Since we don’t have a garden to accompany our apartment, we decided on the next best thing, a balcony garden.

After spending only a little time preparing the box and planting the fruits and herbs, I feel like gardening and engineering have a lot in common.

We bought all of the bits from Homebase. The box was £40 and the Soil, Sand, Weed Control Fabric and Stones came to about £20.

I’ve been wanting to grow some chillies for a while so we now have Bellboy, Jalapeño, Apache and something called “Hot Chilli Pepper” (I lost the label for this one). We also have a couple of Tomato plants, some Basil, Thyme, Chives, and Parsley.

We’re looking forward to our first meal with our homegrown ingredients. Here’s some pictures of the planting process from empty-box to complete.


Being a contractor is wonderful.

When I first began contracting I felt a freshness and lightness to my working that I’d been seeking out for years. I felt more appreciated, less confined and more able to express myself in my work.

For a long time I thought all of those feelings and experiences had something to do with the outside world. That somehow the world was different because I was contracting.

Through the years I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world that I live in and I’ve come that little bit closer to understanding that my experience of the world is the one I create for myself.

The feelings of freedom, expressiveness and appreciation that I so easily attributed to some outside influence were really an indicator of the kinds of thoughts I was creating my experience from.

During the last few weeks of job searching I’ve been asked the same question by many recruitment agents: “What about going perm? How do you feel about that?” and my answer has been the same, although somewhat rote, to each one of them: “I’m not looking to go perm but show me what you’ve got. For the right company there’s always the chance”.

I was pretty convinced that I was going to continue contracting. I had a whole story in my head about what it would mean to go perm and what it means about me as a person.

Then I was introduced to blinkbox.com, the TV and Movie streaming service that boasts a subscription-free service and over 2 million monthly users.

I quite like movies. For those of you who know me and Karina, we average 2 visits per week to the cinema and both have Unlimited Cards (We can see as many movies as we like for £15 a month!).
We also tend to watch 2-3 movies per week at home as well as other great TV (Game of Thrones, House, Spartacus [ok,ok, i did say great TV]).

Intrigued by the idea of blinkbox and the work they’re doing I was put forward for interview for a new permanent position they were offering. I was still quite sure I wasn’t going to go perm but since I’d been saying “For the right company…” I figured it’d be useful to find out more.

Suffice to say that after meeting the guys at blinkbox and learning more about how they work, their passion for what they do and their appreciation of the developer species, I was impressed. Very impressed.

Yesterday I was offered a position with blinkbox as their newest Principal Development Engineer and was please to say “Yea!”.

Someone jokingly asked me if I was going to be developing principles at the company and the more I think about it, the more that makes sense. Being part of a wonderful team is a lot about developing ideas, ways of doing things, and a culture within the company. More than that, every interaction is an opportunity to be of service and to be part of making a difference in someones world. I’m certainly looking forward to developing those principles.

As for my thoughts on switching from contract to perm, they’re just thoughts. My experience of freedom, enjoyment and creativity are mine to explore and when I notice that I’m already free, that there’s nothing outside of me in this world that can take away the value of any person, I remember to wake up that little bit more and enjoy being present to a fantastic opportunity.

I’m excited to get started at blinkbox and I’ll let you know how it goes.

You can find out some more about blinkbox here http://www.blinkbox.com



I received a lovely email this morning thanking me for my input and hard work on the development of the new Stork website.

“The brand is 90 years old this year and as part of the birthday celebrations we wanted to create a site which the new generation of bakers, inspired by the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella, could engage with and use as hub of knowledge for all things cake.”

You can visit the site at www.bakewithstork.co.uk


Mattessons

Today is the day… Two fast (and sausages filled) weeks later and we’re ready for the launch of the new Mattessons website.

Our deadline for this project was determined by a new TV ad that’s coming out today and so the flexibility in timings was somewhat limited.

We decided to use WordPress for this project which means this is also my first commercial project on the WAMP stack. The decision to go with WordPress was based on a few different criteria, the first being…time.

Anyone who’s been working with WordPress for any period of time will know how fast it can be to get a site up and running in no time at all. The time investment comes when you’re developing a complete custom template…enter Mattessons!

As the lead developer on the Mattessons project I had to make some calls as to what amount of content management we were going to be offering to our client. The more they were able to manage, the longer it’d take in the development process. My decisions mostly revolved around the idea of “Lets do what we can to give them control over all content items”.

We did this by employing some nice use of custom fields, the creation of a very basic custom markup language for inserting custom property values into page copy and by creating a system where pages themselves can be pulled into other pages and displayed as promos/previews.

You’ll notice on the homepage of the new website that there are currently two promos being displayed. These promos are pages in themselves, just as are the products in the Our Range section and the footer items.

WordPress makes it really easy to get information about the current page and it’s child pages which enabled us to create a basic yet powerful hierarchy of products and product ranges. We’re also using a great plugin for relating pages to one another in a more lateral way. This again is being used in a slightly different way than standard by pulling out information on related pages and then obtaining those page details through the standard WordPress API.

