Craig Gibbons' Lifeblog lifeblog://tri.eat.net

28Feb/050

Cafe Rialto, Ristorante Italiano

Last night, after my lovely girlfriend Laura finally got back from Australia after a month, we decided to go find some dinner, someplace local, someplace quaint, someplace reasonably priced and more to the point, someplace we hadn't been before. After walking for about 10 minutes, which is about all that one can stand in the type of cold that can whittle a tan off an outback sheer shearer quicker than you can say f-f-f-fffrozen, we came across a local, quaint, reasonably priced little ristorante we hadn't been to before called Cafe Rialto. The menu at the door looked good and there were a few tables full of what looked like locals, always a good sign, so we decide to give it a try. The menu is a line-up of all the usual Italian suspects. I got pan-fried chicken livers with rocket for starters, Laura got a classic tomato, avocado, olive and buffalo mozzarella starter, both of which were perfect. Mains followed shortly after on plates so large, it was obvious most diners were guilty of 'eyes bigger than tummy' syndrome. I got an excellent grilled salmon fillet served with tagliatelli in a yoghurt, avocado, garlic and tarragon sauce, while Laura got an equally impressive and tasty cod on green beans main, both of which went perfectly with a bottle of stock standard Chianti. The service was prompt and the food was excellent. There are probably several hundred little Italian restaurants across London that never fail to impress the intrepid diner, but Cafe Rialto is the one we chose last night and much to our delight, it was a complete winner.

825 Fulham Rd
London
SW6 5HG

22Feb/050

London snows!

At last, the white stuff finally hit London last night and hit it en masse. Being South African, the novelty of snow hasn't yet given way to chilled grumpy indifference and I took to Hampstead Heath like an 8 year old on 2 cans of Coca cola, brandishing camera, tripod, filters and lenses for a mini night time snow photo exposè. After 20 minutes in the open, I returned home, mildly disgruntled for being denied the opportunity of recording the first snow of the winter and with a near case of frostbite on several fingertips. The experience was well worth it though as I spotted some of the local foxes... erm, of the animal type, out on the heath, relishing the opportunity to make little fox snow angels no doubt. I did get some semi-interesting night shots but they looked more like I had the sepia filter on due to an 8 second exposure time. Snow presents an interesting challenge for the photographic amateur as the camera is rarely able to auto focus due to all the whiteness... something about not being able to see the wood for the trees springs to mind here. Fortunately upon waking at 5:30AM, a tentative peer out the window revealed my best hopes had not been in vain as the white stuff continued to fall in gusts and flurries all over the heath. I quickly hauled my trusty Timberlands on and headed out, this time returning with all fingers in working order, a good array of shots and a sense of guilt as several determined runners passed me in full winter running kit, teeth into the wind with grim determination. Something about snow makes the world look perfect, like looking out of the window of an airplane, all is made clean as if by a giant tip-ex pen and only the lattice of importance remains. Let it snow!

UPDATE 24/02/2005: Still snowing... and expected to continue!
UPDATE 04/03/2005: ...still going.

Filed under: London Life No Comments
17Feb/050

gibbons.co.za is about to get a face lift

3 months ago I started this blog after looking around for quite some time to find a suitable blogging application. I wanted something good, free and customizable. After quite a bit of shopping around and time wastage investigating red-herrings which were no longer, supported, developed or even used, I finally came across what I would consider to be the de facto .NET blog application, known as .Text (dot text). The project was originally started by a guy named Scott Watermasysk who devoted 2 years of his life and love to building .Text into what you see here on this site. At some point a company called Telligent Systems was started by a guy named Rob Howard and they quickly went about procuring the services of Scott Water and another guy named Jason Alexander, creator of nGallery. Telligent took the Microsoft sample application, ASP.NET Forums, .Text and nGallery and rolled these immensely popular applications into a single application called CommunityServer and as I write this I buzz with excitement because version 1.0 is expected to be released tomorrow. gibbons.co.za will be upgrading to this new version of CommunityServer as soon as a migration tool becomes available, after all I really don't want to be repopulating a database all night! CommunityServer is free for non-commercial use. More information can be found on the Telligent Systems website.

Filed under: Tech No Comments
15Feb/050

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 III USM Zoom Lens

I've had my Canon EOS 300D for a few months now and am starting to outgrow the lens that comes with the camera (when purchasing the lens kit), that being, the Canon EF18-55mm lens. It's a good lens for very general photography, but one which you will find yourself growing increasingly frustrated with as you learn and demand more from your equipment. The final straw for me was being at the Make Poverty History rally at Trafalgar Square some weeks ago and not having the right lens to get close enough to the action. After much deliberation, I decided to purchase a 300mm lens to get nicely up close and personal with my chosen subject matter. Having looked around a bit and becoming increasingly disturbed by the prospect of purchasing a lens which costs more than the camera did, I happpened upon a lens which an Amazon.co.uk reviewer termed 'a good beginner lens' for very the reasonable price £210. I should point out that Amazon.co.uk is not the place to buy this lens, or at least not when you can get the identical lens for fully £90 cheaper at 7dayshop.com. Having owned this lens for less than a week and having taken some shots with it at the weekend, I can vouch for the fact that this really is a good beginner lens at a very good price. If you're looking to splash out and spend a little more, you can get the same lens with IS (Image Stabilization) for a bit more than double the price.

