Vampire Ball 3, another epic weekend

Well, I’m more or less recovered now from another convention weekend. Yet again, Sean Harry has proven that he can throw a damn fine party. This time it was the 3rd Annual Vampire Ball held at the Renaissance Hotel, Heathrow, London. It was my sixth convention since I was introduced to them in 2010, and my third one at the Renaissance. Its a fantastic venue with friendly staff who don’t mind the insane antics of a bunch of geeks as they take over the lobby. We decided to travel down a day early so that I was more recovered after the long drive. I’m so glad we did seeing as it took over six hours to drive there thanks to the M40 being at a standstill. It also gave us a chance to catch up with some of the other regulars.

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Slow week

Easter weekend started off well, I actually got a test print off my printer! Unfortunately, the nozzle started to back up and got clogged, and whilst I was trying to clean it out (needed the heat one to do this) I seem to have shorted out the heating resistor which had the knock on effect of over heating the MOSFET, which also melted the plastic connector next to it. Not really a big issue, except I had no spare MOSFETS handy, so back to RS to order them. It did give as rather bad headache after a couple of hours in my cellar after the meltdown. Must get some better ventilation installed at some point!

On the plus side, the couple of small prints that I got off were rather good, and looked to be quite accurate. Once I get the replacement parts installed and a clean (or possibly new) hotend I can get some better prints off, along with some pictures and video! The hotend is turning out to be the most difficult part of the whole build, and also the part that seems to be least documented. Lots of different types of hotends are available on the reprap wiki, but none seem to be a clear choice, and also very little info on mounting them to the actual printer. Once I get that part worked out properly, it should just be a case of a bit of calibration!

The parts arrived after the long weekend, but by this time I’d come down with a bit of a cold. Nothing bad, but enough to put me off doing any intricate electronics. Of course, typically, the weekend is now approaching and I’m still feeling bunged up. Quite an annoying cold this. Also have a few extra hotend types to try.

In other news, Good Friday was the Alex Reunion. The Alex was a night club that a large number of people went to regularly in Lancaster, especially on its GRIP (Goth, Rock, Indie, Pop) nights. It was a very popular place, and had a great community behind it. The club closed down 10 years ago, and I thought it was high time that someone got everyone back together. That someone turned out to be me! The wonderful manageress at the Yorkshire House let me have the function room upstairs for free for the night, knowing full well that it would be busy with a good group of people. Nice easy (but busy) night for the staff. Thanks to the notoriety of the Alex, I had to do next to no publicity. All I did was to create an event on Facebook, and that was enough to get me worrying about the capacity of the venue, and the number of people turning up.

So, Good Friday came around, I got some old posters photocopied (thanks Sarah), a projector was loaned to me (thanks Coops), and I totally cheated on the DJing! Sarah also loaned me a banner from the very last night at the Alex. A roll of paper was hung on the wall and pens supplied for people to write their memories and thoughts. Sarah has lovingly looked after this for the last 10 years and it took pride of place on the wall of the reunion. Thanks to the projector, I also had nearly 300 photos projected onto the back of the stage, which kept people enthralled when they first arrived. Lots of good memories. The playlist for the night was one of the most fun, but most difficult, part to do. So many classic tunes were requested that it was very hard to narrow the selection down to just one nights worth. I also had to exercises my geek, to cut out any silence from the end of the tracks. A quick bit of scripting and I had a program called sox cutting off a few seconds here and there from all the mp3 files I had selected. It actually cut enough off for me to be able to squeeze another track in! Song editing, and using rhythmbox, meant that the sum total of work I had to do for the night was to press play and leave it. I wanted to enjoy the night too, and not be stuck behind a computer!

I’m happy to say that the night was a screaming success. The room was packed, I had people dancing all night (Kari and Dany especially!), we made the walls drip, and lots of singing to the last few songs. The comments left on the Facebook group for the Alex were wonderful and made the grin I already had even bigger. There have been lots of requests for a repeat performance, but currently I have no plans. Definitely won’t be one this year, but I may be able to be talked into an annual one.

