A different kind of holiday, thanks Kate

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

Almost 2 years ago me and Kate took part in the BBC listening project and part of our recording was broadcasted on BBC Manchester and BBC Radio 4.

We’ve been thinking about how to take each other out of our comfort zones for a while and Kate finally pulled the trigger first. So everything was set, Kate had sent her list of things I should bring without telling me where we were going or what we were doing. Some said it was exciting, some said I was crazy…  What ever it was, I did so and without falling to the temptation to find out exactly where by peeking into my parents email (my parents insistented on knowing, just incase. I may have disappeared without telling them a few times in the past).

Anyway Friday with one last blog warning people that I’ll be offline and not to worry. Kate and myself drove off to Holyhead. She told me a few hours earlier that we were going to Dublin, Ireland on St Patricks day (perfect planning Kate). Once on the ferry and remembering how seasick I get, especially on such stormy waters (so stormy irish ferries cancelled the ferry we origianally were booked on due to the stormy waters), Kate outlined some of the things for the day. Mainly go to the hotel, drop our luggage, grab a nap, then head out and enjoy St Patricks day in Dublin.

That night was pretty hectic and although I remember most of the evening and night, it certainly included a 3am walk through temple bar, finding irish people and convincing strangers that the word estrogen was more sexy that pecs (long story, ask Kate).

The next morning after a lovely breakfast, we hit the road again. I had no idea where but we were going south. It wasn’t till Kate asked to use google maps on my phone to look up a place called Lazydays, google described it as a VW Camper hire site. It didn’t sink in till we got there and we were introduced to our own VW Camper called Daker.

VW camper DAKARI honestly thought we were just going to ride some horses and then head to a another hotel, b&b or guest house. But this blew my mind.

Daker had bedding, electricity, a fridge, gas hobs, 2 spaces for seperate beds, moveable seats, a cold water sink, etc etc. It was full of lots of mod cons. I worried it would get cold while sleeping, oh was I wrong!

I made a joke a few times it was like the cover of layer cake, bright yellow and frankly it attracted a lot of people where ever we went. You could see peoples heads turn as we drive by…

We took to the open road and headed to south Ireland. We stopped a few places to eat, pick up some cheese, wine and supplies; then headed to Hook head lighthouse in Wexford. I learned from Sue (Lazydays) and Kate’s conversation, you can pretty much camp anywhere in Ireland aka we were wildcamping, a concept I certainly wasn’t aware, never would imagine of or ever tried.

Holiday with Kate in Ireland
Look how close we parked to the cliff edge!

I got the full effect of wildcamping when Kate parked up between the rough sea and the lighthouse which was already in full action. That night we had maybe too much wine and cheese from Vine restaurant in Wexford; but more importantly the howling wind shaking the van and there was this fear the top which pops up, would blow away in the middle of the night. On top of this, having no where to actually use the toilet in the middle of the night was just too weird! That night, I tracked a total of 4 hours sleep and only 2.5 hours of deep sleep! On top of that I woke up 9 times and my sleep cycle was a joke.

I certainly was out of my comfort zone….! I have no problem with admitting that!

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

Wildcamping certainly isn’t for me, I thought as I sat opposite Kate in the oldest lighthouse in the world and had breakfast. It was challenging waking up and doing the tour of the lighthouse, but I didn’t see the point of leaving before checking out the place we had camped under last night. Afterwards it was a long journey around the River Barrow to Waterford. Yes there is a little ferry but frankly me and Kate agreed it was best not to take the ferry with the rough waters and the journey around would be more fun.

Once we found the camper site, Dunmore East and I could finally have a hot shower, things got better again. There was even sunshine as we walked up and down the small waterfront.

That night I slept far better with 8hrs 20mins of total sleep and about 5.5hrours of deep sleep nicely split up into even sleep cycles. I appreciated being only 10 meters from the toilet block, no stormy winds and there being no chance of the roof blowing away.

Now this is a type of camping just outside my comfort zone but I could cope for a day or so.

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

Lots of things happened over those 3 nights/4 days including losing to Kate twice while playing pool, teaching kate how to play texas holdem no limit poker, talking frankly about dyslexia, writing postcards, ordering off the menu cocktails, etc, etc… We squeezed a lot into those days. But although I’m very very happy to be at home in the warm and with hot showers. It was certainly an adventure which I won’t forget.

