2011: The Year That Was
Hello everyone, I hope you’re all well. I thought it was high time I finally got back into the swing of writing. It’s New Year’s Day 2012 as I write this to you and I hope you enjoyed a great festive period. Whatever your denomination, or even if you don’t have one. It’s a perfect time to reflect on the previous year and that’s what I’ll focus on today. 2011 was a good year for me and I’d like to quickly recount some highlights.
Living In The City
I’d been planning to move to the centre of Liverpool for years but it was the start of 2011 when I finally found an available and affordable flat. I signed all the paperwork and got hold of the keys at the end of January, before promptly heading off to Brussels for FOSDEM. I didn’t even have time to move much stuff in before leaving. One of the first things I did upon moving to the flat though was get my stereo connected and listen to “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder at a good volume. It seemed appropriate. It’s not long till my 1 year anniversary of being a city slicker now. I still love it here and fate (and landlord) willing, I’ll be here a while yet.
At the very beginning of February I set off for Brussels. FOSDEM is the largest meeting of Free Software developers in Europe and it was my first time attending. Many people had told me about the event but I’d never had the chance to go before. Over 5000 geeks took over a University on the outskirts of Brussels and it was an amazing weekend. I made some great new friends and had a little more fun than I probably should have in the bars and pubs of Brussels at early hours of the morning. If you want to read more about that experience check out Weekly Rewind #79.
Rathole Roadshow 2011
Back in Blightly I performed a gig at LEAF on Bold St with my band 20lb Sounds. It was great fun and LEAF would increasingly become a part of my life as the year went on. Keeping on the musical front I organised the 2nd annual Rathole Roadshow at The Zanzibar in April. It went really well thanks to the help of good friend Adrian McEwen and others. I played with the band and we also had great performances from I Am Not Left-Handed plus Rob Warren & friends. Rob’s band later took on the name You Me Tree and they’re going from strength to strength. Keep an eye out for them in 2012. The whole event was streamed live in video and audio, with many people around the world joining in. That’s a real buzz I must say. If you want to hear the gig you can do in Rathole Radio 51.
Red Hat Summit – Dublin
In early June I went over to Dublin for the Red Hat Partner Summit thanks to a kind invite from Jan Wildeboer of Red Hat. He was a gracious host, as was everyone else at the company and I had an amazing time. I played live music on my acoustic guitar, took part in some sessions, and even got to interview Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, who it turns out is a lovely chap. You can hear the interview here, and read more about my Dublin adventure here.
Interviewing Alexei Sayle
I did quite a lot of interviews in 2011 but none springs to mind more readily than meeting a hero of mine. Actor, Comedian and Writer Alexei Sayle. We sat in the office at News From Nowhere on Bold St and chatted for about half an hour. It was all a bit surreal but he was very nice and once we got over a slightly shaky start he opened up to me I felt. It was a good candid interview. We talked about politics, the entertainment business, writing, being from Liverpool and much more. You can listen to the audio on Rathole Radio.
OggCamp11 was a highlight of the year for me. It was the biggest and best yet. In case by some chance you don’t know, OggCamp is an event organised by the combined powers of the Linux Outlaws and the Ubuntu UK Podcast. This year we held it in Farnham, Surrey and it attracted around 450 visitors. That’s quite amazing and meeting some of those people, discovering their stories and why they came to OggCamp in the first place was a thrill. No plans for this year yet but I’m sure the inevitable rumblings will start soon. I wrote a massive 5000 word account of my OggCamp weekend under the title “Fear & Loathing In Farnham”. It makes a good read if you have the time.
2011 was a year filled with music, which always makes me happy. I played a lot of music, both with the band and on my own. Wrote quite a few songs, recorded some of them and did some gigs. I also saw a lot of great gigs and none better than Jimmy Cliff at the Liverpool Philharmonic in September. If you’ve never seen this man sing than you’ve missed out. He is a true reggae legend and possesses one of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard. As we progress into 2012 I hope to get more serious about music professionally. You might think that now I’m into my 30’s it’s a bit late for all that, but I hope not. I constantly see and hear people who aren’t as good as me with a guitar or microphone. That sounds really arrogant but it’s the truth. It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable saying that in public and now I suppose it’s time to see if I can really do this or not. In light of that I’m working on some new 20lb recordings and also planning an acoustic solo album. With any luck the acoustic album will be done in a couple of weeks. I’m going to keep it stripped down to live performances. One man, one guitar, one take, no gimmicks. I’ll let you know about that in due course.
Podcasting continued at full steam in 2011. I’m not even going to attempt to recall how many shows I actually recorded. Linux Outlaws broke the 200 mark and now we’re nearing 250 which is just crazy. We were voted best podcast by Linux Format magazine and that was a proud moment for us. Rathole Radio has also continued strong. I’ve just launched a new website for it and I still hope to improve that. RR is very much a cult show I would say. It doesn’t get anywhere close to the LO listenership and I’ll be trying to think of some more creative ways to expand the audience in 2012. Perhaps video will come in more. I shouldn’t forget of course to also mention my frequent appearences on FLOSS Weekly with Randal, Arron, Simon and others. That’s always fun and I’m very grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me. I arranged a few shows and hosted on my own as well in 2011. Last but of course not least I continue to produce Free As In Freedom for Bradley and Karen. I’m proud to do so and I think the work they both do is vital to the cause of software freedom.
Other Random Stuff
Now we reach the point where I can’t remember fine details so I’m just gonna share some other quick random memories via bullet points:
- Helping to run many Ignite, Jelly and Social Media Cafe events in Liverpool.
- Getting into video production with my good friend Neil Morrin and kicking off our PodFactory project.
- Playing lots of darts and getting quite good at times. I hit three 180’s this year, not in a row, over the course of the whole year. So I doubt Phil Taylor is panicking just yet but perhaps I’ll try to join a team in 2012.
- Fixing the network infrastructure at LEAF and generally geeking out
- Walking around Aldershot at 2 in the morning wearing a large Stetson hat is a vivid memory.
- I wrote a song about the unrest in Egypt.
- The LEAF birthday party in November was great fun.
- Spending time with my wonderful friends and family. A corny one I know but there really are so many people who make my life more worthwhile in ways they don’t even realise.
So where does it all go from here? Well, I wish I could tell you for certain. My life has changed a lot in 12 months but there’s still so much to do. I’d like to pursue music more seriously as I said earlier, do more writing, get some program code written and release some of the myriad projects that congregate in the back of my mind, produce many more podcasts and learn more about video production. Some of these things are already coming together. I’ve been asked to write a technology column for the popular Seven Streets website and that’s a great honour. I hope I can do it justice. I’ve also become a lot more involved with the wonderful folks at LEAF as I mentioned. I’ve been taking some video for them and I hope we can produce some really great content for their website this year. That will hopefully link in nicely with the PodFactory stuff I do with Neil. I’d like to get that off the ground and maybe even make a viable business out of it in 2012. Fingers crossed.
There’s all kinds of things I want to do. As usual I have 400 ideas a minute and I can’t keep up with them. I suppose most of all for 2012 I wish for health and companionship. If I can fix those things I’ll be a very happy man.
I wish the best for all of you and I thank you for reading my rambling blog posts in 2011, if you did. I’ll try to get the Weekly Rewind back into swing starting this weekend and I’m determined to keep the momentum up in 2012. Thank you for reading this and have a marvellous 2012… no matter who claims the world will end. Let’s deal with that when we get to it, race you!