Category is: Recaps

Getting up early for a conference in another city is always an unwelcome jolt, though a train ride through a crisp early morning can be a nice novelty. Besides Oxford was lovely once I got there; the jQuery UK Conference I was there for hidden down a pretty canal. It’s got to be one of the largest I’ve been to too, with two tracks to choose between, and far from centring on the specifics of jQ the talks ran the gamut from ES6 to CSS, and those were just the first two!

Dave Methvin: ES6 is the answer! What was the problem?

I saw a very similar talk at jQuery 2013 by Brendan Eich and couldn’t follow any of it so it was very encouraging that I not only followed this time, but got pretty excited about ES6′s forthcoming features. The main take home was swap out all VARs for LETs and CONSTs, use a transpiler to let you use lots of nifty shorthand, and stroke your beard and talk about the Temporal Dead Zone because it’s an actual thing. I’d reccomend watching the video!

Mark Otto: Modular css

It’s really interesting seeing the high-flying careers of CSS specialists; Mark works at github, used to work at twitter and doesn’t know any JS or jQ! He had a lot of tips for architecting the front end of large systems, and though most of it wasn’t new as I’d seen a couple of talks by Harry Roberts lately, it was still a good refresher. Some examples included keep a simple class structure (no ids!), use a block-element-modifier naming convention, don’t chain and my personal favourite: Don’t mimic the html structure in classes.

I didn’t agree with all of it but he had some very interesting things to say about reporting on CSS with Parker or CSS Stats, and has some great front end resources like Code Guide, WTFHTMLCSS and others.

Bodil Stokke: Reactive game development

Bodil pretty much just live-coded Robot Unicorn Attack right in front of us, except with a My Little Pony collecting coins and avoiding haters. It was using ready made assets and some frameworks but still very cool!

Rosie Campbell: Designing for displays that don’t exist yet

From the BBC’s R&D department Rosie gave some great insights into their work on a more connected world, the web of things we’re always hearing so much about. She took us from where we’ve been to where we are, and to what’s next, screens so huge they cover the wall; smart wallpaper! The ultimate embodiment of the connected home. Her tips on this kind of blue sky thinking: design for UX rather than technology, use constraints, stay device-agnostic, and watch a lot of sci-fi.

Alice Bartlet: Bin your <select>

I love the work of gov.uk with accessibility, pragmatism and having a real-world impact so it was a treat to see Alice take us through some of their processes and user research. Long story short a surprisingly large minority can’t use select boxes at all simply because there’s no analogue on paper forms. It’s a great study on challenging a pointless anti-pattern, as simple text fields hooked up to a date parser are much more usable to every level of computer literacy. Talk recommended!

Andy Hume: Resilient front ends

We put a lot of time and effort into the known qualities of 404′s, but there’s another outage that happens just as much, one due to an unreliable connection, particularly on mobile. Andy’s solution is a resilient web. Nobody has JS when it’s loading, so does it catastrophically break or fall back gracefully? The classic real-word example is when an escalator breaks, it automagically becomes stairs!

Philip Roberts: What the heck is the event loop anyway?

My favourite talk of the day, on the mechanics of what’s actually happening in the JavaScript underneath all that pesky code. A bunch of points that had come up at work recently were all explained and I was so transfixed I didn’t even take notes. Talk recommended!

Rich Harris: Dismantling the barriers to entry

Very interesting talk about how coding can affect the world, from a journalist that learnt to code in order to do his job better. Rich spoke about how the web isn’t democratic because everything is too hard, so he’s building a framework called Ractive that’s incredibly easy to use, and might put us all out of a job. Hurrah! Seriously though a humbling and thought-provoking talk.

Alex Sexton: Hacking front end apps

This was the second talk in a month I’ve seen about how horrifically insecure everything is. It makes me want to give up banking online all together. Alex basically blamed web developers, because we should be secure, but it’s hard. Eesh. From content injection to ridiculously simple css-based timing attacks it’s pretty scary. The solution, apparently, is to black-list everything and work from there? Be closed by default instead of open. Sad times.