I was honestly blown away by the camper van and thankful for the night in Dublin. I know Kate spent a lot of time driving and pretty much arranged everything way in advance. I also know she could have picked some really crazy stuff for me but decided not to. She was a great partner in crime to have on our shenanig-tour

Ireland also surprised me, I was expecting some weird looks but generally it was fine and I didn’t ever feel in-danger from people or the environment. Ok the ferries did make me feel sick and that first night of wildcamping was plenty but otherwise I was pretty cool with things.

Holiday with Kate in Ireland

Of course its now my time to take Kate our of her comfort zone on a holiday away. The concluding half may not happen till next year now, as I think a massive eastern metropolis is required. New York & Vegas was an option but it won’t have the same impact I don’t feel. Nope its got to be Tokyo. I mean I’ve always wanted to go back, so this might be the perfect excuse.

As Kates pillow says… Adventure awaits!

Adventure awaits
Kates pillow she slept on throughout the holiday

Massive thanks again to Kate and all the people I met along the way including Sue from Lazydays, the people in Hook Lighthouse, the people we messed with in Dublin, etc, etc… But biggest thanks goes to Kate for making the effort and planning everything out but giving enough slack to allow for flexibility around my own concerns. Thank you again Kate and look forward to raising the bar soon…

Es…tro…gen!

Some little highlights of the holiday in Iceland

I recently went to Iceland for a holiday. It was quite an eye-opening experience. The landscape was very different to what I’ve ever experienced recently and the cost of food and drink was shocking. The people were mainly friendly and the Reykjavik although small was full of interesting corners and little boutique stores.

Rather than writing a bunch of stuff, I thought I’d pick out some interesting points in my many photos (over 800 believe it or not) I took.

Iceland

The food in Reykjavik was bloody expensive only topped by the price of alcohol. I never quite got to the bottom of why everything consumed was so expensive but a normal meal which would cost you about 20 pounds here, would come to closer to 35 pounds there.

Theres some odd things I found too, including the pork scratching puffs on the meal above.

cIceland

The Harpa is an amazing concert and conference centre and is stunning to look at and be inside of. I was there for a whole just snapping away and gained access to a private party, as I just wonder around. Decided not to take the free champagne as that would be too much I felt. Especially once the black tie party started coming in and someone took to the piano.

Iceland

At Harpa I was able to soak up some jazz from a visiting group from America. They were good but felt slightly stiff in their white shirts and ties. Afterwards the local Reykjavik jazz band took to the stage in a much more colourful attire and to be fair they were a lot better.

Iceland

Because of the barren landscape (learned all the things we think of as trees in Iceland are imported, as their trees are usually about waist high and more like bushes), the transport very different. They ranged from crazy moon buggy truck like things to Nissan leaf electric cars. I gather the price of electric is quite cheap due to lots hydro-electric and energy from the natural landscape.

Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful country but so weirdly different. Everywhere you looked was mountain rages which were huge. Always covered in snow and surrounded by clouds. Unlike elsewhere I have been, there this black material which I think was like tar. It was amazing and very robust unlike soil/dirt I have seen elsewhere.

Snow was everywhere and there was lots of frozen water but interestingly it was easy to get around because the roads and pavements in Reykjavik were heated from the naturally hot water. Snorri was talking to me about how much closer to the environment you are growing up in Iceland, and it shows

Iceland

Seeing the Northern lights I have already spoke about, after going hunting with Snorri was simply amazing. It was a great experience and so great being out with a total pro was enlightening to say the least. An experience which I will never forget…

Iceland

Dawn in Reykjavik was also beautiful, and I was lucky enough to be in a Airbnb room with a skylight which opened wide enough to maybe even climb out of. So one morning, I woke up to use the toilet and snapped a few shots before going back to sleep.

Iceland

Reykjavik and most of most of the icelandics seemed to have quite an interesting sense of humour. Its kind of deadpan funny and refreshing

Iceland

I also find the icelandic humour playful too, as seen in the single gloves dating site and coloured houses.

Iceland

The street art of Reykjavik was great to see and plentiful. Brian said a lot of the bigger stuff comes from the Iceland Airwaves festival, which is a big thing every year. I imagine in a small city like Reykjavik it really would take over.

