11 April 2011

Daddy Ruscoe

I’m pleased to say that I’m now a very proud father following the birth of my beautiful daughter a couple of weeks ago. That doesn’t mean this blog will turn into a baby blog filled with cute baby pictures though. But here’s one, just this once:

However, I thought it would be worth mentioning the books and apps that I found useful during the pregnancy and birth.


Many books written for fathers-to-be often assume that all men love watching football, drinking beer, playing football, going to the pub, and watching more football, and then break it to them gently about how they won’t have either the time or money to enjoy beer or football once the baby is born. Other than enjoying the occasional beer, that’s far from an accurate representation of me.

Fortunately, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-be is perfect for new fathers that don’t match that “typical bloke” stereotype. It’s written by an American author, so a few sections aren’t relevant for readers in the U.K. – although when you read about how much it costs to give birth to a baby in an American hospital, it will make you incredibly grateful for the NHS – but the rest of the book is really useful and informative for fathers anywhere.

Broken down into sensible monthly chapters that cover what’s happening to the baby as it grows, what the mother might be going through both physically and emotionally, and how the father might also be feeling, I found it to be educational and reassuring and would definitely recommend it for any expectant father. I’m now looking forward to starting the New Father Boxed Set by the same author which covers the next couple of years. (The author also created but I’ve not had chance to check that out yet.)


Of course, there are loads of baby-related apps now available. I downloaded a number of free baby names ones which varied in quality quite a bit. I guess the usefulness of these largely depends on whether you actually find a name that you like, although simple sorting, filtering and the ability to mark names as favourites are good features to have for lists consisting of thousands of names. In the end, I think my favourite one was Baby Names.

Contraction Calculator was essential during the early stages of labour to help gauge when it was time to call the midwife and go to the labour ward. It’s basically a simple timer that records when contractions start and stop, provides the average for the last five, notes when the waters break, and lets you export all the data.

Pro tip: Don’t get lazy and change your phone settings to keep the screen on at all times while using this Contraction Calculator app though, as labour can last for days but screen burn can last forever. Fortunately, what I thought was screen burn disappeared after a few hours of normal use.

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21 December 2010

Ancestry Family Search Chrome Extension

Over the last few months, I’ve been getting into writing Chrome extensions for the team at work to help automate some of the tasks that we regularly need to perform in the browser. I was amazed how easy it was to write Chrome extensions and I’d encourage anyone with HTML and Javascript knowledge to read the Google Chrome Extensions documentation and give it a go too.

Until a few weeks ago, I’d still not written any publicly available extensions, but then I saw this tweet from EricaJoy:

Half asleep thought, must write down before passing out. Chrome extension for searching for relatives. SLEEEP.

That sounded like a pretty good idea to me and something that would be easy to write too. A quick search of the Google Chrome Extensions Gallery suggested nothing like it already existed either. After a few hours of coding, I gave Erica a copy of the extension to install and test. Feedback was good, so I uploaded it to the gallery for other genealogy enthusiasts to enjoy:

I’m pleasantly surprised to see that it’s already got 156 users, 93 weekly installs and an average of 4 stars from 8 ratings. If you install the extension and discover a bug or have an idea for a feature request, you can send me your comments using the feedback form.

Note: I had a couple of issues with the extension when moved their search from to which meant I needed to update the permissions but those should be fixed now. I’m also aware that the search criteria is no longer displayed on the results page but I hope to fix that in the next version.

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6 October 2010

Baby Ruscoe

I’m pleased to announce that we’ll be having a baby in March 2011. And here’s the proof…

10 weeks 2 days

10 weeks 2 days

11 weeks 6 days

Update: 3 November 2010

18 weeks 6 days

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2 October 2010

Back to the Future: Back in the Cinema

I first watched Back to the Future when it aired on TV, complete with terrible dubbing over the “bad” language, which I recorded to VHS and watched practically daily. I had the pleasure of seeing Part II and Part III at the cinema. My mother then bought me a VHS rental copy of Part II from a friend that owned a video rental store – ssshh! – and I watched that until the tape was nearly worn out. When the VHS trilogy box set was eventually released, I asked for it one Christmas and watched that regularly, having a strict rule that I would always watch each film all the way through so that the tape wouldn’t unevenly worn in places.

