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

31Mar/050

Flims – Laax – Falera, Snowboarding in Switzerland

This past Easter weekend, Laura and I went with friends Mike and Shan to Flims in Switzerland to engage in 3 gruelling days of skiing and snowboarding in the Swiss Alps. We decided on Flims as our destination after reading about the more salient features of this resort in the "Good Ski Guide". According to the guide, Flims has such prized benefits as "resort charm", "good off-piste activity" and an even balance of runs for the beginner, amateur and professional skier/snowboarder alike. Without bigging it up too much, I think it's fair to say this past weekend has been just about the most recklessly fun experience since my days as a young tyke hacking it around a dirk track on a motocross bike. We arrived in Zurich on Thursday night and drove the 90 minutes to Flims in our rental estate car, stopping only briefly to try out a roadside McDonalds, which is apparently quite a hot spot around 11pm. We checked into the Hotel Best Western Des Alps around midnight and crashed hard. The next morning conditions on the mountain weren't looking great, but we decided to venture up the mountain for the afternoon session and it's well we did. An experienced skier may have considered it a waste of time, but for the beginner, the consistency of the snow being roughly equivalent to the aftermath of a collision between a two feather trucks, the surface was all the better to take spills on and spills I did take. I'd originally thought the best way to master snowboarding was to quite simply do it! Reflecting upon those days on the dirt track, nobody ever won a race or stayed on the bike by being cautious. The way to get round was to go gung-ho and worry about the injuries later on. This strategy works well as an infallible 8 year old with bones as pliable as young bamboo shoots and a penchant for fearless headlong reckless abandon, but now some 20 years later, self preservation has kicked in and I now know that fear is necessary, fear is good and fear is useful. So, taking off cautiously and with a great sense of trepidation and excitement, Laura instructed me in the rudimentaries of snowboarding, learning at first to "edge" and becoming more and more brave as the day wore on. By the time the lifts were closing, I could stay vertical for around 30 seconds and was just starting to link turns. The next two days were equally excellent apart from one spill which left me feeling like a skipping stone that made it all the way across the pond only to impact squarely with a concrete dam wall, and later what can only be described as the mountains biggest faux pas of the season, when falling going up a T-bar lift. On the way down I lost grip of my board and watched in horror as it launched its self, projectile like, at very nonplussed skiers bringing up the rear. The adrenalin of the experience served me well for the 15 minute walk, covering a mere 100 meters, back to the bottom in knee-deep snow, probably a fair penance exacted by the mountain. Flims its self is a beautiful place with all the quaint charm of a postcard perfect Swiss alpine ski village, oh and did I mention property prices to match? The 4 days spent there will be recorded in the grey-matter as an excellent vacation to be repeated whenever and wherever possible.

http://www.laax.com

Filed under: Travel No Comments
16Mar/050

Chutney Mary, Indian food at it’s finest

After having eyed out the facade of this well known fine dining Indian restaurant in London’s famous Chelsea for many months, Laura and I decided to venture out on Saturday night to see if all those nicely dressed people were really just an expensive a rent-a-crowd, or actual patrons of very fine Indian food. I made a booking for 7:15PM and we arrived on time to find things were just, no pun intended, hotting up around there. Chutney Mary exudes opulence from the moment you enter the plush entrance room attended by a hostess, a maitre d and a cloakroom attendant who make about as much fuss attending to your arrival as they might for the arrival of the maharajah, just dismounting his elephant. Our hostess lead us downstairs into the even more luxurious main restaurant with a charming old style colonial cum modern day Indian ambience. The perimeter of the room is filled with huge windlights and photographs of the old days of the empire, depicting such scenes as British lords on safari in India, hunting Bengal tigers on elephant back. The overall effect is charming and grand and bestows upon the place a sense of largesse. It also no doubt goes down well with the older crowd who probably frequent the place just to savour the masala-laden vapours of days gone by. After some drinks order attendance by the waitress, we settled down to choosing some wine from the very well rounded wine list, opting for, at last, a Stonier Merlot (Australian) of, as much as I hate to say it, excellent proportions. Starters followed swiftly after and it is at this time that any patron, mentally challenged, blind or otherwise disabled or disadvantaged should realise Chutney Mary is no corner curry shop with a wicked vindaloo. I had grilled prawns skewered on asparagus spears while Laura has an excellent mushroom and goat’s cheese, erm, experience. The mains were equally impressive. I elected for the masala lamb shank accompanied by a vegetable dish, the name of which now escapes me, consisting of spinach, corn, peas and no doubt several other things I failed to identify. Laura opted for the lamb cutlets that were plain perfection. Apart from the food, the service was prompt, professional and personal. On the whole, Chutney Mary was a dining experience to be remembered and repeated whenever possible, highly recommended.

Chutney Mary
535 Kings Road
Chelsea
London
SW10 OSZ

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7351 3113
email: chutneymary@realindianfood.com

15Mar/050

Raising events from a Web User Control

One of the more advanced topics in ASP.NET is that of communication between a page and the controls it contains. There are various approaches to this problem and some methods work better in some circumstances than others. Sometimes however, it is necessary to take action in a page based on an action performed in a user control, such as a button being clicked, a dropdown posting back or any number of other possible events that can be raised. This sounds quite daunting at first, especially if you come from a non-OO background or otherwise are not used to working with events, but it really is very powerful and in fact not very difficult to master. Let's take a common scenario where a page contains a single Web User Control and we wish to respond to a button click in that control. The explanation of the code is quite involved, so the reader will have to cope with the following code example.

