Liverpool SSAGO Ball 2007

My second ever SSAGO Ball Attendance, and my second visit in recent memory to Liverpool. Arrival was planned for around 6pm on Friday, I’d be driving up in the Millennium Canary to meet Laura at Lime St Liverpool Station. What we didn’t know was that there are infact 3 entrances, I arrived at Lord Nelson Street entrance ( 90 minutes late due to traffic around Junction 8 of the M6 and near 18-20 ) and Laura was at the Lime Street Entrance.

I did feel slightly bad for her having to lug around all the things that girls need for such prestigious occasions but this is the problem with arriving separately albeit the most time effective solution with her coming from Basildon and me from Bristol.

We were arriving on the slightly earlier Friday for a rather jubilant local SSAGO individual’s Birthday, that individual was Sarah and it was her 21st Birthday. Considering my Birthday was tomorrow I had been downplaying mine for quite sometime, not just because I didn’t want to steal the limelight but because I also didn’t want the attention!

After some faffing around at Sarah’s house and parking in the almost completely under construction city centre we managed to go round a couple of the establishments before myself and another Mike had to facilitate a Scout Hut intrusion with the Swansea lot.

Once arrived there was some discussion about what to do for the rest of the evening as it was quite late, in the end a quest to Tesco for supplies and when we arrived back at the hut challenges and games came forth for us to progressively get worse at as the evening wore on.

The morning boasted a vigorous walk around Liverpool city centre, we saw, as in walked past, the Tate, The Maritime Museum and the Beatles Story. We did however get to thoroughly visit the Albert Dock and all its glorious souvenir shops. It was great spending this much time with Laura, and got even better when we lost track of everyone else and it was just the 2 of us for a few hours. Together we popped over to Liverpool’s Chinatown which was very beautiful.

We made our way to the Hotel where the Ball was being held, and we had a few hours to get ourselves, or so I thought, I was soon dragged to a post Ball Exec meeting held before we’d taken our positions, rather humorous scheduling but certainly enabled Daz, Paul, Ilona, Matt and I to get away the next day. So half dressed and half primped we all had a 45 minute consort about our desires for the rest of the year.

Chilling out just before the dinner in the Bar was good but I was slightly amused and disappointed when I saw the seating arrangement. Amused because there was no table 13 ( numbered upto 14 ) and disappointed because I wasn’t on table with any of the new Exec or anyone I really knew at all, and all the people I had been working with over the last year were situated with the key peoples of SSAGO, probably a political maneuver to retard my bonding with them. Tut tut.

Dinner started off badly, a moronic Nottingham member knocked over a class of red wine soaking the table and ruining the table setup, I could’ve easily forgive this but at the past rally he tried to claim my drink as his a la “mine, mine” of the seagulls in Finding Nemo but ended up spilling half of it, therefore for again inflicting his foolish antics I spurn him.

Laura intrigued me about Cuisine standards passed down from her father over the Breast of Chicken filled with cream cheese and chives, wrapped in bacon and served with a sautéed leek and cream sauce. Felt nice to be so civilised after nearly 4 years of laxed student decorum.

After dinner I tried to rally (no pun intended) all the mascots I could together for another group shot as they are far and few between with the DefCon between club thievery so low. It was a cracking image and hopefully it will be put to as good a use as the one from last year.

With such a long day behind us Laura and I retired for the evening as we both had long, separate, journey to our respective homes, put not before the old execs handover meeting which I’m sure many things were missed out of in our panic to evacuate the hotel.

Despite some panic in the planning the Liverpool SSAGO Ball 2007 was a great success and I hope that they will do it again in the far future to give other clubs a chance!

Loughborough “Down-under” SSAGO Rally

This is of course the Rally of the SSAGO AGM, this was to be the big one, the rally where everything that had gone wrong (and the few things that went right) over the previous year I would have to face upto. I wasn’t reluctant to go, infact I was eager, I couldn’t wait to see the outcome because I knew at heart what I hadn’t done, I hadn’t done for a reason.

Either way this was certainly going to be a memorable Rally for me, my last as an Executive member or the beginning of another year on a vastly different governing committee. Standing uncontested I figured my chances were pretty good but knowing how controversial the entire election process was going to be with the new (broken) rules, the political mess that had been brewed and the importance of the 2007 year I expected a lot of action at the AGM.

I didn’t get off to a good start, after a slightly bodged travel arrangements I arrived at a respectful time of 8pm, not my earliest, not my latest (1am!) I missed the Rally last summer through automobile mechanical failure; attendances are never as big as the Spring ones, especially with the locations being the center and extreme of the United Kingdom, respectively so I missed out on seeing quite a few people for 6 months or so since they weren’t at the autumn Rally.

I sat in the mess hall for quite a bit, Muriel’s Wedding (1994) was on. I knew this was the “Down Under” rally but couldn’t they at least put on Mick “Chocodile” Dundee?

