Monthly Archives: July 2011

Crunch can and should be avoided

EDIT 2011-10-11: Michael Pachter has issued an apology for his statements and says the situation was “embarrassing, especially with overworked employees left unpaid”.
Well done guys 🙂

I read this article today, Opinion: Crunch is avoidable by Charles Randall, and that made me want to write about this as well. It was written as a rebuttal to statements made by Michael Pachter claiming that “Unpaid crunch deserves no sympathy” because “it’s part of the games industry”. The article is well written and has some very good points, but I wanted to take it a little bit further, as I think there are more sides to it than the ones Randall covers.

First of all I think Randall is too nice on Pachter. When Pachter says that you shouldn’t complain about unpaid overtime because it’s “part of the industry”, he’s basically saying that you shouldn’t complain about being oppressed if it’s a common problem. Isn’t that saying that if the problem is serious enough, then it’s OK? That doesn’t seem to make any sense to me. Unfortunately I think there are a lot of developers out there, not just in the games industry, who think that they have to do free overtime, because everyone else is. He also says “game development tends to remunerate staff, often lavishly so, through bonus schemes”. Now, I don’t have 12 years of experience from the industry like Randall, but I’m pretty sure that I know that’s simply not true. Like Randall points out, there are loads of games companies that never make any profits and where the developers risk getting the sack any moment either because of this lack of profit, or due to the company being bought or changing strategies. Another factor here is that salaries in the games industry are notoriously lower than in all other IT industries.

What Randall mainly talks about is the cause of crunch. He’s saying crunch only takes place so often because of bad planning which is in turn caused by the immaturity of the games industry. This seems to fit perfectly with my own experiences, and when both managers and developers realise this they can work together towards eliminating bad planning and get better products delivered on time. One thing Randall only touches on briefly, is that this isn’t only beneficial for the employees/developers, but also for the managers and the business. This is something I think the maturer parts of the IT industries have realised and they know how to get the best out of their employees. They realise that what they need are clear headed, enthusiastic, bright minds working on their products in a thorough and organised way. They don’t need tired, depressed, apathetic employees who are more likely to make mistakes and will probably stay with the company for shorter periods.

When Pachter mentions bonuses as a way to compensate for unpaid overtime, this again seems too familiar. Using “performance based” bonuses this way seems to devalue the bonuses. They are supposed to be awarded for performing well – hence the name, but now they are just given instead of paying for overtime. And in many cases they don’t match what would have been paid if the overtime had been paid for in a conventional way. I might sound bitter, however this isn’t something that has happened to myself, but I know of people who are working under such conditions. I know there are some who burn so much for what they do that they will gladly spend every waking hour at work. This shouldn’t necessarily be forbidden, but even the most enthusiastic employees can be demoralised when their extra effort becomes expected and unrewarded.

What is the justification for expecting people to do extra hours for no pay? As I see it, there’s a very simple equation of work put into the company and value coming out. When extra work is put in that should equate to extra value of the company or product. The people who did the extra work should be the first to be rewarded for this. If a certain deadline is important to make for the business, then the people who make it happen should be the ones to reap the benefits; not just the share holders. Once this becomes apparent, I’m sure the businesses will learn to plan properly as there would be a direct financial cost for them to let crunch happen.

Physics are fun!

I was just getting rid of some recyclables that had been sitting around by the sink waiting to get cleaned, and I was faced with a challenge. There was a bottle of oil, and it had a little bit of oil on the bottom. How would I get the oil out? I didn’t want to use soap, because I think it’s a bit of a waste when it’s just going into a bin, and you know it’s impossible to dissolve oil in water.

