Cat got my tongue?

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged much recently. Or at all.

(I wonder what percentage of blog posts are of the type “Sorry I have’t blogged much recently but my uber exciting life has got in the way”?)

Why so silent? I have to admit, the cat’s got my tongue. I still have things I want to say but I didn’t know if I should, could or how, then I became rusty and lost my voice. It’s a vicious cycle of over thinking.

we have a cat in a box situation. mandatory images posted to interwebs cc @damejudiofdench
A cat - no tounge

There are many reasons why the blogging stopped, some of which need explaining.

The company I work for has embraced social media, mainly twitter but there are also some spiffing YouTube videos out there with backing tracks that IN NO WAY resemble 1970s porn music.

As you no doubt know I’m rather fond of crafting the odd tweet, but should I interact with the corporate twitter accounts – accounts talking about one of the most important things in my life, our product family? What if a client sees me retweeting something important, looks at my feed and realises that, yes, my guilty secret is occasionally watching XFactor and tweeting about it? Or my amdram obsession? Would YOU let your mission critical software be written by a person who obsessively posts pictures of food?

du pan, du vin, du boursinOo, I can make toad in the hole!Toffee on to set!No idea if this is going to work, scallops wrapped in bacon!Terrible piping. Kettle is on ready to test...

Or, would you rather engage a company who employs faceless drones? Is it better to just not know?

Should we be as professional as we would be in a client meeting at all times, or does that come across as dull and, at worst, fake? That’s certainly an attribute you never want to have in people you employ.

I have always been of the opinion that you should never put anything online that you wouldn’t say to anyone face-to-face. This was a pretty good rule of thumb in the 90s when everyone wasn’t hyper-connected but now, everything feels much more traceable.

As an example, let’s say I post a tweet linking to a photo in my flickr stream, the previous photo was of me out with friends, one of which is tagged, the client follows that tag to the other persons flickr stream, and then there’s a picture of me in their stream doing something not development related like, oh I don’t know, drinking? Dancing? Playing video games? In a church?  Basically doing – well, anything that isn’t development – and potentially something that the viewer finds offensive.

I don’t feel the need to keep my life a secret, or anything I do – if I do it, well, it’s me, take all of me or none of me – even if that means accepting that I’ve sat in classy bars knitting….

But what if this picture of a complete person ever reflects back badly on my employers rather wonderful product?

(Warning: this next paragraph may not be fashionable, it certainly isn’t cool and it may even make you a little nauseous.)

I adore my company’s product. Our main product is spectacularly powerful – (working) life changingly powerful. It can revolutionise oganisations. I truly do not know how people live day to day without it – or something like it. And I never want to reflect badly on it.

When I was employed about in April 2005 employers only needed to worry about their employees during the working day. As long as they turned up, looked smart, worked hard, and didn’t do something so spectacuarly stupid that they end up in the tabloids and brought the company into disrepute everything was peachy. Now employer’s have to consider their people’s online identities. Or do they? And should they?

So, I’ve been quiet, trying not to scare off that most timid of beasts – the new corporate account runners, but enough is enough.

I am not just a developer, I am a whole person.

I live, love, cook, dream – and I’m back.

Tonight involved unpicking... #crochet cc @dtsnSlightly odd Hobby 1
Ambassador - Set Build
Odd hobby 2 - Amdram

Back in the village for a funeral of a genuinely good person, RIPThank you for my Christmas Whisky Rocks @boffbowsh squeeI think @bakerleuk and @james_hodgson know me too well! Best gift ever! Thanks guys x

Three things that might cause offence – Church, Drinking and an unhealthy love of spreadsheets – take it or leave it!


Vanouver 2011I’m currently in Vancouver, Canada – this city is food obsessed, I love it!

Breakfast, oh yes

Vanouver 2011Vanouver 2011

I am learning Python between times – I’m becoming rather fond of the language I must say, more of that another time.

