffet car so Rachel and I could have a drink of wine on the trip (thought I'd start how we meant to go on)! Also thought it might pass the time a bit but really the journey doesn't take that long, you're only in the tunnel itself for 30mins tops and the rest is spent speeding across the French countryside - seems faster than on the UK side.

We found the hotel without any issue (I have Rachel-Nav) and set off out to take some pictures of Paris at night. Walked what seemed to be miles (or kilometres) and got back to the hotel late once we'd reach the point of being rather cold and tired. We did make a slight tactical error in that we set off with the intention of a certain route that avoided an area near the hotel that the guide suggested we stay away from. Of course we ended up wandering into it and only realised after a few clues like the condom machine fastened to the wall and the woman who must have been rather chilly given she was wearing a almost invisibly short skirt, stockings/suspenders and a big coat. Rachel described the area as "less that salubrious" though I guess it still had a certain ambience! Thankfully we got back onto the main road once we realised our mistake.

Slow start in the morning and ended up having a lovely brunch followed by more wandering round Paris all the way from Notre Dame along to the Champs Elysée stopping off to have a lovely drink and cake on the way. After taking pictures of the the Arc de Triomph we decided to head back to the hotel via the metro to avoid more tired feet. A quick doze at the hotel was followed by venturing out to the gay/lesbian area of Paris, a quick bite to eat (along with some nice wine) and then one of the local bars. A few drinks were followed back a stagger back to the metro and then back to the hotel.

The following day the weather was a little more on the rainy side so we took the metro to the Champs Elysée and found a nice restaurant to have more fantastic food! Thankfully the rain cleared while we ate so we could do some more wandering around afterwards and eventually headed to Musée d'Orsay so we could see a bit of art and also be somewhere nice and warm!

We were both enjoying the warmth and excellent photo opportunities when Rachel's camera stopped working! Neither of us have ever had any problems before but in this case the memory card could just not be read which was all a bit of a disaster! Thankfully Rachel was able to use my camera to carry on taking pictures and, in the end, when we got back home I was able to retrieve all of her images anyway.

In the evening we got dressed a little more smartly and headed towards the canal (not far from the hotel - useful given the shoes I was wearing) and had a lovely meal (and wine) before heading back to bed for a nice hug and sleep before having to get up early in the morning to head back to the UK.

Trip back was equally rapid and uneventful. Nice to be able to see the country-side this time (it was dark travelling there) and at least we knew when we were getting close to London as Rachel pointed out various landmarks. Got back, dumped bags at left luggage and then headed into London to entertain ourselves until our trip back to York at about 10pm! I'll leave all that for another blog post.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Random Clicks

Paris was fantastic but I'm currently too tired to give a detailed explanation of what we saw and did there as we didn't get home until 1am this morning and I stayed up a while longer trying to recover all of Rachel's pictures from a corrupt SD ... which thankfully I was able to do!

Anyway, in lieu of a full textual description I'll just include a few of the pictures I took for now and will add another post later to link to Rachel's images as well as also explaining what we got up to.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Paris by Night

Still got to process alot of the images properly but here's one from the night we arrived.

Right, time to get sorted and head into the city for more food, erm, I mean photos.


Well, there is obviously going to be something of a time delay getting pictures and blog entries up given that we should be out and experiencing Paris rather than sitting in front of a computer! Since I'm recovering from a late night and also reviewing the pictures anyway I thought I'd do a few posts.

And the first subject is FOOD! (yes, I'm feeling a bit hungry as I type this, must get a move on). Anyway, this is what we feasted on yesterday brunch time and it was delicious!

As well as capturing the food I was trying to show off with the new lens as well, it certainly does give nice clear and sharp pictures, hmmm looks good enough to eat (must get up soon, getting really hungry).

I'll leave you with a bit of a puzzle. Spoons in drinks, why (had several like this yesterday):

Thursday, 4 February 2010

On our way to Paris!

Ok not the best picture of Rachel but all I could manage for now until we get to Paris and can do something with the pics off the proper camera :-D

We're on our way now and it's all very exciting :-D

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Dressing up!

I don't really remember doing much dressing up when I was little, I maybe did go through that usual phase when I was very young but it's not something I can recall. I do have fairly clear memories of NOT wanting to dress-up and being quite embarrassed about costumes and the like, certainly I never went to any fancy dress parties!

But things do change and access to a rather interesting wardrobe of 'dressing-up' clothes, courtesy of Rachel (items she's used on photoshoots before) and of course her, armed with camera, to record the results, has opened up quite alot of possibilities! The picture below being an example of this:
My friend Jen came round on Friday night, originally for a girlie night in that was to include food, endless chatting and equally limitless alcohol. Rachel and I had been talking about photoshoots to Jen and we just suggested we could do a few pics to practice ...

... well that's when it got out of hand! We essentially turned the sitting room into a studio with proper lighting (those big lightboxes you see on the pro shoots, wish I'd got a picture of the setup it looked very impressive). The pictures here are just a few samples, most were taken of Jen on her own (she's alot more photogenic than me) and I'll add a link to those once Rachel has processed them properly (they will likely be on the Random Acts Webzine so keep an eye on that).

For anyone who is a little scared of having their picture taken I have to say this: don't be! It is, once you get into it, sooooo much fun! Really just go for it! A good photographer like Rachel will be happy to work with you to get what you want and delete images you really aren't happy with, or, if you want it, do a little touch up work in PhotoShop if that makes you happier :)

Really, and truly, a photoshoot is fantastic fun!