Is There Food?

by Daniel Woolstencroft
  1. On Thursday night, for the first time in my life, I decided to try running with a running club.

    I’ve been a member at a gym, so I’ve run around other people. I ran in the Lutterworth Santa Fun Run last year, so I’ve run with other people. But I’ve never run as part of a group who are all trying to achieve the same goal before.

    I was nervous, if truth be told. And I’m glad Tracey was there so I wasn’t totally surrounded by strangers.

    But it was brilliant. The furthest I’ve ventured on my own so far was about 5 miles, and even then there was quite a lot of walking involved. On Thursday night with the Huncote Harriers running club, we covered over 7 miles. There was a little recovery time allowed, it wasn’t flat out, but being part of a group meant that I was compelled to keep up. The other runners would encourage me, tell me I could do it, and that I should press on. And so I did.

    I’ve definitely been achier than usual after the run, but nothing major. It’s an ache I remember from the earlier days of running which means I’m pushing myself again, and that’s great. It’s very easy to coast when running on your own. That’s not to say running on your own is pointless, or that you’ll always coast; I came this far (mostly) on my own. But it’s easy to let the fire of ambition fizzle out once a preconceived goal has been hit. It’s an effort to single handedly keep that fire burning. And with a few other people out there with you, you don’t want to let the fire go out.

    I intend to run with the Harriers again. They were welcoming, friendly, and made me achieve something I thought was months away. I’m hoping they’re a piece of the puzzle that is this year’s fitness goal.

    If you’ve thought about joining a running club, go for it. Maybe you’re not even at that point and you’re thinking you should join a gym, or just start a couch to 5K program. Whatever steps you’re thinking of taking but haven’t yet achieved, I urge you to go for it. In a future post I’ll explain why, if I was able to get to this point, you almost certainly can too.

  2. I love Patrick Rhone’s take on intentions rather than resolutions. Resolutions seem almost certain by definition; you’re resolved to do something, so when that thing doesn’t get done you shred the idea of it and give up. An intent seems more like a long term plan, a pursuit, or an ambition. With that in mind, here are my list of intentions for 2014:

    • writing - top of the list for 2014 is to write more. I journaled a little in 2013 using Day One, and I think I wrote more on this site than previous years (edit: just checked, not true), but my output still wasn’t great. Inspired by Neil Murray I’m going to set my intention to at least one post a week in 2014, across a range of topics. I just know I can’t commit to once a day, like Neil.
    • fitness - 2013 was the year I got fit. I shed a monumental amount of weight, started running, and got myself to a point where I wasn’t ashamed of how I looked or felt. In 2014 I will continue that journey. I’ve joined Jantastic to kick start my year.
    • spending time - I want to spend not just more time with my family, but better time. Engage more, listen more, feel more.
    • watching more - my Twitter handle is @moviedan, and this year I considered changing that because I’ve not given film anywhere near the attention it deserves this year. I’m also hideously behind on the upper tier of TV series like The Walking Dead, and even Breaking Bad.
    • reading more - I started to read more in 2013. I managed the whole of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. I can improve on that through 2014, and hopefully catch up on some novels I’ve been intended to read for an age (I’m looking at you, The Passage).

    Last year’s goal worked out pretty well all things considered, and that’s going to be something I’ll write about over the coming weeks too. Hopefully this year goes well too.

  3. Friday, November 1st 2013. The dead have taken Leicester. They’re everywhere. On the streets, in the car parks, in pubs and abandoned buildings. It seems like wherever we go on this rainy, windswept November evening, we are hounded by the undead.

    But let’s back up a bit. At 8:30 our party of three was arriving at a secret location in the centre of Leicester to be briefed on the end of the world. Our mission was to form up with a group of seven stranger, and make our way across Leicester to the safe zone. Along the way we would encounter zombies in a variety of terrifying scenarios. We had no idea what the night held other than quite a lot of rain. It turns out we should have included running and screaming.