All-in-all this has been a really fun project to work on. It’s been fast paced with a quick turn around and it’s been a joy working with a talented team of managers, designers, QAs and front end developers.

What can I say… “It’s a Primal Thing”.


logoToday I hit the 1000 reputation points mark on StackOverflow.

Reputation points are given by other users of StackOverflow for giving good answers to other peoples questions and for asking good questions yourself.

I’m a big fan of peer review and reaching the 1000 reputation points mark is a real milestone in my own quest to help other programmers and to ask good questions.

Here’s to the next 1000 !


When was the last time you paid your hard earned money to take a shower? (do we even call it ‘taking’ a shower in this country? Should I say ‘have’ a shower?)

The journey to and from work has been part and parcel of working away from home since the beginning of mankind.

Ever since my second real job, I’ve taken either public transport or driven. I think there comes a time in every persons life when they realise they’re not quite as fit as they’d like to be and for me, that time is now.

As a result of this I made a decision to start cycling to work. Boris would be proud!

I set out and bought myself a new bicycle, helmet, bike lock, new snap proof pedals (since the plastic ones on the bike snapped off after I ‘tested’ the bike at the weekend) and various bits and bobs including a pump and mudguard (this got very expensive, very quickly!).

My route to work takes me through some lovely parts of London including Putney, Wimbledon, and across the River Thames over a distance of 8.9 miles.

18 miles a day, that’s bound to help increase my fitness and keep the old endorphins flowing. Right?

The only problem is, there are no showering facilities at work! I hear your cries, agast with the anguish of having to sit at work all day smelling like a 4 day dead hedgehog lying by the side of a summers road during a heat wave. So what’s a guy to do?

My first thought was that a quick wash in the sink would suffice. This may indeed be the answer and I’ve certainly not ruled it out.

I had this conversation with another potential cyclist at work and I presented my ideas of the sink wash to an unenthusiastic “yeah, you could do that, I guess”.

My second idea involved scouting out other local businesses and finding one with showering facilities. I figured I could just walk into an office each day, greet them with the usual “Good morning, nice to see you again, love what you’ve done with your hair today”, and proceed to shower and scoot.

It was at this point I was presented with a third option by my new cycling friend. “Why don’t we join the gym over the road so we can use their showers? It’s only £30 a month so you’d only have to cycle 10 days each month to have earned that back in saved transport costs.”

I like the idea of being able to have a nice warm shower each morning after a lengthy ride to work, but £30 a month to shower? That seems just a little backwards to me.

Instantly I responded with “What a great idea! Do you think we can convince them to let us just use the showers for free?”. Those who know me wont be surprised that this was my initial reaction. “Payment you say? How about a lifetimes free trial? yes? yes?”.

Usually when I sugest anything that involves negotiating or being a bit cheeky I’m met with groans and smug looks that sugest “You sunny, don’t know the system like the rest of us do, such innocence”. Yes, indeed.

So what would you do in this situation? Would you pay £30 a month to shower? Try to negotiate a fair rate to use the gym’s showers in the morning? Infiltrate other local businesses? or go for the old strip wash in the sink?

Answers on a postcard…(By ‘answers’ I mean comments and by ‘postcard’ i mean in the little box below).


Stat Pro

Good news! Good for me anyway. During my recent search for a new project and team to work with, I’ve been invited to join the team at StatPro in Wimbledon, working as their SaaS Web Developer.

The role looks very interesting and I’ve been told I’ll be working on a new greenfield project using ASP.NET MVC (C# 3.5+).

Here’s a little bit about StatPro from their website:

StatPro is a leading provider of portfolio analytics and data solutions for the global asset management industry. Having grown from a one-product company StatPro now offers our clients eight core products including data and enterprise reporting solutions. This range of products enables StatPro to provide a unique integrated product offering with a strong competitive advantage.

One of the most important things to me in any company I work with is their passion and desire to firstly, allow the business and it’s staff run in an adaptive and progressive manner, and secondly for them to embrace new technologies as they arise.

StatPro are one of the first companies I’ve seen to be commercially utilising ASP.NET MVC and as someone passionate about new technology and innovation, this really hits my hot buttons. The company have also embraced many of the agile processes and are actively bringing in more Unit Testing and TDD methodologies. Working in iterative cycles also ticks at least one of the boxes and having worked this way before, it comes as a real pleasure to be involved with a company who know what works well.

Finding out what works from both the companies perspective (what value is offered to the business) and also the staff’s perspective (what can I realistically achieve in any given period of time) is a great place to start from and keeps the whole inner workings of the development and business processes transparent.

Throughout my time at StatPro I’ll be blogging about my continued learning’s of ASP.NET MVC, C# 3.5, Web Development and general musings into the life of the nine-to-five London worker.

Luckily I’ll be able to cycle to work from now on and avoid the tube which will be a nice change and might even help get me back to being fit once again. Hey, who knows, perhaps soon I’ll be blogging about keeping trim and attending lunch time yoga classes (It’s a nice idea huh? :p ).