Filed under: Cool kit No Comments
11Feb/050

Love in the Time of Cholera ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Some time ago I attempted to read 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' (by the same author) and found it the most boring and tedious of reads in the way Salman Rushdie is boring and tedious. Sure, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a literary genius and his writing style (subject of course to that of the translator) is unquestionably lyrically precise and imaginative but any writer can wax lyrical about anything for 300 pages and not manage for an instant to gain and hold the attention of the reader. Love in the Time of Cholera is just such a read. I decided to give Mr. Marquez another try after this book was vehemently recommended by two of my most respected friends and I resolved to read it to completion before passing judgement. Having this day completed the book, I can safely say it was agony most of the way through. The book leads the reader through a 60 year duration storyline of love and love making in the time of, erm, cholera. It holds ones attention only fleetingly at certain points when it appears things might finally get going. Perhaps I am a ruffian, perhaps I know nothing about writing, perhaps this book is as quaint and charming as it presumes to be, then again perhaps not. More likely, perhaps it's just not everybody's cuppa and I know at least for my own part, this is probably the last Gabriel Garcia Marquez book I will manage the patience to complete. Love in the Time of Cholera can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk, should you feel the urge to find out for yourself what the fuss, or lack thereof, is all about.

Filed under: Watch & Read No Comments
3Feb/050

Nelson Mandela speaks at the Make Poverty History rally, Trafalgar Square

This afternoon, I went to see Nelson Mandela addresses the masses at Trafalgar Square in aid of the Make Poverty History campaign. It truly is amasing that a man of fully 86 years still has the vigour, desire and will to make a difference in world politics and aid campaigns. Standing at Trafalgar square today, straining my legs and neck to catch a mere glimpse of the enigma, I was struck by how well loved and supported he is. Before my esteemed former president got up to speak, Bob Geldof had a few words today, but in no way did he have half the gravity of words or character of a man several decades his senior. The crowds turned out for one man today and he delivered. His speech was met with applause at every juncture and it is with sincere pride that I write about this day and this campaign. Click here to read more about Make Poverty History.

2Feb/050

C# – Reading an Embedded Resource file

Sometimes we want to store some text inside an assembly without having to write it as part of the actual application code. A typical example of this is embedding some JavaScript which is then later read out and added to a page before rendering. In this way, an entire JavaScript library can be developed for a web application and parts included as and when required. The procedure is actually quite simple. First, add the file to the project, call it whatever you like, the important part is that the Build Action in the item properties (press F4 while the item is selected) must be set to 'Embedded Resource'. This means the resource will get compiled into the assembly along with all the code. Second, we need a small amount of code to read this embedded resource out at runtime. Some sample code follows:

using System.IO;
using System.Reflection;

public static string GetResource(string resourceName) {
Assembly assembly = Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly();
TextReader textReader = new StreamReader(assembly.GetManifestResourceStream(resourceName));
string result = textReader.ReadToEnd();
textReader.Close();

return result;
}

Note that the parameter 'resourceName' is the fully qualified path to whatever you called the file.

That's all there is to it! I always say this but it's always true, .NET Rocks!

Filed under: Tech No Comments
1Feb/050

Wing Night at the Maple Leaf

"Wing Night", is something of an institution amongst Canadians in this town. Held every Monday night at the Maple Leaf in Covent Garden, the evenings festivities consist mostly of, well, chicken wings and of course beer (otherwise commonly known amongst patriotic Canadians as 'sweet nectar') by the pitcher. Wings come in four flavours, Honey Mustard, Sweet & Sour, BBQ and HOT, so hot in fact, that according to the waitress, it makes her eyes water just carrying the former flight equipment to the table, of course we had to get some of those. Fortunately, or unfortunately, on this particular night, the HOT wasn't so hot and in any case, the flames would have been doused by the arrival of yet another pitcher of beer, oops i mean sweet nectar, at the table. Sitting there, I began to wonder exactly how long this could go on for, I mean, how many wings can there possibly be left in the world with stories of 500 wings consumed in a single night by 5 ravenous guys? Surely this carnage cannot go on. Surely, this begs the question, why not turkey wings, or ostrich wings for that matter? Maybe one day, somebody will breed a double-size chicken with 6 wings and this fabulous bird will do for wing night what the pepperdew did for pizza. Overall, wing night rocked and the Maple Leaf, as I discovered, was not full of Canadians only, but Australians, Brits, yanks and South African's (of course) alike. Not the most low-cal of nights but then again, hey who's counting?

The Maple Leaf
41 Maiden Lane
London
WC2E 7LJ