When the DVD box set came out, I got that for another Christmas and was disappointed to see that it suffered from being framed incorrectly (known as the BTTF DVD Framing Fiasco) and got two replacements discs delivered from Universal. When the “Ultimate Edition” DVD box set was released a few years later, I couldn’t resist getting that one as it included even more bonus material and previously unseen footage.

I also made my own plywood Hoverboards and other replica props from the trilogy when I was younger, filmed some scenes out of the film with friends when I was in my school’s Film Club, bought the soundtrack and original score on cassette and CD, own several model DeLoreans, and more recently dressed up as Doc Brown for a friend’s 80s party.

I guess you could say that I’m a fan; a fan that had never seen the original movie at the cinema. So imagine how excited I was to hear that Universal was re-releasing Back to the Future in UK cinemas to show the original movie in all its digital glory following the remastering they’d done for the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release.

Last night, I joined a queue of other fans waiting to watch the movie on the big screen, most of them probably for the first time like myself. You could sense the excitement in the air and hear people arguing about which film in the trilogy was the best or worst while others quoted their favourite lines. When we eventually got seated and the film started, there was a spontaneous round of applause and cheering followed by complete silence as everyone watched the opening scene. (Kudos goes to the guy taking a photo of the opening logo with the iPhone and not getting thrown out!)

After watching the film on TV, VHS and DVD dozens and dozens of times over the years, was it any better on the big screen after its digital remastering? Of course it was!

I’m not sure whether it was due to the remastering or simply the size of the screen, but the level of detail was amazing, for better or worse. A great example being the DeLorean, which actually looked like it had been built by a crazy scientist, with all the welding, rivets, screws and imperfections clearly visible. On the other hand, you could really see the effort the make-up department had gone to in order to age the actors playing Doc Brown, Biff Tannen, Lorraine and George McFly by thirty years for the 1985 scenes, but it unfortunately looked a bit too much like latex at times.

But what I enjoyed most about watching the movie at the cinema was the audience reactions to all the classic lines, which made me hear some of them with a new perspective, like when the Doc says, “There’s a rhythmic ceremonial ritual coming up.” I hadn’t really appreciated how funny that actually sounded before. I also only really realised for the first time quite how sinister Biff is being when he’s trying to force himself on Lorraine in the car outside the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance before George comes to save her. I generally just felt more emotionally attached to the characters and totally immersed in the action. When the credits started to roll and the audience was clapping and cheering again, I honestly felt a bit overwhelmed. And I can now finally say that I’ve enjoyed watching Back to the Future at the cinema.

As a final thought, I hope that this re-release proves to the film production companies that they don’t need to remake old films in order to bring them to a new audience and rake in the money from the theatrical release. If it’s a truly great film, all they need to do is re-release the original. There’s even no need for any extra effects to be added either. It should also reinforce the theory that film-lovers will still pay (what seem to be extortionate amounts these days) to visit the cinema and watch a great film despite having already watched it many times in their homes, sometimes even from poor quality copies. In fact, it might even persuade people that they need to see the film on the big screen to fully appreciate and enjoy it. Things have changed a lot over the last twenty-five years with the widespread adoption of the Internet and the movie industry needs to change too.

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5 September 2010

Food, Glorious Food… in Sheffield and Whitby

I’ve had comments that all we ever seem to do – based on my blog posts – is eat, eat and eat some more. Perhaps I should just turn this into a food blog so that I’ve got an excuse to keep stuffing my face. Anyway, this is going to be another post about eating as Suzy and I decided to take a few days off work and enjoy a week of indulgence to celebrate one year of marriage.

“Confusion” Food?

We started the celebrations on Saturday night with a meal at Spice Market Cafe (371-373 Ecclesall Road, S11 8PF) which we’d recently discovered was part of the ever-growing Relax, Eat & Drink family of restaurants owned and run by award-winning Sheffield restauranteur Richard Smith. (Artisan is another one of theirs which we enjoyed a couple of years ago.)

