tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Too tall and too short

I have problems buying shoes. The reason for this is very straightforward: I have very big feet. Size 13 UK (which is 14 US, or something like 47 or 48 Euro) which basically means no normal shoe shops carry shoes large enough for me. Quite a few now have up to size 12, which I can sometimes fit for shoes but not trainers, but practically no-one carries 13s and above.

Normally, Brantano is worth a try, they have out of town big stores and have a small range of shoes and trainers in sizes 13 and 14. Unfortunately at the moment that range is about five trainers, none of which I like.

Well, I'm lucky, Brighton has two shops for tall people and I knew the High and Mighty store has some shoes, because they have a deal with Magnus, a mail order large shoe company, to show some in their stores. While I was checking out the shoes I thought I'd have a look around the rest of the shop to see what else they had.

In High and Mighty I get through the door, and get told by the salesman that did I realise it was a specialist shop for very large people. I asked if they still did clothes just for tall people and was told yes, but that I wasn't really tall enough.

Now, I'm 'only' 6'3" tall, but I have long arms and legs as well as the big plates, which means I have a lot of hassle buying clothes. Much of the time I can buy trousers, which only just fit leg-wise, although Marks and Spencer hav started doing the odd very long pair (35" inside leg) hidden away in a few of their ranges. I have three tops that fit my arms (one shirt and two sweaters) which isn't exactly what I'd call a wide range of clothing.

In the chap's defence, there was some dubious-looking people sitting on the step outside the shop that he was very nervous of, but this isn't exactly how you should greet your customers. High and Mighty isn't cheap, and normally I couldn't really afford anything in their clothing range, so being very dismissive of a customer seems, well, a bit stupid, sales-wise.

After a brief look around I headed over to Brighton's other tall shop, 'Big and Tall' in the East Lanes. In there I was also told that I wasn't really tall enough because I can just about buy clothes in 'normal' shops. I pointed out I have difficulty getting shirts long enough, and the saleswoman was good enough to find the three casual shirts they had in my neck size. Unfortunately, now we hit with the other problem the specialist tall shops tend to have: all three of the shirts were deeply horrible, and looked like they'd come out of the seventies and early eighties, rather than twenty years later.

So that's two specialist shops basically telling me I'm not right for them. But, other shops aren't fitting my needs either. This means I'm effectively in this annoying middle ground where I can't get shirts that don't have my wrists poking out of the bottom of the sleeves, but I'm either sniffed at or given bad choices in shops selling bigger clothes.

Many mainstream shops have started doing larger clothes over the last few years. This was started by C&A on the high street, which started doing XXL clothes almost ten years ago. Now Marks, Debenhams and BHS all have at least some of their mens range in this size. Unfortunately, they've made a basic mistake and sized up all dimensions of the clothes, which means they are like tents. One of my XXL shirts has enough room for me and someone else in the body. If I'm ever stuck whilst out in it I could pitch it and sleep underneath it's billowing volume.

What's really needed is an XT size - eXtra Tall. This has the same body dimensions as XL, but longer body and sleeve lengths. I am not unusual in my height, I see plenty of younger men and an increasing number of young women who are at least as tall as me around every day. Shops need to change their ranges to accept that as a nation we've got lots of tall people around and start selling clothes to us, not make us put up with a shoddy selection or items that just don't fit.

New multi-search engine

A9 is a new search engine in beta. It apparently serves results from Google, Alexa and Amazon's text-within-books search, which is pretty useful.

I managed to hit a small error within the Amazon results in my first search: "I never could get the hang of Thursdays", which correctly identifies it as a quote from The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, and shows 'The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' in the book text search (click on the 'Open Book Results' tab to the right of the main results) but the third result down has Thursday spelt with a 'v' rather than 'y', more than likely a problem with the scanning and optical character recognition process. This is the sort of little mistake that will hold things like the book text search back - the translation back to digital text has to be accurate to let it be searched on, or they'll need some good spell checking as Google's searching has now.

