Events Sans Alcohol

I follow a bunch of smart people on Twitter, and I probably tweet at them far too often. I recently replied to a tweet, saying that I’d really like an article on events (for conferences and the like) which aren’t centred around drinking. Someone else tweeted back at me and told me to consolidate it myself. On a little reflection, this was entirely fair.

So, here is it; a list of events which can be run to allow people to network, without there being the inherent expectation that people drink alcohol. As for why this is important: Not everyone drinks. For some it’s medical. For some they don’t like how they are when they’re not sober. For others, they don’t like how other people are when they’re not sober. Everyone knows someone who acts inappropriately. And then there’s the safety aspect. Sure, most people who attend events are fine, but it only takes one person to drop a roofie in someone’s drink.

Not all events have to be free from alcohol. It just shouldn’t be the focus. While a free bar is good for the people who drink, it’s not so good for those attendees who don’t. And it means that they’re subsidising everyone else.

Not all events can be entirely inclusive. It’s a tradeoff that you’ll have to keep in mind. Not everyone is physically able to perform all activities. So bear that in mind when picking events to run. The target audience is important, but try and keep at least your major networking event inclusive.

The Events

A buffet.

Nice simple one. Easy to make inclusive, as you can cater for people with intolerances, allergies, and preferences. Just make sure you provide places for people to sit, as a stand up buffet can get tiring, and not everyone is good on their feet for extended periods. Don’t go for live music, keep it reasonably quiet, so people can talk. That’s the point, after all.

Physical activities.

There’ll be a number of these, and the same caveats apply to them all. Mostly, that you’re going to be excluding some attendees, because they’re going to be unable to actually perform the activity. Make sure you provide for people to attend and interact, even if they don’t participate. Obviously dependent on availability.

  • Axe throwing.
  • Shooting
  • Obstacle courses
  • Go Karting
  • Bowling
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock Climbing
  • Pinball Night. (Ok, this one is less physical. But the basic premise stands)
  • Nerf Battle
  • Ice Skating

Sightseeing.

If you’re in a location which has places people might want to go see, it’s an option for a longer event. Stick everyone on buses and take them somewhere. The Grand Canyon. Hoover Dam. Around the Golden Circle. Around the HMS Belfast. To a Museum. Downside: you might lose someone somewhere. Make sure to provide contact details, in case someone gets left behind. Make sure you have someone available to go rescue them.

Escape rooms.

A little more limited in the numbers you can get involved in this, due to how many people you can shove in one. But people have to work together, so that’s something.

Poker Night.

Not for actual money, I’d suggest. If you want a buy in, maybe have it go to charity. Consulting a lawyer may well be a good idea for this. If there’s no money involved, you’re probably safe. Some religions may have issues.

Tea tasting.

There are many different teas in the world. And many things which people sell as tea, which aren’t actual teas. Finding someone to run this might be a little difficult, but I think it might be worth it.

Think Tank.

Everyone has problems. Or things which they want to talk over with their peers. So have people put problems on small bits of paper, stick them in a bowl, and pick a few to have groups talk about. Obviously a little riskier than others. You’ll probably want to seed them.

Delicacy tasting

Similar to the buffet. If you’re in a part of the world which has foods which most people wouldn’t eat normally, give them a chance to try them out. Though if you feed them Hákarl, you’re probably evil.

There will be others. And I’ll likely expand this list over time, as I come across other people’s ideas. Pretty much none of this is original to me. Either already suggested by someone, or a logical extrapolation.

Been a long time

Been a long time since I actually looked at this site. A lot longer than I thought. Almost 8 years in fact. Oops?

Not saying that I’m going to particularly change that, because I don’t exactly have a lot to say. But I’ll try and post again before another 8 years have passed. Guess I just didn’t have anything I felt was particularly worth sharing, which wasn’t directly connected to Eve Online. (or large enough that twitter wasn’t a more appropriate place to post it)

Anyhoo, I do actually have a thought about something to write about. Even if it is lifted from someone else’s tweet. So maybe you’ll see that some time.