We’d read some reviews describing the “East-meets-West” menu as being a “mish-mash” and “confused” but even Richard Smith says himself, “There’s no authenticity to this restaurant whatsoever – it’s Brit spice.” I guess some call it fusion food but my mum called it confusion food when I described the menu to her. Whatever you want to call it, Spice Market Cafe is probably a love-it-or-hate-it type of place.

Personally, I loved the Black pudding wontons served with sweet and sour cabbage and apple chutney and thought the Fisherman’s appetiser board (consisting of curried smoked haddock, crab spring roll, crispy king prawns, salt and pepper squid, salmon fish cake and SMC dips) was a great variety of fishy goodies for two to share. Our mains of Slow braised belly pork, crackling, noodles asian vegetables and miso gravy and Teriyaki cod, sesame long beans, noodles and crispy king prawns were a bit disappointing though. They weren’t terrible, but just seemed to lack something by comparison to our excellent starters. However, the desserts certainly made up for it. We were a bit spoilt for choice but decided to share Toffeed bananas with sesame seeds and banana sorbet and Chocolate samosas with orange dipping sauce. It was lucky we shared as both were so rich and sweet that I don’t think I could have eaten a full portion of either one. Mmmm!

Sunday Lunch

The day afterwards, we met up with my sister and brother-in-law and coincidentally went to yet another Relax, Eat & Drink establishment. (And no… this post isn’t sponsored by them!) This time, it was The Cricket Inn (Penny Lane, Totley, S17 3AZ) which we’d been to a few times before. Not only do they have top quality ales by the award-winning Thornbridge Brewery but they also have an excellent Sunday lunch menu. I had their huge Steak and Thornbridge Ale pot pie made with cheddar, thyme and grain mustard pastry, dripping roast potatoes, buttered vegetables and pie gravy and it was absolutely delicious but left no room whatsoever for dessert. As always, their specials boards and Sunday roasts looked great too. I can’t believe they still don’t take reservations at weekends though, so be prepared to wait for a table on Sundays (although we were lucky and only had to wait five minutes).


We also escaped Sheffield for a couple of days and ended up in Whitby where we’d heard they had good seafood, fish and chips, and a nice clean beach.

When asking people where to eat in Whitby, you’ll almost certainly be told to visit The Magpie Cafe. With long queues outside the cafe (as forewarned) we decided to join the slightly shorter queue next door for their takeaway, where we got some lovely cod and chips.

After spending the afternoon walking along the beach, we had planned to go back to The Magpie Cafe for an evening meal as their restaurant menu looked great but the queues were still ridiculous and we were hungry. Faced with a number of seafood restaurants, we perused all their menus, read a couple of online reviews, and decided to try The Marine Hotel (caution: Flash website).

I enjoyed their Marine crab cakes made from lightly spiced cod and crab, served with a pleasantly hot and spicy sweet chilli jam, and Suzy had an equally enjoyable Lobster salad with a mango salad and dressing.

For main course, Suzy chose the Pan fried fillet of Sea Bass and chive mash with a prawn, parsley & lemon butter. With mussels being unavailable, I opted for their platter, which I didn’t realise at the time of ordering would include half a lobster, a fillet of sea bass, a fillet of sea trout, a whole mackerel, pieces of battered cod, king prawns and squid all served on samphire.

Needless to say, I didn’t actually manage to eat all that even after sharing some with Suzy. With both of us unable to face any of their desserts, we decided to walk along to the amusement arcades and let all the fish go down before grabbing a sugar donut and waffle with chocolate sauce and cream.

We stayed overnight at the excellent Heathfield Bed and Breakfast Guest House where Linda served up some Whitby kippers and poached eggs for breakfast the following morning that I think might have been the best kippers I’ve ever eaten. If you’ve only had the pleasure of boil-in-the-bag kippers, it’s worth visiting Whitby just to taste these!

With our bellies full once again, we started our journey home, visiting the historical Whitby Abbey and the picturesque Robin Hood’s Bay along the way.

You can find more photos of Whitby on Picasa Web Albums.

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