The Cracker Fairy

Growing up, my family didn’t just have Santa, we had an extra little thing, something that I didn’t know until I was quite a bit older, was unique to my family.  We also had, The Cracker Fairy.

In Great Britain and some members of the common wealth, crackers are a traditional part of Christmas.  You have a decorated tube with a handle at each end and a strip of paper through the middle. Two people will hold onto the cracker, one at each side and pull it open.  A small bit of black powder inside makes a loud cracking sound and some treats fall out.  Traditionally, these are a little party hat, a very bad joke and a little toy or trinket of some kind.

Well normally most families buy these crackers at the shop but in my family, we make them, the children will collect old toilet roll tubes in the run up to Christmas and then we decorate them together, put it together but here’s the sneaky thing, we don’t put any toys inside.  This is the magic part, the children put empty crackers on the tree put when Santa comes, the cracker fairy comes too.  The cracker fairy then puts little toys inside all the crackers ready to be pulled open at Christmas dinner!  I’ve never seen her but she has never failed to come.

Well, I’ve just told all the kids staying with us this year about the cracker fairy and we’ve made our crackers.  Now they’re off to bed and sleeping, waiting to morning to see what Father Christmas and The Cracker Fairy have brought in the night!


My own finished cracker!
First we decorate the paper, when I was a kid we just used wrapping paper but our tradition has evolved a little bit :)
You take an old toilet roll tube and put a joke, a party hat and of course a snapper inside.
Roll it up
and scrunch up the ends!
Finally put it on the tree waiting for The Cracker Fairy to put little presents inside!
My Christmas helpers this year :)

Hudud and Escape, a novel by Andy Barratt

On the 4th of November, I spotted a strange term trending on Google+, “#nanowrimo2012”.  I had no idea what it was or how much I would find myself tagging posts on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ with #nanowrimo after I found out exactly what was going on.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  The challenge?  Write or begin a novel with 50,000 words in 30 days.  I’ve wanted to write a novel several times, I’ve even tried.  Particularly stalkerish readers may even remember posts on this blog from years ago where I stated that I was writing one.  They all failed and, after going back to them, they were all awful.  30 days and 50,000 words?  I thought that was doable.  I’d had an idea for a story floating in my mind for a few days, just a single opening scene, so I wrote it and had my first 4,387 words already done.

I found myself wanting to write more but with work during the day, I couldn’t write until evening.  This turned out to be a blessing as the ideas I had during the day were able to form into full chapters, ready to write in the evenings.  Then these day dreamed chapters became collections of chapters.  After about a week, I knew the entire story.  I actually had a full story, from beginning to end, in my head.  That’s something I’d never been successful with in the past.

On the 26th day of NaNoWriMo, I’d finished my first draft, I’d started late and finished early.  51,723 words written in 22 days!  By the 29th, I had my 2nd draft and so I took a break.  I saw people saying I should claim the domain name for the title of my book so I did that too.  I also wrote a site which I’m quite proud of, put on your headphones and head over to where you can read the first chapter.

I’m now working on my third draft and soon, I hope, I’ll be looking for people to represent it, to see if it’s something people think is worth publishing.  I believe it is but then, I expect many bad writers think what they write is a masterpiece.  I know the feedback from those who have read it so far has been good though and I hope they’re not just being nice to me.

Check out and if you know of someone who you think might be interested in publishing it, please show them the site too.

NME Radio Player

My brother’s complaining that he can’t listen to NME Radio. I’m wondering if this might be because they’re trying to use an overly fancy radio player on their site.

In case that’s the case, here’s a basic HTML5 NME radio player:

Update: Confirmed, he is able to listen now.
Update2: It’s also suspected that NME’s flash player is blocking access to its station in the USA where my brother is at the moment. Are you in the USA? Is this the case for you too?

My Favourite Area

This morning it was raining on my walk to work.  Now it often rains and whilst I find it depressing, I am generally used to it however this morning, the rain was cold, harsh, unyielding and most importantly, its angle fell directly upon my upper legs as they lifted one at a time in my 30 minute walk to work across Edinburgh.

I have experienced cold rain in Edinburgh but it’s the angle that upset me most, now my upper legs are frozen but the worst part?  My favourite body parts are frozen!  I remember when I was a kid I would often visit an elderly couple down the road who had lots of animals in their garden, ducks, chickens, peacocks, rabbits and cats.  Now these cats were Manx cats, for those of you who don’t know, a Manx cat is a cat mostly commonly found on the Isle of Mann that is missing its tail.  Usually with a small stump left in its place.

I often thought that Manx cats looked like they must be quite uncomfortable, with what looked like a stump where their favourite body part had been snapped off and this morning, as I sit here with my favourite body parts frozen, I can’t help but think of the Manx cats and feel a little frightened in case something falls off…


In other news, I’m considering re-branding this site from “Computer Scientist” to “Computer Badass”… I’m not entirely sure how well it would go down on my CV and business cards which share the same branding but these are things to be considered.

Google Maps has its oddities too

While we’re all jumping on the band wagon of pointing out that iOS6 Maps having bad maps (it does by the way, truly awful maps), let’s not forget that no body is perfect…

Not the first issue that I’ve found on Google Maps, let’s not forget what I found on a TomTom satnav a while back, Google AND Apple were based on Telemaps which meant that the same issue crept onto Google Maps too.  Thankfully, TomTom got in touch on that occasion and fixed the issue quickly.

Graduation Garden Party

I graduated recently, here’s a photo taken from the balcony of the school of computing.  Nine exposures are used in this picture and its resolution is 76.06 megapixels.

Dear Nectar Developers…

Dear Support staff,

You have likely noticed that you are receiving no registrations of Nectar Cards through your website, please forward this message on to your site developers as it will explain how to fix this issue.

When registering my Nectar card online (using a temporary card I’d picked up in store), I was told that I had not filled in all mandatory field.  Seeing that I had, I decided to debug your javascript.  Your javascript’s fnSubmit function clearly showed that it was looking for a field named “gender” that was not present on the form.

Using the debug tools in my browser, I created a hidden field named “gender” and (based on the coding style of single characters you’ve used) I guessed that the value needed would be “M”.  After doing this, your sign up process completed correctly.

Another error was encountered when I attempted to add a second card holder to my account.  Selecting “Miss” for my girlfriend’s account, I would then move down to select a gender, the field was this time present however by selecting “Female” the title “Miss” would be changed to no selected value.  Selecting the title again would do the same for the gender field thus once again throwing up an error that not all mandatory fields were correctly filled in.

Using the debug tools in my browser again, I chose to remove the call to the javascript made by the two drop down boxes and submit the form now that your javascript could not delete what I had inputed.  After doing this, the form submitted correctly.

I hope this information will help you remedy the issues with your live site as quickly as possible so that you may start receiving online applications again.

Andy Barratt
Computer Scientist and Software Developer