Gadget update: I love my sony ereader, this holiday is really showing it’s worth from a weight-saving point of view only.

Vanouver 2011But as much as I love my ereader, it’s not a patch on how devoted the parents are to their kindles! Every time we sit down to have a coffee, beer or to look at a view, they wipe them out and start reading. I would recomend them for distracting oldies on long flights!

Vanouver 2011

A PHP developer lost in .net land

Blimey that was fun!

I am back from an extremely interesting weekend at Developer Developer Developer South West – a day long tech conference loosely based about .NET technologies.

Now as you may know, I’m a php developer – so what on earth was I doing there?

I’ve never been snobby about languages, they are means to an end – producing a product that does what it needs to do, and making the world a better place. How you get there isn’t really important to anyone other than the development team, so no, just because I haven’t touched .Net in years didn’t worry me, I was sure I would still get something out of the sessions – and I did.

Another reason was to feed my secret geeky need to revel in the way different people approach things – why do people from one technology stack approach problems in a certain way? And what do they do that I and the world I live in don’t, and is it better? What Can I Pillage?

Also, I thought it would be fun – I ended up at the pre-drinks for DDD Reading a year or so ago and they seemed like a good crowd. The DDDSW people were charming, intelligent individuals happy to have their brains picked by anyone.

It was a remarkably valuable day. We are all working in the same industry, we all have the same goals – to produce solutions that are as good as we can possible make them within the constraints time, money and clients give us – and the knowledge and insights shared will stay with me for a while.

So, thoughts?

I’m about to open my code editor for the first time today – I’m not sure if I’m going to run screaming from the room crying “My eyes! My eyes!” when I see it, or roll around in my beloved php code like a dog in a muddle puddle happy to be home.

Will I be abandoning my first true love of PHP and embracing the .Net goodness? Not this week. But I have a project ‘radiator’ already doodled down and I’m eyeing up that blank wall behind me for potential kanban goodness. I’ve just been on a book buying rampage on O’Reilly and I’m pretty sure I’ll be using jQuery templates within the next few days.

Either way, I know I’ll never look at code in quite the same way again – I’m blaming the Test Driven Development session for that. Thinking about tests before you write the code and hence letting that guide your code design was the biggest Aha! moment of the day.

So I say this to you my friends, go forth and meet your fellow developers, no matter their platform, language or workflow – we need to share our ideas, our philosophies and our passion. And drink beer.

Knitting a Doctor Who Scarf

This weekend I gave my friend Ben his birthday present – a replicate, hand knitted, Doctor Who scarf.

Luckily he liked it!

I made a Tom Baker #doctorwho scarf :-)

When your life is full of social media, keeping a secret is hard – I’ve been knitting this scarf since before Christmas and finished it at 3:20am on 2nd April. 2011. In that time I haven’t been able to mention it online at all incase he heard about it – we’re both active twitter users, we’re both friends on facebook, we subscribe to each other’s blog RSS (don’t you Ben…?).

And of course I had  to instruct all our mutual friends to not say a word online either.

Doctor Who ScarfDoctor Who Scarf

As someone that tells the world what I’m doing, keeping a big project like this under wraps has not been easy! But also quite an interesting experiment. Occatioanlly I would tweet about what percentage I had left – courtesy of my spreadsheet

The scarf itself was made from a pattern on the site – the “original”, which is one of the shorter patterns available – remember when I started this project I could hardly knit! Oh I can now… if you ever want to learn how to knit, this is the project for you!

There was 1042 rows in the scarf, with 60 stitches across – a total of 62,520 stitches.

As I’m a slow knitting this took about 3 minutes a row (that’s 3 seconds a stitch allowing to turning etc), so that means this took just over 52 hours – and that’s without sewing in the ends, blocking and the tassels!

As I had wool left over I made a scaled down version for Darren, he seemed bemused which is exactly the reaction I want when I give someone something, which quite frankly, lets face it – it crazy.