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
Macaroni and cheese is one of those comfort food dishes. Something that, if done right, gives you fond nostalgic feelings.
Ingredients
  • Pasta. Macaroni, Penne, something similar
  • Salted Butter. 50g or so.
  • Plain Flour. 4-6 tablespoons.
  • Milk. I use semi skimmed. Considering the cheese, skimmed is pointless. a pint or so.
  • Seasonings for the sauce. see Notes
  • Cheese. Something strong. a mature cheddar. Around 200-250 grams.
  • More cheese to cover the top.
Instructions
  1. Measure an appropriate amount of pasta out. I made this in a 2.5l pyrex dish, using enough Penne to ¾ fill it dry. Cook the pasta according to the instructions. While it's cooking, follow the rest of the instructions.
  2. Put the oven on. 180 degrees C or so.
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
  4. Once it's all melted and gently bubbling, add the flour a bit at a time, mixing it into the butter. You're wanting a paste that can be moved around, leaving the pan bare behind it. Let it cook for a couple of minutes, to get rid of a floury taste. (This is a Roux)
  5. Add some of the milk, mixing it into the paste. Continue to add portions of the milk, letting it heat in between. keep mixing, to stop it burning on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add seasonings to the sauce.
  7. Add the cheese to the hot milk mixture. You're wanting to melt the cheese into the sauce.
  8. Once all the cheese is melted, and the pasta is cooked, mix it together in the pan. you want to give everything a good coating of sauce.
  9. Put it all in an ovenproox container. I used a long 2.5l pyrex dish. Cover the top with more cheese (to taste)
  10. Put it in the oven for 20 minutes or so.
  11. Serve with side dishs of choice. Peas, for example. Or nothing.
Notes
This is just a white sauce, with cheese mixed into it. The flour is added to the butter to form what's known as a roux. This stops it being lumpy when the milk is added. Letting the milk boil isn't a problem, as long as you don't let it keep boiling. Seasonings: Pepper works, as does mustard. These are entirely optional though, and to taste. You don't want to overpower the cheese. Some people like adding baby tomatoes to the top, before it goes in the oven.
Nutrition Information
Fat: Too much

 

Cowboys & Aliens

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect,  when I went in to see this film. I’d seen the trailer, but we know that trailers can lie. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a good film. Pretty much a western that happens to have aliens in it =D

What I mean by that, is that it’s taken a fairly classic western plot, and stitched aliens into it. I’m not going to go into the details of the plot, but it has a lot of the classic western tropes, along with a good cast. Ford plays an excellent ‘bad’ guy. And they’re not afraid to play with some of the tropes. Not quite subverting them, but playing with it.

Go see it, if you like westerns and sci-fi. If you can’t stand one or other, avoid. The blend is too tight for you.

Eve Online

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I last posted. While some of that can be blamed on work being a trifle hectic, there’s something that can take a far larger portion of the blame.

Just before the beginning of July, I started playing Eve Online. It’s an MMO, but unlike World of Warcraft, we’re not talking about Elves and Orcs. This is something far closer to my heart. I get to fly spaceships! *does a happy dance*

Of course, fly isn’t entirely accurate. We’re not talking about flight control with a joystick. More ‘double click in the direction you want to go’, or ‘Select target, then hit the orbit button’. But that’s not a problem. Really. It’s a great deal of fun.

There aren’t any levels for your character in this game. Just varying skills. While it’s possible to buy the biggest of ships, until you have the right skills, you can’t pilot it. And being able to pilot something doesn’t mean you can pilot it well. Some people have called Eve Online ‘Spreadsheets in space’. It’s a little unfair, unless you’re doing industrial stuff, but it has a degree of truth. A skill that gives a 5% bonus per level doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s in synergy with other skills. It can make a massive difference to your end result. Two skills each giving 25% doesn’t give you a 50% bonus. It’s a 56% bonus, as they’re cumulative. Little things like that can make a world of difference.

Then there’s the scale. When I started, it seemed somewhat expensive that each time I shot at something (this happens a lot as you might expect), it was costing me 140 credits. And I was shooting every couple of seconds. low level missions were giving me 70 thousand credits as a reward. Now? I can drop a few hundred thousand on ammo, and barely notice it. spending a few million on a ship to run around in is nothing.

The game’s a big sandbox. Pretty much everything that you buy was built by a player. Or could have been, at least. The game economy depends on ships being destroyed. So it’s probably a good thing that there’s no seperation between PvP (player versus player) players and PvE (player vs environment) players. There may be consequences for just attacking someone else, in some areas, but it can be worth it, economically. You see a freighter full of high value goods, you can run a profit if you blow it away, have your ship blown up, then having a friend loot the wreckage.

It can be a harsh environment. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been having a blast playing it, and now that I’ve joined a player run corporation, I’ve been having more. having other people to talk to, and do stuff with, adds a whole new level to the game. Even if you’re just mining.

 

Heartily recommend the game. Even if it has been eating me alive.

Wired – Douglas E. Richards

Review given in return for a copy of the book, through Library Thing’s member give away scheme.

[rating=4]

The blurb that came with the book gave away a fair chunk of what the main plot was going to be, so I didn’t go into the book expecting much in the way of surprises in that line. Thankfully, I was wrong. Wired is a techno-thriller with a modicum of philosophy on the nature of intelligence and altruism. Substantially more there than expected.

While there were a few stylistic choices I would have made differently, I’m not a published author. I wouldn’t have used the male lead’s full name the first time it comes up in the chapter. Really minor, which you might have guessed by the rating. The lead characters are fleshed out well, without going into too much detail. The supporting cast is detailed enough, without blurring the line between them and the leads. Might not sound important, but too much minor detail slows down the pace of a book, which impacts negatively on the ‘can’t put down’-ness. Unfortunately, I’m now running on a little less sleep than I’d have preferred. Damn you, author who forced me to keep reading 😉

The science isn’t detailed, though when it’s as speculative as this, that’s not a bad thing. You just have to accept the one premise, and it all flows from there. And there isn’t a large info dump, which would slow things down. In fact, the required info dump is handled very well, avoiding a pacing issue which might have occurred.

