Sunday, 6 July 2008

Last Blog Standing

The "Last Blog Standing" prize goes to Michael from the NOG-B's.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Bucking Horse Day

Yippee, it is Bucking Horse day across on the Vacana. See if you can't recognise your students in this tale from the Buddha. Link

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Thunderclap, ho!

Three of us were in the office when a large clap of thunder exploded outside. The polite lady resisted the childish urge to run to the nearest window. I am not *that* refined.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Strangely Drawn

I'm strangely drawn to this advert. Well planned and executed.

Sadly my dancing is more wooden than that :(

Being Scottish

Okay, so it is an advert, but it is for "our other national drink", and sums up many things about this nation:

Share and enjoy.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Wild Camping ePetition: over 1800

If you think that wild camping in England and Wales is a right worth having. That you'd follow something similar to our Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and its "Leave no trace" ethics, then why not sign up? What's the worst that can happen? We might again get ignored by politicians who listen to the scare-mongering of the landowners who thought that allowing people access to land at night was a licence for burglars.

According to the petition site:

When a serious petition closes, usually provided there are 200 signatures or more, officials at Downing Street will ensure you get a response to the issues you raise. Depending on the nature of the petition, this may be from the Prime Minister, or he may ask one of his Ministers or officials to respond.

Well, they raised 200 signatures in 72 hours. But the petition has already received a negative response from the government. They don't know how many people are interested in this. 2000 would be a nice round number, but the petition closes on the 24th of May. 10 days time.

Wild camping isn't just because people choose not to stay at official reservations, but because they can break up treks or expeditions, because the view is stunning and the noise one of nature and not of cars driving by, because they want to get a start on a hill.

Leave no trace, take only photographs.

Add your name to the petition here:

Read the background at the official website:

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

A decade with Yahoo email

I noticed last week that my Yahoo email address would be 10 years old today. The "Welcome to Yahoo! Mail" was received Wednesday 6 May 1998 at 08:34am.

The greetings ends with

We'll keep you updated with all the newest features on Yahoo! Mail. Let us know if you have any questions or comments!

All the best,
The Yahoo! Mail Team.

P.S. If you're looking for help, click on our Help Desk

It has been a useful service, as other email addresses have changed as my ISP has changed, or employer has changed. The interface has changed slightly over the years, and the space made available has increased. But it is still the same system that I subscribed to 10 years ago. Long may it remain.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

1st May: RSS Awareness Day

RSS Awareness Day

Gray Day

Gray buildings. Gray sea. Gray sky. Gray clouds.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Paying Users for Generating Content

A while back I mentioned user generated content, and wondered how long before forums and hosting sites that make money out of users content (eg from all the advertising that is on popular pages) would start paying producers for that content. of course, after hosting costs and overheads and profits were taken into account. So far I've only seen competitions and reader discounts, and no financial rewards. Until today, where I followed up a link to some videos on and looked at their

I like the fact that it tells you how much the producer makes for a certain video. Nice way to attract more content from the "I can do better than that" brigade.

There was a nice human drama playing out in one of the comment threads of a how-to-make-a-stove video. Someone alleged that the stove blew up when they followed the instructions and they were consulting a lawyer. Whether genuine or not, it opens up content providers and hosting companies to abuse. Be careful when giving advice online.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Long weekend approaches

Will the weather be as good as this at the weekend?

Monday, 14 April 2008

QoS wins

Despite all the talk from the Aberdeen fans in the office, I was surprised to read that the Dumfries team had actually won at the weekend. The Dons fans were on about the terrible game and how it was a waste of money ... I was under the impression that it had been a walkover for Aberdeen. But no. The underdogs win.

I don't follow football at all, but Queen of the South are from my home town, and also the only football game I have ever been to when I was young, so what the heck.

That means they are through to the finals of the Scottish Cup. Wow.

Match details from BBC site

PS: if anyone wants to console Sheila, feel free.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Online Community

I've been investigating a virtual world with a class. Should be fun seeing how it all turns out as the students all have their secret missions relating to employability skills.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Weather Changeable

It was snowing all last night and this morning. Like a badly animated cartoon, the snow seemed to disappear at street level. Now the sun is streaming through the windows and big fluffy clouds are making the afternoon feel oppressive. Or it could just be all the outstanding paperwork i have to catch up on. And my big cumfy works chair died. It collapsed when I was on the other side of the room in a similar way to the BluesMobile.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

What I did on my Holidays

Took some photos with my new camera. Noticed that the photo of me has appeared in the wall of fame by the library.