Ben Foxall: Real world jQuery

The talk title was totally inappropriate as this was all about the standard Foxall live-demo magic, achieved via a webpage that the audience were invited to visit on their phones. Basically Ben performed a bunch of tricks using the collective phone APIs which was totally neato! …But you might have had to be there.

The videos are online!

I’ve already linked to my favourite talks but the rest of them are online too, including the seven more from the other track that I didn’t see, and will be catching up on soon. Many thanks to the people at White October for putting on such a show, this one’s going in the calender for next year!

The Drag Cruise

Recaps

What’s a Drag Cruise anyway?

So for those that don’t know, there’s a show called RuPaul’s Drag Race; reality TV in as much as a group of people compete in challenges and one is eliminated each episode, but the people competing are all drag queens so the tropes don’t do it justice. They are all performers, entertainers, lip-syncers and make-up artists as a baseline, and usually some combination of actors, seamstresses, singers, comedians and rappers on top of that.

The Drag Stars At Sea cruise featured 18ish of the more successful queens from the show – including 3 out of the 5 winners. On top of being on a cruise ship stopping at a different port more mornings that not, there were also shows from the queens, the same people that fans have been watching (and stealing catchphrases from) for years. We also partied with them at night and waved at them on the stairs or at the buffet. It was surreal.

The Queens

I’ve taken ages to write this because every time I try to wrap my head around it all it blows my mind. I’m familiar with the idea of drag personas being separate and distinct but I’ve never seen it so up close and in so many, it was like being on a boat with a troop of performers working through their schizophrenia. Some are the same in drag and out, some are polar opposites, some more outgoing, some paradoxically less so, it was fascinating.

On the first night alone we (ok, mostly my chattier partner Dom) had pretty long conversations with Darienne, Alaska, Mariah, and Sharon. Every night out there were some absurd moments on the deck, like Dom sitting between Alaska and Detox, holding court and telling everyone how I threw him in the fire that one time…

Basically the queens were split into “Super Lovely”, and “Didn’t really speak to”. Darienne and Mariah were deserve a special mention though; just shockingly nice – legit some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met and full of banter for everyone. Shangela, Detox, Adore, and Manilla are awesome party girls. Sharon was hilarious but prickly at times. Didn’t so much talk to Latrice, or Bianca, and only chatted to Pandora while probablytoodrunk but again with the Super Lovely. Alaska’s basically my fave and her understanding smile warmed my cockles.

The blow-by-blow

This trip was going to be epic. It’s easily the most money I’ve spent on anything, so I doubled down and got a posh hair & beard trim on the day before, booked a pre-flight hotel and a business class flight. (It was my birthday! #treatyoself.) Business class lounge etc was lovely. (Overlooking the fact my laptop was dusted down for drugs twice and I had to fill in a bunch of forms #racialprofiling.) Breakfast on the flight was just like the awesome airline meals I remember as a kid, but with more champagne.

Venice was ridiculous. Pretty, pizza, prosecco, and much paddling. High tide meant we had to wear waterproof over-boots, but it was all super-lovely, as was the hotel. Getting to the ship was epic stressy as I didn’t work out exactly how that was going to happen, but I needn’t have worried.

Once on and settled into our room we bumped into old friends Chris and Gareth and caught up, and at one point we turned around and there were half a dozen ru girls out of drag chatting with their various people, but that proved to be par for the course.

That first night was the masquerade ball, but I was still feeling shy so only took my pocket camera. It was hellishly packed as the muggles took up a lot of room, sitting and watching the pomp of queens in full drag and dozens of fans in various states of glitter and masks. Things got better once they went to bed though, unlimited drinks did flow, and we got enough space to dance, so we did.