For anyone interested, here is the playlist from the night:

  • Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
  • Would – Alice in Chains
  • Animal Nitrate – Suede
  • Common People – Pulp
  • You Love Us – Manic Street Preachers
  • Love Spreads – The Stone Roses
  • Nuclear Holiday – 3 Colours Red
  • Paranoid – Black Sabbath
  • Symphony Of Destruction – Megadeth
  • Walk – Pantera
  • We Care A Lot (2009 Remastered) – Faith No More
  • Enter Sandman – Metallica
  • Blue Monday – Orgy
  • Don’t You Want Me (Original Version) – The Human League
  • Kick In The Eye – Bauhaus
  • Vision Thing – Sisters Of Mercy
  • Sin – Nine Inch Nails
  • The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
  • Sonne – Rammstien
  • (Can’t You) Trip Like I Do – Filter/The Crystal Method
  • Firestarter – Prodigy
  • Def Con One – PWEI
  • Jump Around – House of Pain
  • Anthem for the Year 2000 – Silverchair
  • Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
  • Chop Suey! – System of a Down
  • I Alone – Live
  • Celebrity Skin – Hole
  • Hey Dude – Kula Shaker
  • Rocks – Primal Scream
  • Place Your Hands – Reef
  • Girl From Mars – Ash
  • Pure Morning – Placebo
  • When I Grow Up – Garbage
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous – Republica
  • Laid – James
  • Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
  • Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
  • Stuck in the Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
  • The Size of a Cow – The Wonder Stuff
  • Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Seperated) – The Offspring
  • Wuthering Heights – China Drum
  • Basket Case – Green Day
  • All the Small Things – Blink 182
  • The bad touch – Bloodhound Gang, The
  • Girls – Beastie Boys
  • My own worst enemy – Lit
  • A Certain Shade Of Green – Incubus
  • Blind – Korn
  • Sway – Coal Chamber
  • Davidian – Machine Head
  • Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Screamager – Therapy?
  • Weak – Skunk Anansie
  • Riverflow – The Levellers
  • American T.V. – Terrorvision
  • Stupid Questions – New Model Army
  • Rearviewmirror – Pearl Jam
  • Been Caught Stealing (2006 Remastered Album Version) – Jane’s Addiction
  • Add It Up – Violent Femmes
  • I Wanna Go Where the People Go – The Wildhearts
  • Epic – Faith No More
  • Welcome To The Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
  • Rag Doll – Aerosmith
  • Poison – Alice Cooper
  • Creep – Radiohead
  • Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Hey Jude – The Beatles
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul – They Might Be Giants


Bletchley Park

Had a trip down to see Martyn and Em the other week and ended up having a day trip out to Bletchley Park, home of the code breakers during World War II. This is the place where the Enigma code was decoded, and the worlds first programmable computer was produced, Colossus, which has been lovingly rebuilt from eight war time photos and some illegally kept partial circuit diagrams. (It was in England, not America, that the first computer was built. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!) Well worth a trip to see, especially if you are in to computers or anything from the WWII era. There are collections of Churchill memorabilia (one couple’s personal collection, put on show for everyone), cinematography, and other similar things. Also, the stately house is open for wanderings which may interest people too

Also, getting started at Bletchley Park, is the National Museum of Computing. It isn’t quite ready for the public yet, but Martyn, being of geek persuasion, wanted to volunteer which meant we got a private guided tour around what was happening behind the scenes. The plans that they have for the place look rather impressive, including a room dedicated to british computing. It looks like there may well be quite a bit of hands on exhibits too, including all the home computers running classic games for you to play. I’m going to make a list of all my old computers (including a very old Compaq luggable) to see if I can make any donations. Not holding my breath, but if I can get rid of a couple of items to a good home that will make me happy!

So, if you are ever in the area and want a good day out it is well worth the trip. You can go back at any point within a year of your first visit for free too which I think we probably will do when the computer museum opens.

Play in the Park

Thankfully, on friday, we actually managed to remember that we had tickets to see a ‘play in the park’ at Williamson’s Park. Earlier in the year we’d managed to forget that we had tickets, only remembering a couple of days later!

We’d been planning on going to a play for a number of years, but this is the first time we’ve actually managed to be ‘cultured’ and go and see one. Unfortunately we didn’t fancy the Duke’s one this year, so we decided to watch a traditional Shakespeare one, a Midsummer Nights Dream by the Chapterhouse Theatre Company.

We wandered up to the park about half an hour before it started to pick up our tickets and get some good seats. I’m glad we did seeing as it got rather busy, infact I think the dell (main ampitheatre in the park) was packed by the time the show started. One of the theatre company came out and introduced the show, also telling us that in the event of rain, we’d get wet, which was nice of him! The whole play was performed by the same eight actors, who definately got a lot of practice at quick changes. It was all rather well done and you soon learnt to associate with the costumes rather than the faces of the actors.

It did attempt to rain on a couple of occasions, which was met by a lot of rustling of coats, macs and umbrellas. In fact, there were some pretty thoughtless people in the middle of the audience who seemed to think that people could see through their ‘brollies! The rain didn’t amount to much and we only got a little damp, but noone seemed to care.

All in all, it was a play not to be missed and we’ll definately be going back to watch some more when they start again next year. If you get a chance to go to one, you’d be a fool to miss it! Hopefully the Duke’s will put on a play that we both want to see as theirs are set in various locations around the park which should make it even more interesting!