This is what I did. I filled the bottle with water and then left it very slowly overflowing. The oil slowly let go of the bottle and floated slowly all the way to the top and over the rim of the bottle. It was important that the water was overflowing all the time, or the oil might have deposited around the bottle neck where there would have been a water line. This was much more fun than cleaning recyclables normally is (can you imagine?!) and all thanks to physics 🙂

Upcoming Local Beer Festivals

Date Location Festival
28-30 Jul Bishops Stortford 3rd Bishops Stortford Beer Festival
 2- 6 Aug Earls Court, London Great British Beer Festival
18-21 Aug Ipswich Ipswich Beer Festival
23-27 Aug Peterborough 34th Peterborough Beer Festival
 6-10 Sep Chappel 25th Chappel Beer Festival
 9-10 Sep St Ives, Cambs St Ives Booze on the Ouse Beer Festival
15-17 Sep York York Beer and Cider Festival
16-17 Sep Melton Mawbray 9th Melton Mowbray Beer Festival
22-24 Sep Letchworth 20th Letchworth Garden City Beer & Cider Festival
28- 1 Oct St Albans St Albans Beer Festival
 5- 8 Oct Bedford 34th Bedford Beer & Cider Festival
12-15 Oct Milton Keynes 18th Concrete Pint Beer Festival
13-15 Oct Wallington 18th Croydon & Sutton Real Ale & Cider Festival
27-29 Oct Twickenham 11th Twickenham Beer & Cider Festival
27-29 Oct Birmingham Birmingham Beer Festival

La Margherita and glow worms

Today we finally managed to get organised enough to book a table at La Margherita. It’s a very nice Italian restaurant on Bridge Street. It’s always looked interesting and tempting but also rather busy, so we were surprised to find it almost quiet when we arrived. It also turned out that booking the table probably wasn’t necessary even if it had been more busy as there are several more tables in two first floor areas. The food was tasty and we had a fruity fresh Pinot Grigio Blush. We both had risotto, but they were rather different. Mine was with sea food while Katie’s was with mushrooms. We aimed for something that wasn’t too heavy because we wanted to make sure we’d have room for pudding. The photos below show how that was a very good idea 🙂

After dinner we realised we’d missed our bus to the glow worm location (an abandoned chalk pit in Cherry Hinton), so we ended up walking almost all the way there. That wasn’t necessary a bad thing because the later we’d get there, the greater chance of seeing some glow worms. This might have been why we no more than arrived before we saw the first one. This was the second time I’ve gone looking for these little fellows, and it’s still hard to believe when you spot them. They really look like small, slightly green LEDs that have been installed in the grass. It’s a rather amazing phenomenon and I recommend anyone to try it at least once. Our trip ended up being a short one as it started raining more and more heavily, but we still managed to find 7 happily glowing worms (they’re not actually worms, but larvae of beetles).

Guided Busway, Cambridge

“The Guided Busway opens soon”

It almost sounds like a joke. So many times it has been announced that the guided busway would open on date X, only to be postponed. Original launch date was two and a half years ago now. But this time it seems like it will actually happen. In fact, the current launch date (7th August) is so close that there simply isn’t enough time to postpone it again. And this is great news for the villagers north of Cambridge who didn’t have any proper connection with town before and whose only option would be to drive which involves getting stuck in – and contributing to – the rush hour traffic jams that characterise the city’s infrastructure. It’s so bad that even the buses take much longer to get into town during these times.

So now when we get the new busway, that allows easy, direct access to the Science Park and almost direct access to town for a whole lot of villages north of Cambridge, we will be left with much better public transportation in Cambridge than we had when the project was started several years ago, right?

I’m afraid that I believe the answer is “no”.

Long before the guided busway was ready, Stagecoach started reducing the number of buses on the routes in the area. This was first done by reducing the departures of Citi 4, which later had its evening and Sunday routes replaced by a new “B” route and now the “B” route is all there is. And this doesn’t go anywhere on the way into town, so it is no longer possible to take a bus from Orchard Park to the Science Park or Cambridge Regional College, or anywhere along Milton Road, which was quite useful before. Another cut back happened last year, when the Citi 2 stopped going to Milton, which means there is now only one bus (the “9”) for the many elderly in Milton to get into town unless they drive (it’s the same for younger people, but I think they should be able to cycle from Milton without any problems). And as “9” doesn’t stop at Tesco in Milton they can’t use it to get their shopping home if they live in the other end of Milton (which I believe was a common thing to do). Also, there is no “9” on Sundays.