Next morning we awoke to sunny views of Dubrovnik. Apparently the ship travels at night then stops outside the destination and waits until morning for a dramatic arrival. The hungover logistics to visit the old city was an effort but it was well worth it: Lovely time, lovely place, great weather, great company.

That night was a “Michelle and Friends cabaret show” with actual singing. Michelle compèred and did Sondheim, Jinx and Alaska were obviously amazing but Willam was excellent too (her shtick is pretty busted but she is so not). Bendelacreme did a great comedy act and Sharon was good too, though the highlight was her falling flat on her ass. After that it was more drinks at the Viking lounge, though less crowds and costumes than one of the official parties.

Next day was a “relaxing day at sea” which was just as well because I had slept terribly. I went to find friends for sanctuary and sympathy so sat at a table with Gareth and Chris, but I was so tired I didn’t realise that Jinx and Sharon were there too crowing about something awful so I actually had to leave. The day was spent in recuperation. I should have investigated the spa but the whole concept is alien to me so I never went in the whole time I was there. That evening was a Shangela show which was hilare and flawless (srsly she killed it), followed by a more traditional lip-synchy drag show.

We failed to get places on the Ephesus tour so bummed around the ship the next morning as the port town of Kuşadası looked uninviting. Soon enough it was time to prepare for the White Party, Kieron, Dom and Robin got ready in our room and so bolstered by three drag queens on my arm I finally took my camera and flash out and it was pretty awesome. It was the first time we saw Bianca resplendent in drag, Detox looked absurdly amazing in orange, and Adore pulled some amazing lip-syncing hairography to Super Base that I was thinking about for weeks. I didn’t get nearly enough good pix given all the material that was around but I was still quite hesitant with it.

Next day we found ourselves in Santorini, so we hopped on a boat to shore, a cable car to the top of the village, and went for a relaxed wander. We headed back for lunch and a carb nap but I was crashing bad, beginning to feel the effects of unlimited cocktails and buffet. Dom brought me little bottle after little bottle of water from the bars because it was so hard to stay hydrated there. I’d recovered enough for more shows though: from Jinx (& Major Scales) and Pandora Boxx where they struggled to stay upright during the only real rocking the boat did. Manila came and sat on the arm of my chair and asked how we all were and we got talking to Bendela about tipping and such; so surreal. It was an early night for me though. (Which is to say about 3? The clocks seemed to keep changing so it was difficult to keep track.)

Another morning, another destination, this time Katakolon Greece. We gathered in the ship’s theatre before heading off to the buses that took us to Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics. The museum there was pretty cool, the ruins were mostly a series of low walls, but the real star was the torrential rain that trapped us in the museum, creating waterfalls and ponds all around us. After a quick browse in the local town (fridge magnets yay) we hopped back on the bus satisfied with a job well done, though we’d missed the Olympic field that was probably the main point.

Again we arrived back in time for lunch and slept between lunch and dinner. (There was only enough time for 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night so we had to get creative) and after dinner another round of dragging up for the Black Party! This time I was feeling a bit more comfortable and less worried about being obnoxious with the camera, so between that and Dom introducing everyone to Petron, I don’t remember too much but did take plenty of photos for once.

The last day was mostly hangover. A bit of on-board shopping, watching some kareoke, having a final dinner, then to the main event; the big drag show on the big stage with real lights! It was so much better with some real space and proper lights, and everybody killed it with Shangela & Latrice as stand-out slayers. Later when I went to bed Dom gave my drinks pass to Manilla. True story.

On the 8th day we travelled. We had to be up at 4:30am to be the first off the ship, the clocks changed twice, we waited in a stairwell with all the queens, and Dom reeked of booze and garlic. It felt a lot like the tribulations of getting home after a music festival; exhausted but with grim determination, except the trip was longer and there was entirely less mud.

Learnings?

