Alan Gardner

Blogging a dead horse

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Tech book giveaway!

I’m having a clear out and so thought I would divest myself of some tech books I no longer want (either because I’ve read them or because they’re old uni text books).

They are FREE to a good home.

If you want one and can collect from Edinburgh*, ping me at @mr_urf. :)

  • I might be in your neck of the woods at some point in the not too distant future (esp. Glasgow/Aberdeen/Carlisle) so ping me if that might work for you instead. Or of course you could pay postage if you like. ;)

Agile Web Development with Rails (3rd Ed)


The RSpec Book


Programming Ruby 1.9 (Pickaxe)


Agile Principles, Pattern and Practices in C


Introduction to Search with Sphinx


The Rails 3 Way


Confessions of a Public Speaker


Flexible Rails


Information Systems Development


Objects First with Java using BlueJ


Data and Computer Communications (Stallings)


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This is the third, and last, post in a series that I’m writing for Geek Mental Help Week. The first post dealt with why I find it so hard to talk about my mental health and the second dealt with how the condition I have, cyclothymia, affects me when untreated. This post is the story of the last year and half where things came to a head and I started to get help.

This post has been the hardest for me to write, and not just because of the subject matter. The period that I’m about to write about is a bit scrambled in my head and I can only really remember the stand out points, and even then not necessarily in the order that they happened. To be honest a lot of it feels like it happened to someone else.

After the birth of my son in April last year my mental health started to deteriorate. I would go from feeling utterly miserable to completely enraged within the space of a few seconds. I...

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Manic depression

For the second post in my Geek Mental Help Week series I’d like to talk about the bipolar condition that I have and how it affects me.

Trigger warnings: I’m going talk about how hypomania and depression feel to me. This may trigger similar feelings in you if you have a related condition.

I was diagnosed last year as having a condition on the mild end of the bipolar spectrum called cyclothymia. It’s a form of mood disorder which means that sometimes I’m high; sometimes I’m low; sometimes I’m in-between. The cyclo part of cyclothymia means that this happens in fairly regular cycles. I tend to cycle from normal to hypomanic to depressed and then back to normal. Unlike full-blown bipolar I neither have full manic episodes (i.e. delerium, hallucinations, etc.) nor severe clinical depression, so I’m mostly able to live a normal, functional life.

For the last year or so I’ve been getting...

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I don’t want to talk about it

On the 12th of August this year I finally plucked up the courage to write about the mental health issues that I’d been experiencing. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, sparse as it is, and I hummed and hawed for a good few hours about whether I would actually publish it at all.

There are a few reasons why I find it hard to talk about my mental health, and so I thought I would discuss them in this post. Partly to help you understand why I’ve not discussed this before; partly to help others who may feel the same way about their conditions, and partly to help me get to the point where I can talk about things more openly. This will be the first post in a series of posts about mental health.

Reasons I find it hard to talk about my mental health

1. I feel like a fraud

The first, and I think foremost, reason that I don’t talk about my mental health is that I feel like a...

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Geek Mental Help Week

This week is Geek Mental Help Week. As such I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts this week to talk about my own mental health.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my mental health is sometimes good and sometimes not so good. Personally, I have found it quite hard to talk about these things, which is the topic of my first post, I don’t want to talk about it. However, in the spirit of Geek Mental Help Week, I thought that I would share.

I will link to each of the posts that I write this week below as they are published for ease of reference:

  • I don’t want to talk about it
  • Manic depression
  • Help

Also, please check out a great post by Johnny Ingram that brilliantly describes what it is like to have Depression. I especially relate to the mask metaphor.

I’d like to thank Phil Roberts for proof reading and sense checking these posts.

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You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

Truth be told, I feel gutted.

I want to golf clap 55% of my fellow countrypeople. But I’m not going to.

I want to rant about lack of vision, lack of empathy and lack of backbone. But I’m not going to.

I want to throw my hands up in disgust and give up on the whole thing, because clearly I’m in the minority (as always). But I’m not going to.

I voted Yes in this referendum because I want to see change in our society. For it to be more fair, more inclusive, more progressive. I knew it was a long shot and that a lot of hard work would be required to make it a reality. I wasn’t even sure it was possible, but there was at least a glimmer of hope.

Well guess what? I’m not about to let one (albeit monumental) lost vote stand in the way of that goal. I refuse to roll over and go back to sleep. If it takes me the rest of my days without victory, I’ll still keep going. Because I fundamentally...

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I’ll tell you what I want (what I really really want)

I want to live in a fair society. That’s all.

I don’t need to live in a socialist utopia, be a beacon of enlightenment in an age or darkness or own a hover-bike. I just want to live in a society that I can be proud to be a part of.

One that takes care of its sick for free.

One that makes sure its elderly, weak and infirm are cared for and have at the very least their basic human needs catered for.

One that treats the full spectrum of genders, sexual preferences, races and creeds equally and with respect.

One that does not line the pockets of the few to the detriment of the many.

One that gives its young the best start in life by providing good education, a fair crack at a job and affordable entry-level housing.

One that allows families access to decent childcare options.

etc. etc. etc.

A few minutes ago I read and it shook my...

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I have something I’d like to share with you all

I’ve been afraid to do this so far in case you judged me, started treating me differently or just plain thought I was an arse.

Well I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t control what you think of me, how you act towards/around me and that there’s a good chance that you already thought I was an arse. :)

So here goes … deep breath

I have a condition called cyclothymia. It’s on the mild end of the bipolar spectrum. Part and parcel of this condition is regular bouts of depression. I’m very lucky in that I mostly live a normal life. Many people with bipolar conditions are not so lucky.

I’m in a much better position than I was in this time last year due to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions, some amazing friends (you know who you are), fantastic work colleagues (ditto) and an awesome wife.

At some point I’ll write about this in more detail, but I had to get passed the first hurdle...

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A script in time …

Sometimes I come across a task that sufficiently annoys me that I have to write up a quick script to restore the calm. One such task was to smooth over a bump I regularly get when I use Heroku on a project.

I tend to end up with at least two apps: for production and for staging. This means that I now have to include --app <app_name> after every command, which is annoying, especially when you’ve named your app supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or similar.

There are quite a few scripts available on the Googles to deal with this and also, I’m assuming, a Heroku standard way. However, I decided to roll my own.


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Day of the living style guide

A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field. The implementation of a style guide provides uniformity in style and formatting within a document and across multiple documents.

The style guide as a paper document

The first time I worked with a style guide it was a paper document. The company that had been contracted to do the brand work and graphic design for the web site had handed over a folder containing a printed document that contained the style guide and a CD that contained all of the assets.

I thought this was great. We had clear direction and everything we needed to create a pixel perfect rendition of the website. Then reality hit: as the process of developing the website began, updates needed to be made and the...

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