    The evening, which played out over around four hours, took us from one end of Leicester centre to the other, covering a range of landmarks from the university to the guild hall, various car parks and abandoned buildings. During the course of the night our party bonded, as we developed strategies to avoid the hordes of undead ahead of us. Sometimes we would have to sprint past fast moving zombies, sometimes creep silently past - and literally over - dormant zombies in pitch black buildings.

    Four hours later we arrived at the safe zone. Not all of our party had survived the night and some had fallen foul of the infection spreading through the city. Still, zombies are people too, right? So that didn’t prevent us from enjoying a companionable pint and burger with our now undead companions once we reached the safe zone.

    Zombie Earth: Apocalypse, from the fine folks at Requiem Live, was a two night live action zombie experience. The zombies, of course, weren’t real but rather actors in makeup and prosthetics. The locations were real Leicester buildings, appropriated by the team and dressed for the event. But the fear, as ridiculous as it sounds, was very real. Every rational fiber of your being should be capable of telling you that these people aren’t actually zombies. That this isn’t real. And you’re conscious of that fact when you’re not running, or creeping, or trying to guess if that guy in the distance is dead or just has a limp. But that doesn’t make the instinctive flight reaction any less real. When you hear the distant screams of the undead, or when something shambles into the dark spaces behind you with a groan, that primitive part of your psyche reacts and is afraid.

    That’s what makes this event so special. The team - both organisers and actors - are so talented, and have put so much care and effort into the experience, that the final effect is gloriously entertaining. It’s absolutely a real life horror movie where you’re the star.

    I applaud Requiem Live and their undead team for making November the 1st a truly memorable night for us. And I urge you - if you love being scared, and aren’t averse to being chased by hungry zombies - to seek them out, and get yourself booked onto their next event.

  4. Is There Food is back with WebFaction after a few years away. And it’s good to be back. I’ve had to raise a couple of support tickets so far - all user related I should add, I’ve had zero problems - and the response has been almost instant.

    Moving a Statamic site from one host to the other is ludicrously straightforward. There’s no database to worry about, so I’ve literally been able to copy the files from one host to the other. I’m hoping WebFaction will continue to give me the ability to run Dropbox for syncing new posts, but Statamic’s control panel will still allow me to post content in the meantime. I’m also looking at using iOS text editor of the moment Editorial to write new posts directly in Markdown, then FTP them up to WebFaction using some of Editorial’s python flavoured secret sauce.

    I’ve recently been looking at Dropbox alternatives too, but the iOS text editing market hasn’t embraced Google Drive, or Cubby, or any of the numerous other cloud sync applications in the same way as the have Dropbox. Maybe some IFTTT automation could help.

    And I haven’t forgotten the enormous tease from the previous post. I’m planning a whole series of posts on that particular mystery topic and the first one will be online soon.

  5. Yes, I’ve done it again. The engine powering the site has been swapped out for approximately the 1,362nd time. At this point things have lay dormant for so long that there are probably very few of you out there who are still checking in regularly. If you are, thank you. Say hi on Twitter some time.

    So the digital fields that make up this blog have been ploughed, the soil raked and churned in search of some fertile seed that might drive the site forward with renewed vigor.

    And I think I’ve found that seed. It’s not quite sprouting above ground yet, but it’s definitely forming roots. And once it flourishes it could sustain the site for a while. And with a healthy thread, perhaps even a coherent narrative to drive the site forward, maybe some of the old content will start to crop up as well. Once the momentum returns, and the habit to post is reformed, things should liven up aroud here.

    It’s very early days with the switchover - I am now using a product called Statamic - and there are a few glitches here and there with how the site is rendering. I’m working on squashing those bugs over the next few days.

    To be continued…

  6. Just a quick note to say I’m going to move the site’s feed away from FeedBurner. By the looks of it there are still a few of you subscribing to me via RSS (which is great!) so if you could all update your feeds to I’d very much appreciate it. Or use the link at the top of the site.

  7. When Amazon first launched Glacier, their super cheap alternative to S3, my immediate reaction was “when will Arq support it?”. Answer: now.