And then got knocked out by manflu last week. Blegh. Last year I walked across Scotland at Easter, this year there were days when I couldn't even walk round the supermarket. Double blegh.

The Final Frontier

Following an article on the BBC News about a robotic space ship docking under its own control with the International Space Station, I noticed that they were using this GoogleMaps mash-up site to plot the position of the space vehicles.

Sorry, the 'they' mentioned were the BBC and not NASA/ESA. But the way Google's going, you just never know ;-)

Another tracking site is:

Clicking in the ship details can even bring up its previous course.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

How to Become a Famous Blogger

Courtesy of Dave Walker at

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Radio 4's 2.0 show back on the air

iPM is back on Radio 4 this afternoon. It uses a blog and forum to generate user discussion for  the show. It is led by Eddie Mair, once an armchair general on a BBC2 wargaming show (not many of them to the pfennig)

Site link:

Just by browsing the links I find some interesting stuff. A civil servant being taken to task by her employers for her blog, and some "griefers" causing, well, grief, by using javascript on an epilepsy forum. Real life isn't a computer game.

Link 1:

Link 2:

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Beware The Eyes of March

And upon that bad pun, we were working on photographing and manipulating eyes.


This image was based around the smudge stick in Photoshop.

New Camera pt2

Another couple of shots with the Canon Ixus 950 IS. After nipping up to Tescos to get a bigger SD card (ooh, doing large giggage for low poundage), I stopped at the Beach Boulevard for some low light shots.


Tower blocks. F/2.8, ISO 250, 1/8seconds, hand-held.


The Beach Boulevard (maplink) - I had to wait a few minutes until I could get an 'empty' shot. F/2.8, ISO 250, 1/8seconds, hand-held.

The only image manipulation that I've done with the images has been the cropping. Everything else is straight from the camera. I've using the rule-of-thirds grid on the LCD monitor. Photos set to 'superfine' JPG quality, and 3264x2448 pixels. Image size varies from 1mb to 4mb, depending on content.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

New Camera

I won a competition at work for my use of the VLE and got a digital camera as a prize. It was presented by the Principal, and wasn't just "a digital camera", but a top of the range Canon Ixus 950 IS. Woo hoo. At the end of the day I took a few shots from the top of the Tower Block and then went home to read the manual.


View of the car park above John Lewis' [f/2.8, ISO 80, 6mm], and the same shot with the full zoom on, cropped to show detail [f/5.5, ISO 200, 23mm].


View westward toward North Anderson Drive. I set the scene to beach to play around with the sunlight. I like the softening effect.


Back at base, I checked my outstanding filing. Some of the students may recognise the bees from their "bee story" project with Susan.

Expect more shots during the Easter break. Possibly pushing the image stabilisation to extremes dealing with windy days on hills and low light shots indoors and outdoors.

Wendy Sutherland

Strange coincidence. I was at Dyce airport last Friday, waiting to fly to the Outdoors Show. They had some art on display. I was drawn to the work of one artist. I recognised the work when I  caught up with last week's "Landward" BBC programme. Her name is Wendy Sutherland. Her site is here, and there's a link to the other artists on display at the airport, and here's the link to the BBC page about the outdoor artists featured in the series.

Having walked in rain, mist and low cloud, there is always something to see, hear and feel.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

RIP Anthony Minghella

News of the release of the "Nr 1 Ladies Detective Agency" has been hit by the sudden death of director Anthony Minghella today. (news)

I am sure that his final work, due to screen this Easter, will be a tribute to him.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

School Report Day

The BBC is at the college using our Multimedia Centre to produce some newsfeeds as past of their School Report Day. Over 40 Aberdeen pupils are here to create news broadcasts that will be shown live across the UK - in this day and age, it's probably available worldwide.


Great advice from the BBC on their website, for example audio recording tips. The main site is here.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

SXSW Interactive Festival

The South by Southwest festivals end today. Along with the music and film festival, there is the festival of interactivity. The blurb on the website is enticing, and it's the sort of event that I'd love to get to just to soak up the atmosphere and see what I could take back to work:

Attracting digital creatives as well as visionary technology entrepreneurs, the event celebrates the best minds and the brightest personalities of emerging technology. Whether you are a hard-core geek, a dedicated content creator, a new media entrepreneur, or just someone who likes being around an extremely creative community, SXSW Interactive is for you!