Unfortunately, there’s not as much money in the elderly seen from the Stagecoach business, because of their bus passes. So, ironically, they get a worse service even though they’re the ones who need the service the most. This is probably an inherent problem of a privatised transport sector, making it a business like any other, instead of the service it’s supposed to be.

To summarise, we’re left with fewer buses from Orchard Park, and the guided busway won’t stop inside Orchard park as the current “B” does or the old Citi 4 did as well, but instead at one or two peripheral stops. There is no connection between Orchard Park and the Science Park, even though one of the only advantages of the Orchard Park location is its short distance to a lot of work places. Also we get fewer buses to Milton and along Milton Road.

So, what can we do? Well, we can complain. I’m planning on writing a letter to the city council to explain some of the same things I’ve written here. I might wait to see if I get any comments here, so I can get more angles of the situation. We should also keep this in mind come next election, when we can try to remember that changes like these can actually make a bigger difference in our lives than increased fuel prices or whatever people normally care about. And then we remember that the power to change these things are in the hands of the politicians, it’s us who put them there, and it’s us who decide how long they stay and who they are eventually replaced by. If there’s something that’s important to us, we have to make sure it’s also important to the people we vote for.

I hope a lot of people would like to comment on this, and let me know what they think about The Guided Busway, public transportation in general and anything else that might be relevant.

Emmy The Great

I felt like writing something about Emmy The Great. I’m not sure what exactly it will be yet, but I’m listening to her right now, and felt inspired 🙂

I first came across her when one of my friends posted a link to her Black Cab Session where she performed the amazing “Two Steps Forward” together with Tom Hobden from “Noah and the Whale”. The song was not included in their first album “First Love”, but was later included in a bonus CD sold with the album. There was something in that song that made me able listen to it over and over and just never seem to get tired of it. It even seemed to be getting better every time.

I then discovered that Emmy was playing a charity gig against violence towards women at The Shop in Cambridge, so I went to see her. Again she hadn’t brought her usual band, but showed up alone. It was a very small gig (it’s a small place), and there was no mic, speakers or stage and the closest people were sitting on pillows in front of the people sitting on chairs. It was a very intimate concert, and seemed much more personal than usual music gigs.

Another quite special gig was an “in store” performance at Pure Groove in London. Katie and I managed to get there straight after work, and even though it was a very short performance that was ok, as it was free and we like going to London. It was also very cosy and Emmy was sitting on the counter.

The first real gig I saw was at the O2 in Oxford. Katie and I went there together and spent the weekend exploring our “brother city” (I guess Oxford is “the brother of art” while Cambridge is “the brother of science”). The gig was great, while of a more “normal” sort and to my great excitement she reluctantly played “Two Steps Forward” after lots of shouting from the crowd, even though she said it was a very personal song. This was before it was put on the bonus CD for First Love (the album was originally sold with a different bonus CD). Maybe she got lots of requests for the song at all the live gigs and decided it was too popular to keep private 🙂

Last year I noticed a link on their website ( to Pledge Music where they were selling “pledges” to finance the production of their second album. I really liked the idea of them being able to produce the album this way with no producers interfering or “owning them”. I was happy to support them by buying a couple of signed albums (one for a present for my sister) and a ticket to a special “pledgers’ gig”. This turned out to be yet another very special experience with a small gig in a beautiful little church in St Pancras, London. The warm-up act was provided by some apparently quite green stand-up comedians, which added an extra unusual edge to it, and the church’s acoustics were perfect for Emmy’s voice 🙂

Now their second album is out, and I think it’s even better than the first one, and can’t wait to see her live again in September in London and then in Cambridge in October. You can get the album (from Amazon or Rough Trade) and see the tour calendar on If you do get it (or already have it), please let me know what you think on here.

If you’d like to listen to some of the music it’s available on SoundCloud.

The end of this adventure

A couple of days ago we realized that it wasn’t long before the end of our Swedish adventure and we would have to return to Cambridge and work. However, the holiday and its wonders had far from ended and Sweden still had a few tricks up its sleeve.