Doctor Who Scarf

My thanks to my mother and Katharine ‘The Sorceress’ for helping me knitting part of it!

I hope that Ben enjoys his scarf and wears it to many-a-geeky event, or just snuggled on the sofa at home watching the latest series.

Am I ever going to make something this large again? Oh yes – well, I want one for myself!

Why so silent? Quick recap on my life recently!

I’ve not blogged for a while. Is this because my life suddenly became dull and uninteresting? Did I lose that essential brand of ego one needs to assume that the world gives a flying monkey’s cage about what you do and think and therefore will read your blog?

No. Simply put. I’ve been busy.

You’re always busy I hear you cry… alright, I’ve been up to something. Three somethings infact. But I can’t tell you about them yet… I will do though.

The other reason is – yes, I’ve finally created a cooking blog with a good friend of mine. You can find out about it over there. I shall be re-working the recipes on here and copying them over to there in the coming months. Which means I can use this blog for it’s original intention – musings on the techie side of my life, without food getting in the way.

Will this place be a food-free zone? Oh I think not, as Dorcus said, “Food is my one weakness”

So what HAVE I been doing?

Went to Bletchly park

Bletchly Park

Had BBQs with my friends

Summer BBQ

Bought a new tea pot

Masala chain from @adagiotea on the brew

Bought a new camera

Model Railway

Had a craving for boiled condensed milk and blondies – and like all good cravings, it must be given into!


And fell truly, madly, deeply in love with PHPUnit testing. Where have you been all my life?!

Ridiculously Easy Thai Fish Curry

A few months ago Katharine The Sourceress very kindly cooked me and James B Marshall dinner, it was fab – Thai Fish Curry.

Katharine kindly told me the recipe and one day I will create it properly but not today, today involved rain, two 2-hour meetings, crazy access right problems, several changes in specification and some sort of hideous problem with setting up the development environment.

So today I made up a tribute to Katharine’s dish.

And it was GOOD!


  • Tin of coconut milk
  • Red Thai Curry Paste
  • Two frozen fish fillets – I had cod
  • Half a large potato
  • Fresh Coriander
  • Rice


  1. Put a tablespoon or so of the curry paste into a saucepan over a medium heat, let it sizzle a bit
  2. Add tin of coconut milk
  3. Get your fish fillets out of the freezer
  4. I only used half a potato but you could use more if you wanted – cut the potato into cubes
  5. Add potato to the bubbling coconut milk
  6. Give it about 7-9 minutes till the potato is softish
  7. Add the fish fillets
  8. Leave it bubbling – not too madly – for, oo, 7 ish minutes
  9. When you can’t resist it any longer poke at the pan to break up the fish a bit
  10. Give it a taste – more curry paste? I thought so too, stick it in.
  11. Stick the rice into the microwave (Yes, I use microwave rice, sticky rice would work very well with this though if you know how to do it)
  12. Pass a knife though a small bunch of coriander a couple of times to vaguely chop it
  13. Put done rice into a bowl, spoon fish and potatoes over the top then pour over the sauce
  14. Put fresh coriander on top and enjoy

Cinnamon Stars – A tale of woe

Let me just state right now, this is all Darren’s fault.

Today I had lunch with my good friends Ben and Darren and a couple of their friends. I recently discovered that these two guys – though my experimentation with The Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls (makes them and people WILL fall at your feet to worship you. always an odd experience) – are almost more passionate about all things cinnamon than they are about assorted geekery.

We were in the excellent Bill’s cafe, where on display there are various gourmet wonders you can buy and take home. As we were waiting to be seated Darren noticed bags of cinnamon star cookies. His eyes lit up like the metaphorical Christmas tree.

Let me pause there for a moment to expound a pet theory of mine – imagine me in a leather, winged back chair, wearing  a smoking jacket, swirling a glass of brandy by an open fire.