    So hurrah, right? We should all ditch our Crashplans and our Backblazes and our Dropboxes, and even our S3s and move to Glacier, yes? Well, probably not.

    Glacier is super cheap for storage, yes. Ludicrously cheap in fact. According to various Glacier calculators online, storing 100gb of data for a month would set me back a single dollar (at the time of writing, 62 of my shiny British pence). Currently I back up 82gb of family photos and video to Crashplan at a cost of $5 a month. So I could move that the Glacier and save a few dollars.

    I could also nuke Crashplan’s Java based Mac app, and install Arq which is all lovely and native. Although Crashplan’s app allows me to not only back up my content using their online service, but also allows me to very easily perform a backup to an attached USB drive and network attached storage, which Arq doesn’t do now, and based on conversations with the developer, probably never will.

    There’s another reason though. Suppose I wanted to pull that 100gb of data back from Glacier. Doing so would cost me quite a lot of money.

    Glacier isn’t really geared up for retrieval of data. It’s fire and forget. You don’t want to store this pile of data that you rarely look at? Fine, throw it at Glacier. You’re unlikely to ever want it back, and if you did, you’d probably only want a sliver of it.

    But with family photos, videos, mp3s, and the kind of consumer data that’s so commonly found on the hardrives of computer users today, you a) want that to be accessible for those nostalgic strolls down memory lane, b) want to know it’s safe, and c) want it back pretty damn quick if you lose it.

    Thanks to the impenetrable voodoo pricing scheme that Glacier employs, it’s a little tricky to work out how much data retrieval will cost. Online calculators help, but it’s still such a dark art that I’m not entirely certain they’re accurate. Which is a problem in itself.

    According to the calculators to retrieve 100gb of data in one shot would cost nearly $180. The tricky thing is, Glacier doesn’t want or expect you to pull data back in one shot, so you get a retrieval allowance. On 100gb, the retrieval allowance is something like 170mb per day, or 5gb per month. So if I didn’t mind waiting 20 months to pull back my 100gb of family photos, it wouldn’t cost me anything1.

    If I wanted to pull my data back from Crashplan? I just do it. No questions asked, no costs incurred. Even better, if I want to check a specific file or photo in Crashplan, they have a pretty good iOS app that lets you access your stuff. Which is very handy, but also gives real peace of mind.

    Before switching to Glacier, make sure you know it’s the right fit. As another layer of backup on an existing solution, which you’ll only ever need to rely on in the worst possible scenario, it might suit. But I’d quite like my last line of defence to be something I can prove works, and I can’t test a complete download from Glacier without incurring a huge bill. Your mileage may vary.

    Regardless of whether you decide to use Glacier or not, you should have a look at Arq. It’s a great app.

    1. My understanding of the retrieval costs could be nonsense - that’s a distinct possibility. If it is, I’d love to know, so please tweet me and tell me I’m an idiot (and explanation as to why I’m an idiot would be nice too). 

  8. The other day I read a post by Federico Viticci on moving your photos from iPhoto to Dropbox as a “management app”. I’d pondered this in the past, especially when Dropbox increased everybody’s base storage amount. I’ve never committed and gone through with it though, although I have stopped using iPhoto and replaced it with managing my own folders. When photos are coming in from potentially lots of different devices, I’d rather manage them myself.

    Plus, I was never a fan of iPhoto’s “would you like me to delete all these photos now, I’ve copied them all into my library, honestly I have” prompt. I just don’t trust it. I want to see the photos with my own eyes, before I let an app delete them forever.

    After Federico’s post, Stephen Hackett posted his own version of the approach, along with an Applescript technique for moving photos from Photostream into Dropbox. But something nagging in the back of my mind said “surely Hazel can do that?” and so I set about to see if it can.

    Turns out it’s possible, and I tweeted Stephen to let him know. I thought I’d post this as a more permenant home for the solution because, well, Twitter.