After a couple of slightly rainy days, yesterday started out as a dry and pleasant day. After our elk safari, we decided to row out to the little island in the lake for a picnic again, and this  time we brought  a lighter as well. We sat around the fire for several hours (some of the others taking the kids back earlier). When we returned as well we had a barbeque by the lake. It was now both sunny and very warm.

Later my sister and I were enjoying the last of the evening sun and taking sunset pictures. Just after my sister mentioning that she’s never seen a European beaver in the wild she notices something square-ish swimming across the lake. It was coming our way. We hid in the door and behind the windows taking pictures through the door and on the closer ones you can make our the eyes and nostrils. It seemed all of nature was teaming up to make our last evening a special one.

But it didn’t end there. This morning was as sunny as last night, and when Katie went to say goodbye to the lake, yet another creature came to say goodbye to us. A long grass snake was lying very elegantly in the aft of the little rowing boat. It patiently lay the for all to get a good look, posing for lots of photos. All these photos are of the kind needing much processing, so I’ll have to add them to the post later. For now, here is a drawing Katie made of us fishing

On the way to the bus two cranes joined in the big goodbye from just next to the road. It is still sax to say goodbye, but we feel very lucky to have been here at all.


This morning we defied laziness, as our wish to see elks combined with the short time we have left here became dominant, and woke up at 6:00 to go for a drive.

We went up some small forest roads and after only half an hour our early start was rewarded. We’d all been paying a lot of attention to the forest, checking every clearing for anyone looking back. The expectation of seeing one almost made it feel impossible that it would actually happen. But suddenly there were two odd faces looking straight at us with very big ears and huge noses. One was significantly bigger than the other and the smaller one soon lost interest in us and started walking away. It was a mother with a calf, and shortly after we realized the little one had a twin. After 5-10 min or so and a lot of photos, the mum got up as well and they all slowly walked off. Funny how it’s obvious that they aren’t scared of us but just think we’re a bit annoying and would rather be alone. And in spite of their size they’re surprisingly good at disappearing.

About five minutes further on the drive another elk walked out on the road a bit ahead of us, followed the road a bit and went back in between the trees. As soon as we got to where it had left the road it was already out of sight, though there seemed to be a 5 meter rock wall where it would have gone.

Although, as I mentioned earlier, we took a lot of photos, you’ll have to wait a bit before they’ll be on here, as they have to be processed before they’re ready for publishing. So long for now!


Just to following up on my previous post, we didn’t see an elk on our walk. However, we found 3 kg of berries (that’s about 6.6 lb). This was mostly blueberries and raspberries with some wild strawberries as well. See the photo 🙂


Sweden part 2

Here is more from our holiday in Sweden. Since my 20 MB of internet seems to be lasting well there’ll be some photos too 🙂

The first photo documents something that is very important on any holiday we go on (and our everyday life): food. This is the famous smörgåsbord with schøøødbullarrr, lots of herring, blood sausage (like black pudding, but with different herbs and spices) and more. This goes with lots of light Swedish beer and fruity ciders. Of course we’ve also had lots of pike, even though the fishing since the first day has been fruitless.


Another thing that dominates our holiday and Sweden in general, is the wildlife. My sister and her husband are enthusiastic birders, and the species list has just reached 71. This includes exotic and exciting birds like cranes, osprey and a woodcock. But it’s not limited to birds as we’ve also seen hares, foxes, deer and a chick-hunting mink (that really shouldn’t be here). And we’ve seen paw prints from a lynx, which is probably as close as we’ll get to seeing one … but we still haven’t seen an elk (moose for the Americans), and if that doesn’t change it would be the first elk-less Sweden holiday of the family, which could possibly be attributed to the size (and audio volume) of the kids 😉 Now we’re off for a walk up a mountain, so maybe we’ll be lucky…

I’ll leave you here with a photo of a giant Vespa wasp that came through our door this morning. It’s about 5 cm long or about 10 times as big as a normal wasp or “scary big”. And the noise it made was that of an approaching speedboat.