Five things

15 January 2007

It had to catch up with me eventually. Matt tagged me with the “five things” meme. And then so did Alex. I thought I’d have some time to write this, but then everybody else finished theirs dead quick, and I got tagged twice, and this took ages – hence the delay.

The problem with things like this is that you often either end up sounding arrogant, or you give away terrifying secrets on the internet, where they’ll never be forgotten. Striking the middle ground is hard. I hope I managed that, anyhow.

1. I’m an only child
So that explains everything,” is the traditional quip. It explains a moderate amount, I suppose, but I really don’t think it has a vast significance as to who I really am. Yes, I’m probably more comfortable with my own company than many, but as a bookish, quiet child, it suited me, I suppose. I never really wanted for a sibling until I got to University, really, and I’ve certainly never minded not having one. So, there you go. To me, it’s just my life, but people sure do love attaching significance to it.

2. I have hammertoes/bunions
This is my random physical skill. I always thought my feet were normal, but no; if you look at them, the top join of my toe angles inwards at about 30 degrees. I’m used to them now, but I’m assured they’re not meant to be like that. No idea if it was shoes or just my genes that did it.

3. I’m obsessed with film censorship and classification
This is my dorky interest – specifically, in the work of the BBFC. I love movies, but film certification itself is a fascinating mine of trivia. It’s also a really interesting guide to the mores and tastes of culture. Fortunately, the BBFC have a wonderfully detailed website, with their entire database online, and with listing for new releases. It’s one way I find out what new titles will be out soon, and also is interesting to see which films have been edited to reach certificates.

For instance: here’s the entry for Don’t Look Now, originally rated X in 1973, passed as an 18 in 1988 on video, and then given a 15 in 2001 when re-released to the cinema – all without edits. Also note the changing iconography of the BBFC, and, most trivia-tastic of all, the shorter running time on video, which indicates not that the film’s been edited, but is merely down to the fact that video runs at an extra frame every second compared to film.

Anyhow, I find it rather interesting, if only to mine the archive, and to watch classifcation, and censorship – or lack of it – at work. Another interesting board of censors is IFCO, the Irish film censor, who are interesting if only for their slightly different priorities (interestingly manifested in their split between 12A, 15A, 16 and 18 film ratings – on video I believe they just have 12/15/18).

I’m fully in agreement with Mark Kermode when he says that we, the British, have the best film classification board in the world. They’re smart, clued-in, and fair. Their site also provides RSS for recent releases on film, video, and digital media (games). Try subscribing some time – if only to get a laugh out of the terrible titles porn videos have.

4. I didn’t like curry until I was 18
Which isn’t that remarkable a fact, unless you know how much I like eating curry now, and, more to the point, how much I love cooking curry now. I think we make one a week, on average, and often make several when people come over. What I’ve learned time and time again in my adult life is that it often takes a very good dish to break the ingrained responses of millions of crappy school dinners.

5. My girlfriend hasn’t seen my chin in three years
My dad’s had a beard ever since I was born, so I’ve never really had many issues with facial hair. I grew my sideburns at about the age of 14, mainly because they arrived, and I quite liked them. I’ve kept them long ever since, though try not to let them get too bushy and look too much like a Victorian patriarch. Anyhow: this answer is about facial hair.

I grew my first beard the summer I was sixteen. It involved deciding very carefully when the earliest I could have my final shave of the school term was, and then just let the fuzz build up without looking obvious, in order to get the maximum head start. I ended up with a DJ-Shadow-like chinbeard. My body hair, when it has grown, always started out golden, and went red as it matured.

I grew my first adult beard in the first term at university. My beard for most of my time at Cambridge was a chinstripe with wings – an upside-down T – and no moustache. With hindsight, it looked a bit silly, but it was fun, and it felt like a good expression of my personality. I periodically shaved it off, and only ever in order to facilitate progress with some girl I fancied. Invariably, I discovered that it wasn’t the beard they had problems with, and so I grew it back immediately.

I grew my final beard in the third year, and, for the first time in my life, grew the moustache to go with it. Proper goatee, although it’s been hell joining up the sides, so to speak. I haven’t been clean-shaven since then, and you’ll see the beard on my graduation photographs. Given Alex and I got together in the final term, that means she’s never seen my chin.

Much as I love her, I’m not sure she will for a while. And when she does, it’ll be a shining white patch – it hasn’t seen the sun in a long whlie, either.

Gosh. They weren’t hugely exciting. Sorry I don’t have anything more interesting that I’m willing to tell you.

Anyhow, now I have to tag five more people, which is hard, because I have to choose five people who haven’t done it already. So I choose: Matt Biddulph, Matt Patterson, David Smith, Simon Willison, and Chris Heathcote (if they’ve not done it already).

0 errors, 0 failures

13 January 2007

I wrote my first proper Unit Tests in Ruby today. It felt good.

That probably sounds slightly gauche and hypocritical coming from a Rails developer. But remember – I’ve come from a front-end background; most of the time, other people make the tests; it’s up to me not to break them. I’m perfectly capable of editing tests to bring them in line with updated functionality; it just tends to have been the case that I’ve never really got my head around testing properly.

That changed recently, mainly thanks to Geoffrey Grosenbach’s excellent Peepcode screencasts. I’ve read a fair amount on testing up to now – Mark Pilgrim’s Dive Into Python is very good on the subject – but it was Geoffrey’s material that really clicked with me. (I’m watching his Capistrano one at the moment, and it’s certainly proving to be as good as the testing one).

I’ve always understood the point – and the utility – of test suites, but I’m pleased to have got my head around writing my own, starting with one (of several) projects on the back burner. Small steps at first, but it’s really satisfying to be working in a relatively test-driven manner.

And so I’ve been enjoying watching the dots fly by before those magic words come up: 0 errors, 0 failures. The Peepcode screencasts come strongly recommended, as well. Here’s to slightly more watertight code from now on.