First off, we need to register the event in the user control. This is done in the same way you would declare any variable:

public event EventHandler ButtonClicked;

Then, we need a pair of functions to handle and then bubble the event to the container page:

protected void btnButton_Click(object sender, System.EventArgs e) {
OnButtonClicked(sender, e);
}

public void OnButtonClicked(object sender, EventArgs e) {
if(ButtonClicked != null) {
ButtonClicked(sender, e);
}
}

That’s all that needs to be done on the control side. Now all we have to do is write an event handler on the page and voila! We have raised and handled an event from a user control. You do this in the same way you write any event handler, just let the IntelliSense help you along. Yup, .NET rocks!

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8Mar/050

A night at the opera – Bizet’s Carmen

This past Saturday, my lurvely girlfriend Laura took me to see George Bizet's Carmen at the Royal Albert Hall. I'd never been to the opera before, but Laura's a bit of a veteran and suggested the classic Carmen might be a good, light and more importantly, conscious beginning to my operatic patronage career. Carmen, I imagine, is something akin to Les Miserables in terms accessibility to new comers and this production in particular was even more so thanks to the dialog being in English. The venue could not possibly have been more grand or apt and to make the experience even more enjoyable, Laura booked us a pair of Grand Tier seats, which yielded a very good vantage point of both the stage and orchestra... oh, and at least one passed out old guy. The producer had the good sense to place the stage directly in the middle of the hall, making for 360 degree viewing and creating a sense of space not vaguely approachable otherwise. Good use of lighting and props further enchanted the scene and made for a believable Spanish setting in which this tale of love, betrayal and ultimately death, is played out with charming realism. More information about Carmen and other upcoming events can be found on the Royal Albert Hall website.

3Mar/050

Serpentine Running Club

In preparation for the upcoming Edinburgh Marathon, Russell and I hauled out sorry, unfit bodies to Hyde Park corner in the searing cold of London winter night time to run the "three parks" route, quoted on the serpentine website as "[Following] the outer perimeter of the historic Royal Parks of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park and St James's Park". Hmmm, my math 'aint so hot, but isn't that four? Anyways, runners are a friendly bunch and I met some cool people last night. Many different groups go off together on a Wednesday night, ranging from a slow 4.5-mile group to a fast 16-mile group. I opted for the 7 mile 7:00 - 7:30 minutes per mile group, which upon reflection was very much closer to the 7:00 minute mark than the other end of the scale. 7 miles equates to (courtesy of my mobile's conversion application) about 11.265km, which is just about the longest run I’ve ever done. The first 5.5 miles were great; I stuck with the front group and felt strong. Russell elected to chase, quite literally, some pretty tail in the slower pack. The last 1.5 were sheer hell as my legs turned to lead and my lungs couldn't suck in enough air, but I still finished in around 50 minutes. All in all, it was a solid run and a good start to marathon training, which is now just 10 weeks away. If you want to run in London, this is the club for you. Membership is a mere £20 per year which more than pays for its self with store discounts and reduced race fees.

You can find more information on the Serpentine running club on their very useful website.

3Mar/050

C# – DelimitedStringToInt32Array, a useful conversion routine

Today I was presented with a mini programming challenge, that being, to convert a delimited string to an integer array. While this is by no means tough, I thought I'd post the code here in case anybody is interested. This type of routine is quite useful when, for example, passing a list of ID's in a QueryString. Of course this code is made available without any implied warranties and without liability to the author, yours truly.

private int[] DelimitedStringToInt32Array(string DelimitedString, string Delimiter) {
if(DelimitedString.Length == 0) {
return new int[0];
}

try {
string[] sourceArray = DelimitedString.Split(Delimiter.ToCharArray());
int[] destinationArray = new int[sourceArray.Length];
for(int i = 0; i < sourceArray.Length; i++) {
destinationArray[i] = Convert.ToInt32(sourceArray[i]);
}

return destinationArray;
} catch(InvalidCastException ex) {
throw new InvalidCastException("At least one of the source elements could not be cast to the destination type.", ex);
}
}

Filed under: Tech No Comments
2Mar/050

iPod Mini 4Gb

I finally did it! Well, actually Laura H and I did it! Wondering down Tottenham Court road this past Saturday afternoon, chomping at the bit to spend some cash on a shopping spree which has thus far failed to materialise we passed one of those little tech stores with a very unassuming facade other than a board outside which said something to the effect of "Amazing prices on iPod mini's". Far be it from me to get caught up in sales hype (working at an online casino does that to you), but I figured what the hey, let's see what they're offering. We wondered in and the sales guy informed us they were letting them go for a mere £140, startling when you consider the price the first hit the high street stores at was a ridiculous £230! A few moments later, we had both bagged a pod in his and hers colours, blue for me and pink for Laura. Score! If you're in the market for a mini, now is a good time to buy the 4Gb model. Apple recently announced the launch of a new 6Gb model, with 18-hour battery life, as opposed to the 4Gb 12 hours; so pretty much any vendor will be dropping their prices soon, if they haven't already. The new model comes in around £170. The way I see it is, these things are disposable. Whatever you buy, whenever you buy, it will without question be obsolete in a few months and if it isn't, you'll still be longing for the latest and greatest kit. This is an essential survival item for the London urbanite. You can buy an iPod mini from Amazon.co.uk for (at the time of writing) £139.00

Filed under: Cool kit, Tech No Comments