With Rallies being only 3 times a year and few members managing to make it to the external national events it can be quite a while between being each other. Talking on MSNM is fine but you learn alot about another person through their mannerisms and inflictions that you could learn through typing on messaging facility. So whilst chatting with Mary and Colin about how their journey had gone (without me!) Faz and Emily walked in, luckily M+C knew how much I was going to have to mosey around the crowds tonight to scope the scene for the AGM on Sunday. Not so much for my own survival but that of another unfortunately re-election that had the possibility of stagnating SSAGO.

In the 2005-6 year Exec snowballs had been set into motion for monumental changes that would raise the status of SSAGO beyond any status it had had in the last 20 years. (Edit: What happened to these snowballs? They melted, as of May 2007 it turns out the people that could’ve kept the momentum going dropped them either through passing on the project to someone else or because they weren’t re-prompted by the new SSAGO Exec, so really there is no-one to blame but ourselves.) I had hoped to be a catalyst in the change but unfortunately my hands were tied because without action I can not react!

There were 3 levels of interest I found in people not running, either people were apathetic, unbeknownst or carefree. Which meant that more time was spent on the more interesting subjects such as jobs, club activities and member suggestions.

As you can see in the photo (right) the reps meeting on the Saturday was a hoot (end sarcasm) but there was a rather humorous Policy Document put forward about Pigeons. And a rather serious event which has produced ripples that are still felt today, in a way there good but it would’ve been better if an unfortunately incident hadn’t have to happen for it to be realised.

In an act of rebellion I choose to do the pyjama party with 28 other girls. I had planned to do this ever since it was going to be an Anne Summers party as boys aren’t supposed to go to them but SSAGO is all inclusive. Anyway, due to criticism it was made into a harmless PJ party which I fully intended to go dressed a la Arthor Dent. Seeing as I don’t usually have any PJs I went and brought some rather fetching blue striped ones for £10 at Matalan.

Having woken up thinking it would be silly to get dressed then get undressed for the PJ party I spent the entire morning and lunch in my PJs and dressing gown. So by this point I had managed to rally (:lol:) many others into getting their PJs on and doing the party thing properly.

I expect there would be a sofa somewhere and the projector setup for us all to watch, what we actually got exceeded these expectations. Chocolate fondue for Bananas, Marshmallows and strawberries, all the cheesy board games you can imagine and a movie!

The evening was possibly one of the best Ceilidhs I’ve been to in a long long time. We were right next to one of the Loughborough Student Union Bars which meant much cheaper liquid refreshment than the usual bulk brought bottles and a great sound system.

I felt especially good about myself for being able to buy a round of drinks for my fellow Exec members, something I haven’t been able to do because of the financial restrictions of studentdom. Being able to properly relax with good chums (photo above) that you just ‘click’ with is a rarity so I just took a load off, talked, played and danced until it was time to go back to the campsite on a good old double decker bus.

When we got back on site I collected my raffle winnings (funnily enough I suggested the raffle idea to the people running it!) which was a choice of 3 crates of lager, not being a lager drinker I decided to offer them to anyone that wanted one, which funnily enough few people were, apparently the majority of SSAGO men are bitter or cider drinks.

At last the AGM, suffice to say it was rather whimsical, the minutes can (or will) be found here, obviously they don’t convey the full atmosphere of the moment but they useful. Highlights include; a pigeon flying here or there, a few groups getting permission to do stuff, a (well deserved)vote of no confidence and the return of the Golden age of SSAGO through a phenomenally cosmically powered Exec consisting of myself, Daz, Ilona, Paul and the suitably re-elected Matt.

And so it begins again.

SSAGO Website, Phase II

If you set your way back machine for June 2006 you’ll see a stub about how I changed the SSAGO Messageboard to use phpBB and particularly the Categories Hierarchy modification. Well the rest of the site did follow shortly after but it didn’t sit well with those viewing in Internet Explorer because of their issue with list indentation, not to mention the design compromises embossed by democratic vote.

So a new layout was needed and whilst I was at it I wanted to deliver on my promise to provide a Content Management System for SSAGO News. Well I knew I couldn’t change the forum software again so I had to find something that someone had already developed an integration method for or one I could quickly bodge together myself.

I tried a Joomla! but it was far too complicated, I had to assume that the next Publicity Officer, whether this would be me re-elected at the Loughborough SSAGO Rally AGM or in Feb 2008. I went through a slew of them; I rejected Drupal for it’s unfriendly support community, e107 worked fine but I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work along side phpBB and XOOPS was just too obscure. (Thank God for Open Source CMS.)

Then it dawned on me, WordPress. I’d been using WordPress as my blog software for 6 months or so and I loved it, I’d gotten quite close to the community and familiar with the code but I wasn’t sure how robust it would be with dozens of pages stored on it.

After a quick bit of research I found a code edit to accelerate the static page listings page which had exponentially gotten slower as I added more. (link) Next issue was user integration, there was a plugin with some minor code edits that I tried for a time but realised the author hadn’t updated it in almost a year, I tried working out what he had done and update it myself but decided that it would be quicker to start a fresh development cycle than catch up on an existing one.