    I don’t use Hazel as much as a should. These days I have a Mac Mini running all the time as a server, so it makes sense to start getting Hazel to do more for me. Mail rules are another “thing” I need to get my head around, but that’s an entirely different post!

    So, to Photostream and Hazel. The special sauce to make this work is an option in Hazel called “run rules on folder contents”. Photostream creates subfolders on the file system for every photo; instead of…


    …you get…

    “\photostream\long guid based id\photo1.jpg”.

    You need Hazel to dig down into each folder in the top-level Photostream folder, and treat each folder it finds as a folder to process.

    To make this work I added two rules, like this:

    hazel step 1

    Then the first rule is extremely simple:

    hazel step 2

    The second rule is where Stuff Happens. Because the first fule contains “run rules on folder contents”, the second rule happens on each folder within the Photostream directory.

    hazel step 3

    Note: the iPhone Camera Roll folder in the screenshot above is just where all my iPhone photos end up. Just to clarify any “why copy from Photostream back to the camera roll?” confusion.

    This isn’t just useful for Photostream, anywhere you want Hazel to process a folder full of folders, you can use this option.

    My next trick is working out how best to take two Photostreams and mash them together for archiving.

  9. FrightFest the 13th is coming! By this time next week I’ll be knee deep in the annual five day celebration of all things horror cinema. I thought it would be interesting to highlight my most anticipated screenings, and then come back to this after the event to see what the highlights actually were. FrightFest doesn’t always play out the way you expect it to; there are always surprises and some keenly anticipated films that don’t live up to expectations.

    Him Indoors

    I’ve been excited about this since it was announced. Reece Shearsmith plays an agoraphobic serial killer, Pollyanna McIntosh his suspicious next-door neighbour. Premiering at FrightFest, I believe this short film promises to be something quite special.

    The Seasoning House

    The directorial debut of Paul Hyett, famous for prosthetics and effects work on films like The Woman in Black, Ironclad, Eden Lake, and the Descent. The plot for this sounds like nothing that’s come before: a deaf mute orphan in a Balkan brothel plans revenge on the men who murdered her family, avoiding detection by moving between the walls and crawlspaces. Hopefully this is just the sort of brave, challenging material that can make for astonishing FrightFest moments.

    Cockneys Vs Zombies

    OK, so perhaps not so challenging. James Moran, FrightFest regular and writer of Chris Smith’s Severance (as well as numerous episodes of Dr Who, Spooks and more) brings us this charming tale of Londoners battling the undead. FrightFest attendees were treated to a glimpse of material last year, and it looked far funnier than the name or concept would suggest. Alan Ford always provides value for money, and Michelle Ryan usually does a good job with this sort of material2. Watch the trailer and tell me Richard Briars fleeing zombies (slow moving, of course) using his zimmerframe isn’t a work of genius.

    Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut

    Any fan of horror should be acquainted with Mr Clive Barker. While his most famous cinematic offering is probably Hellraiser, in 1990 Barker directed an adaptation of his 1988 novella Cabal. I have very fond memories of both the novel and the film, and it’s always been a bit of a shame that Barker didn’t direct more (he stopped after Lord of Illusions in 1995, which is also well worth seeing).

    I didn’t know it at the time, but on Nightbreed’s release it was hacked about by the studios. Barker’s vision wasn’t compatible with what the studio had paid for, and so the film was recut, performances were redubbed, and a new ending was added. For years since there were whispers that a more complete version existed. Then a few years back, the whispers grew louder, became chatter, and the Cabal Cut started to become a reality.

    I never thought I’d get to see it, but thanks to the efforts of all involved it’s screening at FrightFest this year. How it’s going to look projected on the Empire’s massive screen, I don’t know. Whether the restoration actually elevates the film dramatically beyond it’s original incarnation remains to be seen too. But as a fan of the film since day one, I’m thrilled at the chance to see something as close to Barker’s original vision as we’re ever going to get. Boone, Peloquin, and the ‘Breed captured my imagination years ago, and I’m very happy to spend another couple of hours with them again.