Developers are trained to have an inbuilt desire to see how things work. Show a geek a cool do-hicky and after the initial reaction of ‘oh that cool’ they immediately want to know how it’s made.

Never leave a geek with a screwdriver unattended near anything you own because I guarantee they will try and take it apart.

Now imagine what you get when you combine a classic developer with a foodie. You end up with someone who will try and re-create and improve on almost everything they taste.

Back to Bill’s.

As we sat down and starting looking at the menu I started mulling. surely I could make those cinnamon star cookies? How hard could it be?

I should have known.

I turned to my trusty iPod – gateway to the world – and powered up safari. Alas I had obviously left my baby unattended near a microsofty at some point as the default search engine has been changed to Bing, oh well. Five minutes later I had a recipe. My afternoon plans were set.

A quick store cupboard check later and shock-horror, I was out of ground almonds! Darn!

I had used almost all of them up last week making a chicken korma (a BBC recipe, rather good). But no, I was a geek on a mission – a mission to make cinnamon stars and nothing would get in my way! I would just go and buy some ground almonds, twitter came to my aid, @teamawnty2012 told me where the nearest shop that sold ground almonds was, a 10 minute nip to Oxford Road and I had possibley the largest bag of ground almonds I’ve ever owned.

The baking could commence.

I decided to use this as my base recipe – – I stuck to it pretty well, except I didn’t have any lemon zest and I put some lemon juice in the icing to thin it a bit.

Creating the ‘dough’ went well enough, it was quite sloppy but, who was I to argue with what someone I’ve never met said on the internet? Onto the rolling out..

This is where it all started to fall apart. I ended up with a squishy paste between two bits of grease proof paper. I pealed back the top layer and knew this would end in tears. It did not look appetising. Oh well, maybe there was some magic that I wasn’t aware of that would make it all better, time to attempt cutting out.

There wasn’t. Magic that it.

That’s it. The recipe was a failure, I should just go and eat the raw dough and watch a chick flick I thought – but then! Inspiration hit! My cookie press! That is designed to pump out cookies from sloppy dough right? How could it go wrong?

Well it did. lets just draw a veil over those few minutes.

Back to the just-eating-the-evidence-plan.

But no, I have never be beaten by a recipe yet I cried! To which my mind instantly bought forth the memory of my first (and currently only) attempt at macaroons. or my Little Pony Droppings as my beloved tasting panel nicknamed them. The macaroons did not go well either.

So. I brought out more icing sugar, I scraped together the ball of almond smelling cement and LIBERALLY sprinkled the work surface. Who am I kidding? I carpet bombed the thing. Slapped down the warm handful of goo and considered the state of proceedings.

“What I really need right now, is a glass of wine.”

Thank you for that thought brain, but no, I have cookies to make. Star shaped cookies.

I got the paste into a sort of flattish round with my hands, no more rolling pin for me and added another half inch of icing sugar to the top, flattened it down and started to cut out in earnest.

Things started to get better, dipping the cutter in water between each cut helped, gently pushing it out by each point produced a nicely “home make look” star (read wonky), ok, fantastic, yes! Take THAT crazy internet recipe!

3 trays later, 10 minutes baking. I got the cookies out of the oven and it was worse than you can imagine.

Yep. I had created MUTANT COOKIES OF DOOM. But I was committed now, I just need to ice these monstrosities, stick them back in the oven for the icing to harden in a baked Alaska type way and I’m done.

Just look at this one.

What IS that?

You think these look hideous in the photos, you should see them in real life. This must be how a parent feels when they realise their offspring doesn’t know the difference between star trek and star wars, and more importantly DOESN’T CARE.

Last few minutes of baking and the horror is complete

So, my kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it, my cooling rack is full of little mutated globs of almondness and to cap it all! They don’t even smell of cinnamon.

This could have gone better.

In conclusion, at least for the time being, this geek is happy not to know exactly how to make everything she sees.

