Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

2011 in review

As with the past two years, I’m going to take a few moments of your time to review the goings on of the past twelve months.


January started with a trip to Blackpool – despite going to Blackpool regularly in 2010, this would be our only trip now that Christine and I both live in Yorkshire – to see friends and visit Blackpool Zoo again. We also had a flat-warming party with friends, despite it being almost two months after we’d moved in. Blogging wise, January was a quiet month – I only posted twice: a quick guide to restarting frozen iOS apps and my ninth blogiversary.

In February I managed 9 posts, or a post every 3 days, where I wrote about which web browsers university students use, the rise of Serco and the first in an irregular series of posts called Foursquare Thursday. Back in the real world, Christine and I had a day out at MOSI – the Museum of Science and Industry – in Manchester.

March brought the first of our two short breaks – four nights in Edinburgh. This included visits to Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh Zoo (you may have noticed that we both like visiting zoos), Surgeon’s Hall Museum, Museum on the Mound, Museum of Scotland and some casual sightseeing and shopping. Back at home, we saw the musical Spamalot in Bradford, and I replaced the hard drive in Christine’s laptop after some worrying startup problems.

On the blog, I made the first major change to the content management system for this site in over 8 years, abandoning Movable Type for Melody, which was a community fork of MT. This turned out to be the first of two major changes. Content-wise I wrote about enabling hardware acceleration in Firefox, which remains one of the most popular posts on the blog, and the start of the 30 Day Song Challenge, which saw me post about a new song (almost) every day right into April.

Hebden Bridge

April was quite a big month – we moved flats again, after encountering problems in the previous one. Thankfully we’ve had no such issues in this one and are still happy there 9 months on, which is good as moving twice in 5 months is not fun. Trust me. Especially when you have problems getting the phone line moved across, although to BT’s credit it’s working fine now and we have very good speeds, despite being in a small semi-rural town.

April also brought unseasonably good weather, so we made day trips to Sheffield and Hebden Bridge, as well as some time in York over the Easter weekend. I concluded the 30 day song challenge and stated why I was voting Yes in the AV referendum (remember that?).

Naturally, as we had a new flat, we needed another flat warming party, which came in early May, shortly followed by a trip to Manchester to see Uncaged Monkeys at the O2 Apollo. May was also my birthday, which was celebrated with a trip to the Victoria Theatre in Halifax to see Ed Byrne (who was painfully funny). And the second of our two short breaks saw us in London for four nights, staying in a Premier Inn in Collier’s Wood to keep costs down. This time, our itinerary included being in the audience for a recording of Jo Brand’s Big Splash at the Hackney Empire (free tickets), Covent Garden, the Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL, watching Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, shopping on Carnaby Street, Camden Lock Market, the Natural History Museum, V&A Museum and a trip out to Greenwich.

On the blog it was another month. March’s move to Melody had left me underwhelmed so I made a much bigger change and switched to WordPress. 7 months on and Melody has only had one minor update, whereas WordPress has had two point releases with new features, and overall I’m much happier with WordPress.

In June, more day trips followed, including a visit to West Yorkshire’s only commercial vineyard (probably) at Leventhorpe and the newly opened Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, plus a weekend spent walking in the Yorkshire Dales. Christine and I also went with friends to see Avenue Q when it came to Bradford – I’d seen it a few years previously but Christine hadn’t. On the blog, there were several entries about changes to the blog and general tweaking as I adjusted to the new CMS.

Piglets at the Great Yorkshire Show

Despite having walked past a gym on the way to work every day since November, it wasn’t until July that Christine and I finally joined a gym. 5 months on and we’ve been generally going once or twice a week, although I’ve only been once this month (December) due to being either busy or unwell. It has improved my overall body tone, stamina and reduced my asthma symptoms, but hasn’t really shifted much of the excess fat around my waist. This Christmas’ excesses and lack of exercise will have only exacerbated that, so a new year’s resolution will be more time in the gym.

Also in July I started playing World of Warcraft again – well, I’ve been paying my subscription continually for five years but had lost interest – which included moving a couple of my characters to a new server. Whilst this has meant I’ve been able to play with more of my friends, unfortunately it happens to be one of the most popular EU servers with queues of up to 20 minutes to join at peak times. I also upgraded my Mac to Lion, WordPress 3.2 came out and I joined Google+. Offline, I went to the Yorkshire Show for the first time in a few years, and Christine and I went to Hebden Bridge to see Robin Ince do his Bad Book Club show, who we’d also seen in May at Uncaged Monkeys. I’d see him again in December too. Not that I’m obsessed or anything.

August, by comparison to the months that preceded it, was uneventful bar me being very busy at work, as usual for that time of year. We spent an afternoon at the Halifax Show, which was somewhat smaller than the Yorkshire Show but still good fun, and I went on a walk over the hills from Hebden Bridge to Marsden. In regular shoes, I might add – which led to some impressive blisters on my feet. This wasn’t deliberate – in the rush to leave I forgot to wear my hiking boots. I also started Geocaching, which I’m still finding fun although I’ve now found all of the caches in easy reach of Halifax, Sowerby Bridge and Bradford so future finds will have to be further afield.

As with last year, Christine and I started September by going to Bingley Music Live. This was the only major thing we did that month, as once again I was rather busy at work, although I managed a few further geocache finds. On the blog, I changed the theme to the one you see now. I’ll probably stick with it for now but may adjust the colour scheme sometime. On the job front, my contract at work was made permanent – and thus became the first permanent job I’ve ever had. After several years of uncertainty (see 2009), this is very welcome.

Roberts Park

And then came October. By far the biggest news of the month, and indeed the year, was that Christine and I got engaged. We’ve been together as a couple for two years, and it was just the right time to do it. The wedding is likely to be in 2013, and although we have talked about it we haven’t yet sorted a venue or a date. Those are jobs for next year.

October also brought a trip to Saltaire and Salt’s Mill, and quite a bit of drinking in Huddersfield, on a pub crawl and subsequently an Oktoberfest beer festival. I also upgraded my iPhone, now over a year old, to iOS 5.

In November, I went to a live gig and three comedy shows. The gig was for the band Within Temptation – arguably my favourite band right now, and their show in Manchester was absolutely amazing. It was their first UK tour for several years and this was one of only four nights in the UK, so as you can imagine it sold out weeks in advance – we bought our tickets around 6 months in advance. Thankfully there’s a chance they’ll be back this way next year; if you like their music, please go and see them as they put on an excellent show. As for comedy, I saw comedians Sarah Millican, Chris Ramsey and Milton Jones, all of which were very good. Chris Ramsey has done many gigs at the university over the past three years and is finally getting his deserved share of the limelight – I’d recommend seeing him if you get the chance.

I also attempted Movember, although cheated a little by growing a goatee beard, rather than just a moustache. It lasted until the evening of November 30th, and I’m glad to see the back of it. Christine started blogging again, this time about her recipes.

And to December. As mentioned I spent some time feeling ill – it was just a cold but it hit both Christine and I like a fully-loaded freight train and saw me taking a rare day off work on sick leave. My dad passed his Canon EOS 450D down to me, so I had a new camera to play with, which I took on a wet afternoon at Lotherton Hall Bird Garden. We also went back to Manchester to see Uncaged Monkeys again, which was great apart from a rather sub-standard stay in a Travelodge.

Christmas, as usual, was spent in York. Christine went back to Sowerby Bridge today, as she’s working; I’m here for another couple of days.

So that’s 2011. It’s been a good year on the whole – we visited some nice places, saw some brilliant shows and took our relationship to the next level. Later on, I’ll write about what 2012 will have in store.

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