We got the select drinks package for about a couple of hours of bad wine before upgrading to the premium, similarly we went to the main hall for a bland and glacially-slow dinner before we started patronising the buffet. We paid for wifi and maybe shouldn’t have. We didn’t pay for water bottles and maybe should have. We had to get our keycards replaced twice. And I should have taken the big camera everywhere.

I wasn’t sure at first if we’d repeat the experience, as I don’t think we were sold on cruises in general, but as the next one is leaving from England it’d be rude not to wouldn’t it? So we’re doing it again in October, but with different destinations and a much bigger ship.

Gone contracting

Recaps

I’m now a contractor! Through Cogs it didn’t take long to find somewhere that needed extra hands on deck, and after months of pure CSS on a big team it’s been a nice change of pace doing all the LESS CSS, JQ, PHP/HTML as the only front-ender on the project. On top of that I’m getting my head around Drupal, finally using GIT and Vagrant professionally and starting out as a newbie Mac user, so there’s been a lot to learn. I think that’s a major advantage to contracting though; being almost permanently out of my professional comfort zone could be great for me.

Not so great has been the finance side of things; I’m still waiting for a couple more bits and pieces before I can even send my first invoice! I should get a professional webpage sorted too, or maybe a total site overhaul with that new angle. I like my current photo page but it doesn’t get a lot of use, and I’m ambivalent to the bio page, I need a better nexus page that I can link everything to.

Also business cards! What do people actually put on those, apart from that nexus/homepage URL?

Welcoming 2014

Dear diary Recaps

It’s that time of year again: reflection, resolutions, annual report cards.

2013 was pretty good! Did most of last year’s aims, found an awesome flat with Scott and Bob, improved physically (then threw it away over christmas), went on holiday to Florence, got a new camera and built up a flickr stream I’m fairly proud of, learned a heck of a lot at VML London and over a dozen conferences, workshops and meetups,and rebuilt this site from the ground up (AGAIN) with new technologies and in half the time of the last refresh. The only aim I failed was saving money! Oops.

Aside from the obvious of improving social, financial and health, other things I’m looking forward to working on in 2014:

  • Professional: I’ll continue going to conferences (already got a couple lined up), but the big change is I’ll be crossing over to contracting! I handed in my notice yesterday so I’m pretty excited about it, especially getting to see how more agencies and web people tick.
  • Writing: An unexpected twist of 2013 has been that these self-reflection posts are now in the minority, instead I’ve been writing up web conferences and ordering my thoughts on the dark place where front end dev meets entrenched agency process. One of my posts even got taken up for guesting elsewhere, which was nice! More to come.
  • Photography: I’d like to learn more about portraiture and simple studio stuff, pap the Edinburgh Festival and maybe Glastonbury, and try to add gigs, festivals and new clubs to the stuff I already do. It’d be great go to a photography workshop too, if there’s some webconf crossover

It’s going to be (another) interesting year!

Normal service resumed

Bloggery Photography Recaps

As I’m all done with this site (i.e. everything remaining has been pushed to the nebulous land of “phase 2″) I should probably start blogging again. Not done it in months! So what’s new. Apart from this site, obviously. Isn’t it nice? Though I still think the pages need work…

I also got a shiny new Canon 700D with assorted peripherals which is kicking my photography learning curve back to “steep” and is slightly too heavy to dance with. The snaps are coming along nicely though! I even randomly teamed up with Andrej at work to take professional profile pics of the entire staff which was interesting on several levels.

In the world of web I attended a day-long workshop with Brad Frost on RWD which was almost too much awesome to handle, and then I went and bought tickets for dConstruct and Full Frontal in Brighton later this year, complete with a workshop on Javascript debugging because I’m some sort of crazy addict. I was supposed to be saving money this year. It’s not working out so well. That’s said I’ve not actually been away anywhere holiday-like as I’ve been so busy, but it’s been the hottest summer in years so I guess that’s ok.

Next up, giving talks at work on how to practically execute responsive sites, and getting creatives to make production-ready comps. Agency life, don’t you love it?