    I do love a good anthology film. V/H/S has been getting some very positive buzz from other festivals, has some great names behind it, and could well be one of the festival’s highlights.


    Comedian Ross Noble as a zombie clown, resurrected to get revenge on those responsible for his death in a fatal party mishap. How can anyone not be up for that?! Directed by Conor McMahon who gave us the quite splendid bovine zombie epidemic movie Dead Meat in 2004, I’m hoping for solid comedy horror here. (See also Grabbers - in which the only way our heros can survive a bloodsucking alien invasion is to get drunk).

    Sleep Tight

    Rec director Jaume Balaguero brings a more Hitchcockian number to FrightFest this year. I’ve heard very good things about this, so it’s very high on my list of most anticipated films for the weekend.

    Berberian Sound Studio

    Another that’s been generating buzz from other festivals. I’m totally in love with the concept behind this, but I’m not totally sold on Toby Jones as a leading man.

    American Mary

    I’ll admit I’ve not yet seen Dead Hooker in a Trunk, the debut feature from the Soska Sisters. But American Mary sounds just as challenging as some of the other features on display this year. Body modification isn’t exactly an overused trope in the genre, so this has the potential to offer something new and interesting. The sisters will be in attendance, so I’m looking forward to a decent Q&A afterwards. Don’t let me down FrightFest audience3!


    It’s possible that Chained could be the festival’s most disturbing and upsetting entry. There are always a few films that cause non-genre fans to wonder why anyone would want to put themselves through the experience. I’ve mentioned it twice already, but it’s partly about challenge. Horror, sometimes more than any other genre, causes the viewer to challenge themselves. Not literally - as a test of endurance, or will - but to open yourself up to something horrible, unthinkable, and come away from the experience with a different perspective. The very best of horror does this. Recent examples like Martyrs, The Woman, Irreversible, and Requiem for a Dream4 are not at all pleasant experiences, they’re deeply upsetting, but they push the limits of the genre. This is my pick for the most affecting film of the festival.

    Before Dawn

    I try to regularly attend the annual celebration of all things zombie at Leicester’s Phoenix Square. I’ll post more on it nearer the time, but last year we were treated to a scene from Before Dawn (at that point it was untitled). The scene we saw as shot entirely in the confines of a small garage, and featured Paddy from Emmerdale (Dominic Brunt) trying to avoid being eaten by a particularly hungry looking zombie. It should have been laughable, but it was anything but. Tightly directed by Brunt himself, it was inventive and incredibly well staged. I’m a little disappointed this isn’t on in the main screen (Under The Bed, and After are on the in the main screen during its two screenings), because I’m not sure how I’ll fit it in…


    There are three things I need to do between now and the start of the festival:

    • Watch Dead Hooker in a Trunk - it’s not fair to not watch the Soska’s debut feature seeing as they’re making all that effort for us.
    • Watch The Hamiltons - sequel The Thompsons is showing this year - never watch a sequel without seeing the preceding films first.
    • Watch Outpost - because Output II, see above.


    Not long now. I may post a few bits and pieces during the festival, but I’ll be sure to post a follow-up once I’m back. If you’d like to hear my thoughts during the festival, you can follow me on Twitter (@moviedan). If you’re going to be in attendance, then see you there, please do come and say hello!

    1. Honestly, she’s under rated. Yes, she’s also quite easy on the eyes. What of it? 

    2. Last year, after watching Ben Wheatley’s brilliant Kill List, one audience member asked “why did you make it so violent?”. This has entered FrightFest legend as the most moronic question in the entire history of moronic questions. 

    3. Yes, it’s a horror film. 

  10. Once again the iPad Mini rumours are reaching critical mass, and once again I’m getting pretty tired of hearing about them. The question of whether Apple can do a particular thing is at this point totally redundant. From a hardware point of view, Apple can do pretty much whatever the hell they please; they have the designers, the supply chain, and the funds to build devices that surpass previously perceived limits of portable technology, and they can make a profit doing it.

    A better question, and the one that Ben Brooks is the latest to ask, is this:

    What is demonstrably better about a 7 inch tablet?