Iceland

I still find the new Icelandic traditional of Hotdogs after a night out, very weird. I guess others would find the same of the british idea of kebab’s strange. Heck I find the idea of gravy and chips weird enough myself.

Of course things like the Swimming in the outdoor pool while it was 3-c, the Golden Circle was great and generally I was lucky not to be caught in a snow storm or even much rain. It was cold yes but not as bad as I thought it would be. I took too much winter clothes but really enjoyed myself, even with the weirdness of my airbnb experience once again.

Hope to go back, maybe with some food and drink of my own…

…bring 100 euros in cash and your passport?!

p03pqkfy

Myself and Kate have had this long running dare to take each other out of comfort zone, it all comes from our recording on the listening project. A part of it made it to BBC Radio Manchester and  BBC Radio 4.

Its been a while and Kates decided to take me somewhere in March. I say somewhere because I literally know nothing about where we are going ..except a few things.

I’ve been told to bring..

Comfortable & warm clothes, a waterproof coat, a pair of sturdy trainers or walking shoes.

I don’t have much when it comes to rugged wear like waterproof coats, I’m more an umbrella man. But I did buy a pair of Gortex trainers just incase.

On top of those… Kates told me to bring

My Passport, 100 Euros in cash, addresses to post postcards, snacks, tunes and some sunglasses?

I am in the total dark!

Kate has confirmed there might be some mains power but no wifi and little to little to no mobile signal. Meaning I’ll be off the grid for a short while in March. This also means you shouldn’t be alarmed if you don’t see me tweet for a while. I already have 3 mobiles on 3 different networks in the hope one will get some data. Tunes and snacks I can do but sunglasses? I do wonder where we are going?

Part of me finds it exciting and the other side finds it terrifying. I have the idea we might end up on a island somewhere off Ireland. But that doesn’t really explain the sunglasses. I’m also assuming you need a passport for Ireland (which isn’t strictly true) but might explain the 100 euros in cash?

Why did I sign up to this again?

Why Kate needs a little Culture Shock

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

Been thinking hard about where I need to take Kate

I’m struggling a bit as she is very adaptable so everything bar a weekend in Tokyo or New York will put her out of her comfort zone.

I happen to come across this piece from thought catalog, 8 Reasons Why ‘Culture Shock’ Can Change Your Life For The Better.

We’ve all experienced ‘culture shock’ at one point in our lives. When we travel to a new country or study abroad or move for work. While the early stages of culture shock can be very irritating and slightly depressing, once you get past the initial shock and adjust to the new culture, you will realize that culture shock actually made you grow more as a person and changed your life for the better.

The key points for me are…

  • It makes you a stronger person
  • It makes you more confident
  • You meet a lot of new people
  • It evokes inspiration
  • It gives you free education
  • You will eventually know who you are and what you want

This is when I started thinking its not about scaring the living day lights out of her, but rather inducing a level of culture shock and that doesn’t have to be just for her. It can be a shared “culture shock” experience.

So with this in mind, I started thinking about places I’m planning on going this year… I still dread to think what Kate has planned for me, but shes been taunting me over direct message Twitter…

Time to up my game…

Me and Kate’s holiday thoughts on BBC Radio Manchester

I knew nothing  till Elizabeth tweeted me with a slightly cryptic message. I only guessed from the holiday reference, that it must be the listening project audio conversation me and Kate had.

The BBC Radio 4 Listening project

I was starting to wondering if they were going to use the audio ever (I even eluded to it), but just like that, it pops up in the middle of nowhere. Early morning breakfast, can’t even imagine what the listeners must have thought…

So you may want to hear the audio? Well you can listen on BBC radio iplayer, its about 1hour 55mins in to the programme (only on iplayer for another 28days). Or you can catch my clipped version on archive.org with additional comments from Alison and Phil (BBC Radio Manchester presenters)

I won’t spoil it but if you enjoyed that small clip, wait till you hear the rest. There’s some classic stuff in there, can’t even imagine what generations to come will think of it.

Kate strikes a pose

Massive thanks Kate for being such a great audio partner in crime for the listening project. Now I just need to find somewhere to scare the living daylights out of her… Any ideas send them to me.