Hoxton Squared

Recaps

It feels like I’ve been moving house for weeks now, but at last all the furniture’s been reassembled, the empty boxes shoved in the loft and apart from a couple of missing appliances it’s all come together very nicely. What a load off!

It’s Hoxton Street, Hoxton bitches! The heart of the East and land of a thousand takeaways! I’d take a picture or something, but youknow, broken camera sassafrassa…

To add to the disassociation and weirdness, work’s moved too! It’s now located in the back of the massive Greater London House which is ok, though similarly missing appliances. Being near Camden is nice though unfortunately I have to commute through Euston which is surprisingly gross >.<

Taboo is an 80s New Romantic romp set in that gay sub sub culture that ostensibly rubbed shoulders with Culture Club way back when, though it’s mostly original music (penned by Boy George) so it’s not just an 80′s compilation. With all the drag, costumes, singing, comedy and drama it’s got a heavy cabaret vibe too, which is awesome!

To be honest the “main plot” plays second fiddle to the larger-than-life characters featured like Leigh Bowery, Boy George, Steve Strange and Marilyn; but that’s probably for the best. The guy playing Leigh struck me as familiar and it turned out with good reason, it’s him off the tele! And know what? He’s actually brilliant in it.

Four stars. Loved it. It’s basically restored my (modest) faith in musicals since the awful travesty of Viva Forever. It’s on most evenings at the delightfully random Brixton Clubhouse, and the run ends in March so gogogo!

Agree? Disagree? Kicks4free? Tweetme.

I went to a marvellous party

Recaps

I took loads of pics at Ciaran/Dean/Caroline’s awesome houseparty last week but I’ve not had time to look through them til now. You’d think not going home this Christmas would mean less things to do and more time to do them, but I’ve been rushed off my feet this past fortnight, and next week is going to be even busier! ^_^

I’ll eventually get all the snaps up on facebook once they’ve been trimmed, nipped and tucked to my relative satisfaction, but this probably couldn’t wait.

So MA cho.

We went to Amsterdam!

Recaps

Amsterdam is lovely. The canals that space out the center are lined with houseboats and reflect the overhanging trees; so picturesque and peaceful. On the other hand sharing the waterway with big tourist boats while driving a tiny pedalo that seems paranormally reluctant to move in a straight line is surprisingly nerve-wracking. It didn’t seem to bother the Dutch, but they seemed crazy laid back anyway. Also totally funny. What’s up with that? It seemed fully half the people we spoke to made some joke or other.

We wandered the city a lot (around 30 miles over 4 days!) sightseeing and looking for food, which was borderline amazing each time due to a combination of our pickiness and blind luck. The museums (that weren’t closed for renovation) were lovely, especially the Stedelijk. The red light district was scary/surreal, and the hotel, OMG THE HOTEL BED WAS SO AMAZING. I miss it the most.

Amsterdam is also so close that on the plane back I was debating with my boyfriend whether were allowed to use electronic devices yet when we were interrupted by the captain announcing our imminent decent. Kindlefail.

Late To The Party

Recaps

I finally have an honest-to-goodness bona fide smartphone! It took a while to get on this train, due to my dislike of Apple’s closed system and pervasive smugness I had a half-way house blackberry for a while. The keyboard and push functionality was nice, but internet was just painful.

I have a HTC One S now. It’s androidy and looks pretty. Vodaphone were a bit useless to start off with but a lengthy complaint to the email address that ostensibly corresponds to their CEO sorted things quick sharp. Now I can look at the internet, make Google Maps find my way to things (Hard luck, iPhone peeps), try out dozens of free apps/games and even take photos like this one. Hurrah the 21st century!

Speaking of things I should have done years ago; I just got Borderlands 1 – in spite of the fact its sequel came out a couple of days ago. It’s like Diablo 3 plus humor, buggies, rocket launchers and most importantly SNIPING. I HEART IT.