So I had one WordPress blog working as the CMS and as the SSAGO News Article System. Hopefully the partnership will be a fruitful one.

Bangor “Blackadder” SSAGO Rally

AKA The Great Welsh Rally 2

So this is my inaugural rally as SSAGO Publicity Officer, this is what I thought it would entail: More people knowing my name than knowing theirs, more free drinks, the ability to get anything done without actually doing it myself, a lot of talking and playing of silly games.

Okay more people did know my name, there were the usual offers of free drinks, I did my fair share of the work ( in all honesty I know that I command jack so its not a surprise ) there was a medium about of talking but most of it was in meetings, I missed out on so much of the fun of Rally the Sunday Morning silly games and the Saturday Morning activities and the Gadaffy Plate Challenge that I’ve still only seen at my first Rally in Loughborough.

Barely arrived on the Friday, much disarray was caused by the Football and Rugby matches on the Friday evening just as I was arriving in Cardiff to hitch a lift. I owe a big thanks to Mark for the ride and would thoroughly recommend him as a driver, fast, reliable, cautious.

Stayed up late catching up with the magnitude of happenings to my fellow ssagoers and setting my unfortunately neutral stance on all the politics orbiting the Club Representatives meeting some 5 hours later and the Exec meeting on Sunday.

Despite all the cloak and dagger discussion I wouldn’t say that the Reps’ meeting was outrageously unique, structure complaints, next rally messages, next ball messages. The atmosphere did tense when we came onto AOB as Jon was under scrutiny for impolite behaviour via email. Chris made some valid points, I interjected with some comment and a what if which seemed to me vital; you’re doing silly games without a health form, its the most likely time for an accident to happen! But it picked up little reverence.

The Pub Crawl was fun, Paddies, Rascals, Weather Spoons, Varsity, Yellow, Academy and Skerries. I missed out ‘Le Glob’ because it was a predominantly Welsh Pub that deters non-welsh patrons, I might have some balls but not enough to go into a pub with a stigma of distaste for non-Welshmen. I don’t know how I did it but despite drinking in every pub I didn’t get drunk, tipsy perhaps but not slack jawed or slurry, I’d love to know how I did this as it will come in handy at similar festivities.

That night I sat out most of the Ceilidh opting to chat with those that I hadn’t been able to the night before and about the days occurrences. Then some interrelation work in the form of a game of spin the bottle which I instigated but didn’t partake, Emily complained later that I hadn’t 😉 but I thought it would be wrong to benefit from my own cheekiness. Oh and as this is a quasi public record I calm Best Man Benefits at all weddings proceeding from that event.

Sunday morning I was up and ready for breakfast at 7:30, I suppose this is partly to make up for when Dave, Matt and I went to the first Great Welsh Rally in Summer 2004 and slept in till Noon missing the trip to the Beach for which I am eternally regretful having glimpsed numerous pictures as I’ve crawled the club websites over the past year. Still waited for Breakfast and then the impending Exec Meeting of Doom, but due to certain leading members of the Exec sleeping in it didn’t start till 10am giving me a chance to take down my tent and strike my camp. It was lucky, the heavens opened some 30 minutes later!

The Exec meeting was long and arduous, I hated having to tip toe through it when a majority of misgivings rooted down to differing opinions or were exaggerated worries. I bet all the same concerns have been raised for past rallies and in recent memory none have failed to entertain but there have been problems, some preventable, some not.

Spent a few hours clearing up the buildings at the end of the day which helped to remind me of the connection between some names and faces.

I was shattered when I got home and was hoping Sarah didn’t have guests as they would see me in a state which can only be described as incongruous. Unfortunately she did and they bore witness my incongruity, took me about 24 hrs to get myself together.

All in all another title deserving Great Welsh Rally.

Nottingham “Pirates Vs Robin Hood” Rally [not quite]

Not in Nottingham.

I should be just north of Nottingham right now on the Walesby Forest campsite, most likely prancing around with a bunch of Men in Tights for the Pirates of The Caribbean vs. Robin Hood Men in Tights SSAGO Rally.
But due to a automobile mechanical problem I have been unable to make it there. Don’t know exactly what it is yet but my best guess is that I’ve blown a gasket in the engine of my car.

Continue reading Nottingham “Pirates Vs Robin Hood” Rally [not quite]

SSAGO Website, Phase I

When the National SSAGO website moved servers a lot of things were made non-functional, after struggling for weeks to convert the Cutecast flat files into a MySQL database and getting them to work with a modified messageboard I’ve managed to finally get it all working together and online.

I used the Flat file to SQL converter here: LINK after reversing the order of the flatfiles to have them numbered in the database in order of creation.

Hopefully people will be happy that they have a far superior messageboard and not annoyed at the forum, for no fault of my own, being down.

Hopefully this new phpBB messageboard will last a while and the rest of the site won’t be far behind.

Visit the SSAGO Website to see it in action.