Tokyo… So what did I think?

shibuya crossing

On reflection on this post and all the posts I did during my time in Tokyo starting with I’m dying to experience Tokyo by 2016.

Forever I have wanted to experience Tokyo. For me its always been a place of technological progress. I know its not for everyone, but the culture is so wildly different and technology is at the core.

I wasn’t wrong there.

So why have I not already been?

Well its bloody expensive and to be honest I have this vision of going bankrupt just searching through the market bins of Shibuya

I lived with a Japanese lady for a while and we would talk about me going to Tokyo. She always pleaded with me, please go with someone who can speak Japanese because my allergies will kill me.

Technology like Google translate really made the difference on this front.People have asked what my high and low points were in Tokyo/Japan?

Low point’s

The Airbnb for the first week was fine, it was quite nice having a place with Rebecca. But the second week when Rebecca went off to western Japan, I moved to a smaller shared airbnb apartment. What I didn’t know was how small it really was. There wasn’t enough room to get out the door as my suitcase blocked the very narrow walk way by the futon. I did wish I had taken photos but I was so worried about it ruining my whole holiday, I went looking for an alternative hotel straight away. Luckily I met  Alexandra after Herb Kim told me she recently moved. And she was able to help me find a great room in Nippon. I did finally get a refund from Airbnb, although they thought I was in the wrong?

After reviewing the details of your situation, there is no clear violation of our host standards and we won’t be able to retract the payment from your host. However, because this was the first time you were experiencing Airbnb as a guest, I decided to refund you the amount you requested…

Trying to get to Nagashima Spa Land the first time and standing on the wrong bullet train between  Nagoya and Yokohama for over a  hour, was also a pretty low points too.

High point’s

There were so many…

2015-04-15 16.48.25

Right from the flight on the Airbus 380 to Dubai with USB, mains power and wireless internet to each seat. Also nicely got the exit row at the very front with more than enough room for the tallest NBA player.

2015-04-18 20.32.04

Meeting up with Andy Budd and Alice who happened to be in Tokyo too. Having sake in Shibuya with them and the rest of the UX workshop, then seeing the sights and sounds of Shibuya. It was exactly how I imagined Tokyo would be like and it didn’t disappoint at all. I couldn’t walk down the street without taking pictures every few steps.

2015-04-18 20.16.15

Experiencing the insanity of the Japanese passion for the make believe in Anime and Cosplay in real life via the Robot Restaurant and Harajuku. The Robot restaurant was totally mind blowing. It was a real world anime with every move being better with a bigger and better come back. Honestly nuts and the audience were loving it. I kept saying only in Japan would this work.

DSC_5356

Shibuya crossing I visited about 3 or 4 times at different days and times. Each time it was an experience. I didn’t bring my GoPro but I really could have done with it, to show how many people cross at the same time. I did shoot some stuff on my phone (uploaded to youtube 1st here, 2nd here, 3rd time and 4rd here.) but its not so great. Especially like my video from the mid point. I’m still working out what to do with all those pictures (I have about 120!)

2015-04-19 19.54.14

The many theme parks I visited including Tokyo dome, Nagashima Spa Land and Fuji Q highlands. Thunder dolphin at Tokyo dome was frustrating due to the crazy following of every single safety rule but when I was on, it was surprisingly fast and the drops were pretty epic.

Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima

Steel dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land was the winner of all, having me grab the rails on the first and second drop. After that one time I was back to my usual hands up when the G force wasn’t so great.

Fuji Q highlands

Fuji Q had some great rides but if I hadn’t been on Alton towers smiler I would have enjoyed Takabisha more (which is very similar, understandable knowing the maker)

Riding the bullet train (Shinkansen 新幹線) was quite an experience. At first I thought it wasn’t much faster than most of our trains at full speed. But then it got out of Tokyo and suddenly you can feel the gravity pushing you into the back of your chair. It really shifts!

Tokyo from up high

The Olsen (Japanese Spa) I went to in Tokyo dome was great, yes it was very weird being naked and having to wear their clothes (which didn’t quite fit) when moving to the mix floor. But even with the weird looks from the also naked Japanese business men. I found the whole experience pretty good and I enjoyed it enough that I stayed from about 2230 till 0230! My experience was so rewarding that I’m going to seek out one in the Manchester area and visit at least once every 6 months.

