Monthly Archives: August 2007

Cowgirls and pole-dancers

I’ve just got back from a fun and extremely girly weekend in Manchester. My friend, Claire, is getting married in a couple of weeks so 17 of us converged on Manchester city centre for the weekend. The theme of the hen party was ‘cowgirls’ because Claire’s a big Dolly Parton fan (I’ve been friends with her since we were about 4 years old but it was only about two months ago that I found this out!) so we were all provided with white cowboy hats (adorned with tiaras) and told to bring appropriate outfits for the Saturday evening.Saturday evening

On Saturday morning, at breakfast, Maggie (one of the bridesmaids-to-be) announced that we had to meet back at the hotel at half-two so that we go to our pole-dancing lesson. This was news to at least some of the party but we were reassured that we didn’t have to wear skimpy bikinis or heels if we didn’t have them or didn’t want to. During the morning, Claire discovered some stunning black t-shirts in Primark with ‘Dancing Queen’ emblazoned across the chest in sparkly pink and got a job-lot of them. So, at quarter-to-three, clothed in our matching t-shirts (and Kerry in her fantastic neon pink leg-warmers), we trooped across to The Ruby Lounge.

Me trying to slide down gracefullyHaving to knock, mid-Saturday afternoon, on the big, red, locked double-doors to be let into a nightclub in a basement felt a just a tad bit seedy, and I think we looked generally apprehensive when our teacher met us. We were a bit fazed when she said we could get changed but she wasn’t at all fazed when we (dressed mostly in jeans or combats) said we were changed – she just suggested that we roll up long trousers. She was wearing her company uniform of matching cami and very short shorts – the more skin, the better, we were told. 🙂

After a short warm-up in flat shoes, anyone who had heels could put them on and the lesson began. After two hours of swinging round poles and hauling ourselves up just to slide back down again, we were absolutely knackered and also rather sore. When we went out that evening, I was sporting a lovely friction burn/bruise on my right wrist. When I went to bed that night, I discovered, too, that I have a matching pair of bright red bruises on my knees from sliding down the pole and landing on them too fast. And today, my arms, sides, thighs, and stomach ache.

So I think you get the idea that it was pretty hard work. Our teacher (from Polestars) was great – she made it look so easy but was very patient and clear about how to do the moves she demonstrated. In the last five minutes, she offered to teach us some lap-dancing moves. By this time, we’d lost much of our earlier nerves and, although it was slightly weird having to dance in front of each other (despite being called ‘lap-dancing’, there’s little contact), we giggled our way through it – it was basically similar moves to what we’d learnt on the pole, just without the pole.

That evening, we went to The Birdcage cabaret nightclub, which appeared to be mostly populated by hen parties wearing a wacky range of themed costumes (we were quite sedate by comparison). Just before we left, a woman came on to the podium to dance incredibly energetically in a bikini and did a bit of pole-dancing. We were, of course, all very impressed and full of a whole load of new-found respect for exotic dancers. And we got very excited when we spotted her doing moves that we recognised from our class.

New gadgets from my Mum and Dad

First, this is my new penguin who lets me know if my phone is ringing (taken with my phone in poor light – sorry about the quality):Photo of my camera mounted on the back of a chair.

Whenever my phone rings or I receive a message, the penguin starts to spin round and flash lights to let me know. In fact, he even starts to spin and flash before my phone even starts to ring! How clever is he?

Second, this is my funky gorillapod – a kind of tripod for my camera but, unlike traditional tripods, it doesn’t have to be set on a flat surface. In fact, it thrives on uneven surfaces…like the back of this chair.

Cool huh?

Snap Shots fully operational!

Ho-hum, blooming users!

As you may notice, if you hover your mouse over the little icon at the end of the following link, the Snap Shots previews (formerly known as Snap Preview Anywhere) now works fine and dandy.

The nice Erik Wingren, head of UX Research at, posted a comment in response to Saturday’s blog-post about how I couldn’t get Snap Shots working on my website. His comment prompted me to check that I had the latest and greatest version of the WordPress plugin (I didn’t) and to try it again. This time it kind of worked but not always.

So Erik posted another comment to say that my unique key was too short. He was right. I registered for a new key and now it works! I can only be impressed that it worked as much as it did with the abbreviated key!

Slightly sheepishly, I did check the old version of the plugin in case I’d always had the key wrong but I hadn’t – so I’ve no explanation why the old plugin didn’t work. But the new one does, which is the main thing. The WordPress plugin makes it incredibly easy to install (if you’re used to installing WordPress plugins) so I’m not sure what could’ve done to make it more idiot-proof. 🙂

Good UX research from, I think. What a great way to meet your users. I wish it were that straightforward to get feedback from users of business middleware….

p.s. Here’s some blurb that provide to explain just what Snap Shots is about and how you can disable the previews if they drive you up the wall when you’re reading my blog (though I suspect that most people who read this use an RSS reader and probably have absolutely no idea what this entire post was about):

Introducing Snap Shots from

I just installed a nice little tool on this site called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.

Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you “look ahead,” before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.

Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.