The only place the pacing suffered was just at the end, and it was pretty much unavoidable. It wasn’t bad enough to jar me though.

All in all, I’d recommend it, to fans of the genre.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Classification: Bug dumb summer action movie, with giant robots.

And with the classification above, I’m giving the film [rating=5] stars.

I went to see it in 3D, which was good. Mild headache at the end, but that’s livable with. Gave depth to the film without resorting to ‘fling random stuff at the audience’

The plot, such as it was, was surprisingly deep for this kind of film. Not just a ‘Get the mcguffin, save the girl’. A good surprising at that. While I don’t watch this kind of movie for the plot, it’s nice to see it when they put it in. Now, I’ve seen some reviews saying it’s nonsensical, but I get the feeling that they weren’t actually paying attention. There might have been a couple of odd decisions being made, but other than those, each thing that happened was built properly from something that happened before it.

Nice to see a film with a few ties into history, too, with the Apollo program and Chernobyl both being mentioned.

The voice acting for the Transformers themselves was as good as always. Peter Cullen has such a reassuring voice. And who can complain about Leonard Nimoy?

It is somewhat more violent than the previous films (as I remember them, at least), with people being killed on screen. Might not be bloody, but you do get someone being shot, and their, now bleached white, skull bouncing on the pavement. Might be an idea to see it before you take the kids. just so you can judge their reaction.

I enjoyed it. A good return to form after the mess of the second film.

Robopocalypse – Daniel H. Wilson

[rating=5]

Based on Robopocalypse [Kindle Edition] Daniel H. Wilson

 

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into when I started reading this. It came from a mention on IO9, and shortly into that, I decided to stop reading the article and just read the book. A few minutes later, I had the eBook (Damn you Kindle! You make it too easy to spend money! 😉 ). Turns out, it’s kind of an oral history of the Robot war, with a similar kind of feel as World War Z (another great book).

It’s set in a world that’s more advanced that this one, with bipedal robots out there. Fairly primitive ones, but ubiquitous. Introduce a super intelligent AI, and bam, skynet time. Just no nukes. I guess the Matrix backstory has similarities too.

It’s broken into a whole series of vignettes, spread over the timespan of the war, with a little commentary at the beginning of each. It’s a technique I like, giving an overview that’s hard to get with a more focused story. Sure, there are times where I wondered ‘Where did they get that?’ but it worked well.

This isn’t the robot war of the Terminator. This is the robot war when all your little conveniences turn against you. Where your auto drive car runs people down, then destroys itself in a head on collision, while you’re trapped inside. A hell of a lot more disturbing, if you ask me.

It’s a good read, and while a little more expensive right now, I think it was well worth it.

Fajita Spice mix

Fajita Spice mix
Author: 
 
A basic spice mix, that I found on the net.
Ingredients
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
Instructions
  1. Mix.
  2. Store in a jar for use. This will make around 12 teaspoons worth.
Notes
If you're not the kind to normally use onion powder, then you'll have plenty when you buy it. so you'll be able to make lots ;) Just add it to whatever meat you want to season.

 

I didn’t come up with this mix. I got the ratio from here. It’s pretty much the same as most of the ones I see out there. I did, however, leave out the bullion cube it uses. I guess a couple of chicken oxo cubes would work at this ratio. Just not for what I used it for.

Slow Cooked Pork and Beans

Unlike some recipes I’ve seen, this one doesn’t involve a can of pork and beans. That’d be cheating.

Slow Cooked Pork and Beans
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-5
 
Slow cooked pork rib steak, with beans and peppers, in a tomato sauce.
Ingredients
  • 800g pork rib steak. Just about any pork should do, as long as it's not sausages
  • 4 teaspoons (or so) of Fajita spice mix. (See following post)
  • 2 Medium Onions. Chopped finely.
  • 2 Peppers. Or a couple of handfuls of mixed chopped peppers.
  • 500ml Passata
  • 1 300g can Haricot beans in water.
  • 2 300g cans of Black eye beans
Instructions
  1. Stick everything but the pork and spices in the slow cooker. mix it. Start it warming.
  2. Heat some oil in a frying pan. Just enough to keep things from sticking.
  3. Chop the pork up into bite sized chunks, or what will become bite sized chunks when the connective tissue melts away.
  4. Shake the spice mix over the pork and roll it around a bit. Don't worry about it if it's patchy in distribution.
  5. Once the oil is hot enough, brown the pork in batches, adding to the slow cooker as you do so. If there's spare mix left on your chopping board, make sure to stick it in the pan with the last of the meat.
  6. Once everything is in the slow cooker, mix it through, then cover and cook on low for eight hours. Don't worry if it seems a bit thick, as the peppers will break down and release more water.
Notes
Serve with rice, or something else if you feel like it.