Akihabara, Tokyo

Shopping and browsing in the electric district of  Akihabara. I spent quite a few half days there and it blew me away how big the district really was. I explained it to friends as the size of Manchester’s shopping centre but all electronic markets and shops. I also went looking for Nikon lens (where else better than Japan?) for my aging Nikon D40X DSLR and ended up finding a basement the size of my apartment in Shinjuku, stocked full of second hand lens which ranged in price from cheap (£15) to stupidly insane (£3000+). It was called Chuuko Box, the tip was to go downstairs, this place is a treasure trove! I was so blown away, I decided to duck out and learn more about lens because I was obviously out of my depth – in a way I’ve not experienced in a long time!

2015-04-23 23.33.56

I did Karaoke in Tokyo with Alex and Len after I moved out of my terrible Airbnb. I don’t usually like Karaoke because I don’t know most of the songs and never had much of a singing voice. But singing away while drinking sake after the nightmare I almost had, was such a great relief…  It was of course also great being able to share experiences to date.

As I spent 2 weeks in Tokyo, I also quantified my walking and sleep. Here’s the numbers from my fitbit.

  • Steps: 121,531
  • Daily Average: 14,504 steps
  • Best Day: 18,961 steps
  • Total distance: 86.05 km
  • Daily average: 10.86 km
  • Best day: 17.95 km
  • Total floor climbed:183
  • Daily average: 23 floors

The sleep quantified data is under lock and key but generally I slept less and less over the holiday but I spent more time in deep sleep than REM sleep.

Talking of sleep, it was scary how many people I caught sleeping in public. I assume its something to do with the very work loaded culture.

In other fun quantified numbers…

  • Saw one Shrine
  • One allergic reaction
  • Went up 3 tall buildings/structures in Tokyo
  • Went to 3 theme parks
  • Went on 26 rides. (rode 13 times at Fuji Q Lands, 9 times at Nagashima Spa Land and twice at Tokyo dome)
  • Visited Shibuya crossing four times and crossed it 12 times.
  • Went with 26kg of luggage and came back with 30kg + 11kg
  • Visited the beach
  • Had 9 days of sunshine
  • Hottest day was 32c and coldest was 9c
  • Eat roughly 16 boiled eggs
  • Eat goodness know much meat!
  • Went one weight and came back 2 pounds lighter!
  • Took 989 photos and uploaded only 628 to Flickr.
  • Tracked over 500miles over Japan (difficult to get the exact amount from google)
  • Took 4 taxis
  • Rode the bullet train 4 times

I was wrong on many counts with Japan but I’m happy to see the techno-wonderland I thought it was going to be. There are scary tales of where the technology unchecked will take us.

I will go back to Japan because it is unique and theres so much left to try and do. The culture is insane, lovely and weird all in one massive gulp. I’ll be interested to see what effect the 2020 Olympics has on the Japanese culture, I’d like to check it out a few years beforehand and maybe afterwards. There are some frustrating things and some wonderful, wonderful things. I’m going to watch Lost in translation again real soon…

Tokyo awaits

Japanese Shopping Alley

I said in my new years resolutions I was going to Tokyo.

  • Go to a new part of the world
    I’m scoping Tokyo and think I got the flight sorted, some friends who maybe interested and I’m looking at Airbnb for somewhere to stay. My cousin has mentioned eastern europe is cool…  regardless, I got to try going somewhere new and further east

So I have looked at the best times to go and I’m the very edge of booking the flights. Found some great flights for about £500. But I’m a little stuck when it comes to the hotel/airbnb.

Its not the cost, its more if I’m going alone or with somebody else?

I have had a few offers but nothing has stuck yet,  So I guess this is a open call for anybody who would like to join me or has advice on where I should stay or go. Wikitravel and a host of recommended books have been useful.

I will visit other parts of Japan but Tokyo is my main destination, we all know how much I love cities.

Travelstarter: Nice mission terrible name

I first saw Travel starter via Cristiano Betta

A crowdfunding startup for travelers wanting to support the place they are visiting? Sounded too good to be true… But I was impressed with I saw.

TravelStarter is a new way to travel by supporting local tourism and saving money at the same time. It’s easy – you pick your next destination, select your favorite project or reward, and we take care of the rest.