But it isn't in Dumfries, so I'll have to make do with the media from the Texas event. At least there should be lots of interactive media to interact with.

As a fan of spider-diagrams, I loved the idea of a graphic artist interpreting Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg's keynote speech.

Another Attack

What a waste of skin! Another attack on blogs, this time via a comment left with just a link to a tinyurl - no way I'm clicking on that in case it is an exe file. Not sure if that's possible, but life's too short. Deleted and reported to Blogger.

I'll just switch to pre-approval of comments.

I know people who have left their blogs and wikis because of this sort of nonsense. Such a waste, but what the heck. There's more to life.

Monday, 10 March 2008

But I've Done This Before

As the cry of "I've done this before" goes up over the land on a Monday morning, the answer comes from Aristotle:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

A colleague noted that no-one would pass a driving test after just changing gear once. We get better, faster, use it as a basis for new skills, type letters and manipulate graphics without having to think of how we do something. Repetition is, however, seen as boring. And boredom is the enemy of education these days. Was it always thus? I don't know. I find the world a place of infinite variety, infinite challenges, and the chance to make infinite mistakes. Sometimes I learn from them, sometimes I don't. Life is like that. Varied. Challenging. And only boring if you let it. I like the idea of strengthening the neural pathways by using games. The issue becomes taking skills from the virtual word, and bringing them back into the real world. Typing tutors are easy to transfer from the virtual to the real, but what about other skills?

In a world which relies heavily on computers, does dealing with avatars in a virtual world help you deal with a customer in the real world? Do they react the same? They don't, but are your reactions the same? Do they allow people to achieve excellence by repeating encounters in a controlled manner and allowing the learner to try out different strategies? Or will people just get more frustrated that the real world isn't the same as the virtual one?

What if the word processor made a "quack quack" noise with every spelling mistake? Turn the real world into the virtual. As much of our work is done on computers anyway, isn't it all virtual anyway?

BBC New-look Website

I normally go to the BBC News front page, in fact, my browser starts up to that page. So I didn't take much notice of the new BBC front page, But, this link jumped out at me, so it seems quite user-specific. Of course, it isn't, but sometimes random seems link that.

How To Take Good Photos: Tom Ang presents top tips on how to get the most out of your digital camera.

A series that I'm waiting to come to BBC2 is "The Genius of Photography", which was shown on BBC4. I do not receive BBC4. The website has some information. And a link to the BBC photography homepage. And so, the cycle is complete.

Friday, 7 March 2008

RIP: E. Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax passed away on Tuesday morning at home in Wisconsin. He was 69 years old and had had health problems for several years.

There are 133 articles about him on Google News

guess that without D&D (especially AD&D), the world would be a different place for many folk. No Lord of the Rings movies (Tolkien was just another academic author), no Discworld books, no Harry Potter, no Babylon 5 (much seemed based on the Traveller universe). Without people freeing their imaginations, the computer games industry would be different, the technology industry would be different. I would be different.

Not a bad achievement for the son of an immigrant to the USA who spent most of his life in the same town. The BBC have a more modest list.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

World Book Day - Blogs

Some students have photographs relating to World Book Day. Some were taken in the library. It has books. And people trying to read the books. Some students went and bought books in the charity shops to photograph.

Others will be posting to their blogs later, but these folk have photos accessible now. Well done.

Sadly, Amanda has some photos loaded but I just can't access them except through Google Reader.

World Book Day

It is World Book Day today. Books are great. They contain knowledge, experience, humour, scary moments, and get your brain to work. The more media that is provided for you, the less your brain has to process. Books give you words. Your brain has to provide the rest. Television gives you sights and sounds, words and pacing, your brain just has to provide ... well, hardly anything.

Lots of fun stuff on the official site:

Free books, and free audio books at:

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Outside Looking In

Most of the photos taken looking out are taken from the 6th floor. So here's a photo of the 6th floor. That's the penultimate floor. That's the second from the top. We have basements and lower ground floors, so don't try and count from the ground.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

In like a lion

March. Lion. Zion. Marley.

Monday, 25 February 2008


Becycle is an interesting project being run up at Aberdeen University.

In September 2007 a number of students started to develop a fully free bicycle repair workshop and bicycle lending library. The workshop supplies tools and know how to students to assist them in bicycle repair works. Additionally it has shown very successful to repair unused bicycles- gathered through sponsorships- to send them back onto Aberdeen’s roads in form of a lending library- again free of charge.