    Bingo. Apple already sell the iPad 2 at a reduced price, and as time goes by that should become even cheaper to produce, so why not just work to drop the price of that one? What does the 7 inch form factor offer that a cheaper version of the 10 inch doesn’t?

    Having used a 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab for a few months, I feel qualified to weigh in on this. Because qualifications always stop people weighing in on the Internet, right? I’ve ordered Google’s Nexus 7 based on the experience I had with Samsung’s offering, despite owning the latest generation iPad. Why?

    The two main reasons are portability, and preciousness.

    Let’s tackle portability first. Commuting by train takes me roughly ten minutes, so I don’t bother sitting. I’ve tried to use my iPad to read on during that time, but it’s too bulky to hold one handed while I hang on to something so I don’t flatten the person next to me as the carriage bumps along. I ended up going back to using my phone to read on, which does the job. I could read on the Kindle, which is probably the best point of reference for the 7 inch form factor, but I don’t want to read a novel for such a brief amount of time. I want to hit my Instapaper queue, or catch up on my RSS.

    It goes beyond the commute. Anyone that’s worked away from home on business will know what it’s like to sit alone in a restaurant night after night. Sitting with an iPad in a restaurant is pretty awkward. The smaller form factor fixes that. I’ve found the iPad is too big to use comfortably during long periods of air travel too, certainly when flying economy. It’s just too big and too heavy. Same thing in bed. I can’t comfortably sit and hold my iPad for extended amounts of time when reading in bed; it needs to be propped up on something, either my chest or the bed next to me.

    Ben Brooks himself mentioned on his podcast a few weeks back that the iPad was impossible to hold while nursing his new born daughter. There’s another area where the 7 inch form factor would help. There are lots of use cases where your phone (unless you’re using something freakishly large, like a Galaxy Note) is probably too small for extended comfortable use, and your iPad is too big.

    And so to preciousness. I would never, ever, under any circumstances contemplate taking my iPad to the beach with me. Not that I frequent the beach, being a pale and pasty developer type with an aversion to simple daylight let alone the sun’s scorching rays. But sand is to beautiful glass screens as Kryptonite is to Superman; it will mess him up good and proper. The iPad, despite offering superb value for its capability, is too expensive to encourage careless use. I always feel like I’m using a substantial, expensive piece of equipment that deserves to be looked after.

    Did I care with the Galaxy Tab? A little, but nowhere near as much. But by the same token it felt less precarious, less delicate. I could carry it around with one hand without worrying about it slipping to the floor. Adam Lisagor mentioned something similar when he appeared on John Gruber’s The Talk Show recently: he’s not found a tablet that he felt could be carried around with there being an real risk of dropping it.

    Would a 7 inch device encourage people to be less precious with their iPad, or would simply lowering the price of the existing 10 inch tablet have the same effect? A cheap 10 inch could still feel like it’s easily droppable.

    It seems to me like Apple could solve a lot of the above by simply making the existing iPad lighter. Except, it’s not simple. Not by any stretch of the imagination. With the retina screen, the latest generation iPad needs a significant chunk of battery, which makes it heavier. It needs a certain kind of glass, which makes it heavier. There’s no easy way to make the current generation iPad lighter. There will be, that’s almost certain. Over time newer battery technology, better glass, maybe even a different material for the case will serve to make the iPad lighter. But not in the immediate future.

    And so the simplest, cheapest way for Apple to make a lighter iPad is to make a smaller iPad, with a non-retina screen so it needs less battery and less processing grunt to power it. Maybe it serves as a test for a new case material which could ultimately make its way to the larger iPad - I seem to recall Apple tested a new kind of glass on the original Nano, much to the annoyance of pretty much anyone that owned one.

    Apple can then kill a number of birds with one 7 inch stone: they overcome any objection about the iPad being too heavy (“buy the smaller version”), or too expensive (“buy the smaller version”), and they manage to offer at least something to buyers on the market for a smaller tablet.