Although I can’t really see it taking off, I think its a really nice idea. For example a friend of mine, went to Goa for a month. She loved it so much that the family she stayed with, she regularly still checks in on them and I think sends them small gifts every now and then. With something like travelstarter, she could help,  encourage others and work towards a better village as a whole.

It wouldn’t really work too well for myself because I tend to head to cities and places which are not really in dire need of external help. Then again it might be interesting to hear about some of the local projects and communities before and after I travel.

It feels like a good idea but not something which I expect VC’s will go for? Terrible name too…

A Holiday in Toronto, Canada

Canada is one of those places I've always wanted to check out since I was young. Well now I'm off to check out Toronto, which just had a heatwave and would you believe it, its Canada day on 1st July. Now if someone would give me a iphone to smash, I would be very happy… (wink)

This obviously means blogging will either slow down or speed up depending on what I do while I'm in Toronto. Oh if your in Toronto and would like to meetup, please drop me a comment or email. I checked upcoming and eventful and theres little on it would seem.

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Holiday time in the midwest

Minneapolis Skyline

Yes its that time again, time for me and Sarah to visit the in-laws, see old friends, sample mexican food and stock up on gadgets. I'll be spinning around Chicago, Madison, Racine, Minneapolis/St Paul, etc for the next few weeks. So my blogging will be low due to the cost of roaming GPRS/EDGE in America. But fear not, there will be lots of pictures on my Flickr stream when I get a Wireless connection. One of the best things about going to the midwest is going clubbing in Minneapolis, seriously its like clubbing in a more european city. Can't wait to try it out during a less cold season.

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Sunshine, wireless and holiday geeks camps

A long long time ago I went on a geeky holiday in Ibiza. It was my second time on the island and its was just after I finished my Interactive design BA at Ravensbourne, so I was in need for a break away after the years of stress. The holiday was simply a very last minute cheap package holiday costing 40 pounds a person for 2 weeks which included flights and 3 star hotel. Because I could not get someone else to come with me on such short notice (next day), I had to pay a single suppliment fee of 30 pounds. But 70 pounds for 2 weeks away in the hills of Ibiza wasnt bad at all.

Anyway, I took my laptop with me and spent most of the holiday working on cubicgarden.com (should have just setup a blog all that time ago) and learning more XML technologies like Xlink. And although it was very geeky, it was kinda of nice because some of the people in the same hotel were from the IT field and didnt really think of it being super strange me sitting at the outside hotel bar with my laptop drinking and messing with CSS.

I had thought about running a couple of holidays along this same type of idea, geek holidays or something. But never found the time. Well I'm starting to think its a idea maybe worth revisiting with all the BarCamp, FooCamp, etc Camp's going on. Yes I know most people go away to get away from it all but theres a small but long tail of people which dont see it holidays like that, me included. Geek Dinners is another one of those things which should not make much sense on paper but it does in reality. The key thing in all these things is getting like socially minded people in to a venue and providing aspects of the tradional experience and there lifestyle. So in the camps you still got tents, fields and nature. But you've also got electricity, wireless and computers.

This isnt that new however, there's a camp event which has been running for years which I keep wanting to go to but keep forgetting (need to actually add it to my calendar or todo list one day). Its called What the Hack? and involves people coming together for a hacker event in the middle of a grassy field. I always thought about what the hack, as the Burning man for geeks and hackers. I can imagine something just like what the hack? but for bloggers, geeks, techies, etc?

The question remains if I can convince Sarah to come to such a holiday? I mean she loves camping but I think this would not count as “real camping” for her. Our friends in Sweden already offered us a relaxing holiday in a place they have in Gotland? They said theres no electricity and no internet access at all. I thought they were winding me up, but no they were serious. Now I know some of you will say it sounds so nice, walks in the forest, no electricity, candle lights etc. And I would agree for a couple of days at most, but a week plus? It sounds as scary as going to Sarah's grandparents house in the middle of no where illinois and having no mobile phone signal of any kind.

A lot of you maybe shaking your heads, but I know a few of you are thinking this is a little consistant with what you see in a holiday too. Hey and don't forget theres already holidays and camps for clubbers, trekies, blues fans, etc. A geek one strikes me as a really good idea.

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