A further search for doing an oil change to a Beetle finds the useful pages on the matter, and top of the book searches is John Muir's 'How to keep your Volkswagen Alive', which is the best book for aircooled VWs out there. However, some of the other books selected are a little odd, including "How to be your own therapist" although some might say if you're willing to try keeping your old aged VW on the road, you need a therapist, so perhaps this is the lowest cost way of getting some help. This really shows how good a standard Google search normally is - you're getting plenty of processing in the background that does some decent guessing about what you want to avoid giving high up results like this where a straight text search will give results of something well out of the subject area.

Mac Attack

The second week of my contracting was a very Maccy week, even though I left mine at home and have been using a PC at work.

One of the designers I've been working with is making the jump to freelancing and has bought himself a 17" Powerbook to work on. One of my friends has the same model, but I hadn't had a chance to see it up close without being in a stressful work-piling-in situation. it really is a very nice piece of kit - a truly excellent quality massive screen, unbelievably thin, and smooth as silk to use. Generalised jealousy ensues from from everyone who sees it.

Then on Thursday a dual processor G5 turned up to replace an ageing and sick G4 desktop for their main animator. One thing I didn't realise about these is how damned heavy they are, the poor chap could hardly lift it out of the box it came in.

All the brushed aluminium and lovely flatscreen is having it's affect on the office. Even Chris, a dyed-in-the-wool PC fan is considering getting one, and he has one less excuse not to now he knows ColdFusion runs on them as well as on PCs.

Train journey home (end of second week)

I'm on a Virgin train from Birmingham to Brighton. It's a nice, comfortable train that only suffers from running rather late. There is a power socket on each pair of seats inviting passengers to plug in their mobile phones or laptops. I find it faintly amusing that I am scribbling notes for my on-line journal in a battered notebook of the traditional variety while I can see Compaq and Samsung laptops out on the seats around me. Still, at least I'm not having to lug the weight of my light-but-very-noticeable iBook around with me just for the pleasure of whipping it out on the train.


I spent much of the week speccing - doing technical specifications for parts of the website we're building. Apparently I'm pretty good at it, but I think this is partly because other people don't enjoy writing specs, and although I don't find it the most fun in the world, I have a high enough boredom threshold that I can cope with it.

The general idea of a technical specification is that you set out what each part of the system you are making will do. In a way this takes much of the enjoyment out of creating the final product - actually writing the code that makes the website work, as you solve all, or at least most, of the problems before actually starting the code. The upshot of this is when you come to write the code it can be a little dull as there is nothing awkward to get around and fix. However, pretty much all projects benefit from having specifications written, and they are a definite must when several people are working on the same website, especially when they haven't worked together before and are not likely to do so again in the future.

Other advantages of a decent specification is it lets you see where code can be re-used between different scripts behind your site, and therefore the amount of bugs that will need to be tracked down and fixed, and if you're contracting, it gives your client a good idea of what you'll be doing for them, so if they want anything changed they can request it within good time for putting it in, without having to re-write code.

Leamington Spa week two

(From notes on the train journey home...)

My second week contracting in Royal Leamington Spa had it's good and bad parts. Early in the week I was very chipper, although still with a cold, then on Tuesday evening my mood switched around and I became very fed up with the area and the dull evenings.

I think part of this bad mood was brought on by the same problems I had the week before - lack of sleep, having little to do in the evening, but part of it was probably triggered by the knowledge that there was little chance of working from home next week, which I had pinned some of my enthusiasm on.

However, things picked up a little with the news that the project will probably finish a little early we're getting through the work quickly. This is both good and bad. Good because I want to get home to Brighton properly, not just at the weekend, but bad as it means less money. However, my employers like what I've been doing and there might be some more work in the offing, and even better I may be able to do it from home, which would be excellent.

Tomato sauce

Several posts coming to catch up with the last couple of weeks...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?