Although. how hard can it be? I’m going back to the kitchen.

Post Script

It’s 23:35pm, I’m on my 4th Glass of wine and I have just taken THESE out of the oven…

Ha! Take THAT crazy cookies. My work here is done. @deepwire et al x

Oh yes. It turns out I do, indeed rock. Details at a later date but for now, I’m going to bed!

Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe

Here is my stand-by cheap, store cupboard oh-blimey-4-chaps-have-invited-themselves-to-dinner / emergency date / comfort food recipe.

All you really need is onion, tin of tomatoes and pasta but it can be dressed up or down how ever you like

Serves 2ish but I often make enough for just 1, cook more or less pasta depending how hungry you are.

For 4 boys + me I use a whole onion and two tins of tomatoes + had some crusty bread to mop it up with.

1. Fry half an onion in oil + butter if you feel like it. Spring onions also work

2. Add crushed clove garlic once the onion has got going

3. Put the pasta on – Penne works very well, cook till just a tad under-done

4. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes to the onions and garlic, stir and bubble

5. Add a chopped chilli / dried chilli flakes at this point if you want

6. Let the sauce reduce down a bit – this is very much a seat-of-your-pants recipe, go with the flow

7. Open a bottle of wine – red or white, what ever you fancy and have handy – have a glass whilst the sauce is reducing, keep an eye on the pasta, now is not the moment for a phone call.

8. Stir cream into the tomato sauce – single, double, half-fat creme fresh, phili, phili with chives, clotted cream, fromage fresh also work (this is a store cupboard / what ever is in the fridge recipe!). You can do this whole recipe without cream at all – just add a bit more butter to start with.

9. Lots of black pepper if that’s what floats your boat. Bubble the sauce – yes! I just said BOIL and CREAM in the same sentence, no I’m not crazy, yes this works.

10. Drain the pasta, get out your plates, have another glass of wine, summon your co-diners!

11. Optional Decadent move – put hot pasta back in the still-warm pan it was cooked in, add a generous knob of butter and stir in.

12. Do you still have any wine left in the bottle? Add half a glass to the hot, buttery pasta and stir well – not tried this with rose wine yet but both red and white work. A good shot of vodka is also recommended by some of the lab-rats.

13. Stir sauce into pasta in the pasta pan, pile onto plates, possible some fresh parsley or basil on top if you have it, more freshly ground black pepper.

14. Have another glass of wine and enjoy.

Please do cook this recipe, try it, love it, adapt it, share it, retweet it, criticise is, prove to me it’s great, prove to me it’s rubbish – but just cook! Feed yourself, feed your soul, feed your friends and family, sit around a table, talk, eat, live, love, for this is the purpose of life.

CocktailsFor some reason I don’t have a picture of this recipe, so here is one of a plastic cow and a plastic pig standing on half-kumquats instead.

Searching for the Wildcard Percentage Symbol in SQL Server – when it’s being itself

When searching data stored in a table in an SQL Server database you create queries such as…

Select * from tbl_document were document_name like ‘File %’

This will return all documents with a filename starting with the word File and a space followed by anything. That’s what the % represents – anything, anything at all.

Anything is quite a big concept for a line and two circles when you think out it

But what if you want to search for the % character itself – when it’s having a day off from being the all encompassing wildcard of wonder and it just being a plain, simple percentage?

I had to find all documents in the database that had been uploaded with %20 in the filename – I’ve done this before but for the life of me I couldn’t remember how – so I went to Google but alas the search gods were not smiling on me – so I asked Twitter.

The knights in shining armour that are Ian Field (@IanField90) and Peter Curd (@PCurd) rushed to my rescue with the solution…

where document_name like ‘%[%]%’

This will match anything-percentage-anything.

Once again, knowing the right people on twitter helps. Ok so I’ve met both of these charming gents in real life, but I also received help and suggestions from others who I haven’t.

Happy Querying!