The workshop managed not only to circulate a number of bikes in the University community but also gained access to repair tools, spare parts and knowledgeable folks and runs a web page that has been having over 1250 visits since it went online in October 2007.

In only three months this project has proven very popular and could potentially grow to great things.

The aim of the workshop is to support sustainable transport, to encourage students to do simple repair works by themselves and to provide a space for exchange and skill development complementing the University’s sustainable transport policies. Source

I wish it success.

Sunday, 24 February 2008


Perhaps we could run SpeedCabling competitions? Maybe a book-token for the winner?

A new "sport" based around unravelling the mass of wires that can typically be found beneath computer desks the world over is taking off in the western US.

The first "speedcabling" competition took place in an art gallery in Los Angeles and was won by LA-based web developer Matthew Howell.

The challenge was devised by IT professional Steven Schkolne. Contestants are faced with a tangled mass of six ethernet cables of various lengths. Their task is simply to separate them in the fastest time.

To get them to replicate the conditions of the wires found snaking and choking their way around hard drive units, monitors and printers in offices worldwide, Schkolne first started by tangling them in a figure eight. Then he threw the bundles in a clothes dryer - no longer attached to any computer unit, naturally.

Full story from BBC News

Friday, 22 February 2008

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Scottish Natural Heritage

I'd just like to recommend the Scottish Natural Heritage to you. I've been playing pine marten snap and reading up on Scottish geology. All for free on their site.

Well done to the SNH.

Woohoo, just found their educational resources - handy for parents taking their kids out.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Something wicked this way comes

I was sure i saw a squirrel on they way in to work. I was sure it was grey. I am not sure if i have to report it though, nor who to.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Pods and Blogs

Pods and Blogs on Radio 5. First time listener. Show link.

Hmm - not sure why an American voice introduces the show.

Film piracy, as the recent mooted desire of the film companies to lock people off the Net for piracy. I wonder if that includes YouTube/Google? No, of course it doesn't - they are trying hard to lock down illegal posts to their site.

Interesting investigative piece by a blogger, who is then interviewed for the radio, which I'm listening to via a podcast. Strangely it is still headed as "Radio 5 Live".

7-year blogger, Neil Gaiman, is giving away a book on his site. Yup, that guy. 2 of his books/graphic novels have been made into movies recently. Interesting thoughts on how people "discover" authors. Discussion what he gets out of blogging: immediacy with readers. 16,000 votes on his site in 24 hours. Great Douglas Adams quote about books and sharks - the reason sharks are still around is that there's nothing as good as being a shark as a shark - the same is true of books. I miss Douglas Adams, he was an inspiration.

Beagle Bloggers - Charles Darwin's 200th next year. Or is it a figment of intelligent design?

Food blogs. football club podcast.

Nipped across to Radio 4's iPM show to see if there were similarities. I'm going to have to listen to the earlier shows.

That's Alright

Watched some of the "Elvis: '68 Comeback" dvd from June 1968. (trailer)

Just under 40 years ago. The youngest person in the audience looked to be around 10 years old. Some 50-, 60-, 70- year old folk are walking the streets, being pestered by thieves and wasters because they are old, but they have the knowledge that they experienced something unique. Something that the modern stolen, downloaded, processed music can't reproduce.

So; go and see live music when you can.

Will it be enough to save the Lemon Tree? Who knows, but you'll have the experience in your brain and no-one can take that away from you.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Same day, different atmospherics

Wow. Spooky or what. This time last night it was daylight, today we have a heavy fog. Awoooo!

Another day on the farm

Woohoo, a sunny day and i'm back on the 6th floor.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

First of Many

Today I went to work in daylight, and left 10 hours later in daylight. I am sure that this is a first for 2008.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

You're Fired

The Independent on Sunday article highlights some recent court cases where peoples' online life was used against them in court cases.

In Texas, a driver whose car was involved in a fatal accident found his MySpace postings ("I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunkaholic") part of the prosecution's case.

Have you written anything like that?

From Los Angeles to Lowestoft, thousands of social network site users have lost their jobs – or failed to clinch new ones – because of their pages' contents. Police, colleges and schools are monitoring MySpace and Facebook pages for what they deem to be "inappropriate" content. Online security holes and users' naivety are combining to cause privacy breaches and identity thefts.

You've read the warnings posted here already, haven't you?

Last September, David Rice, Britain's second-ranked tennis junior, and Naomi Brady, national U-18 champion, had their funding pulled and coaching suspended after the Lawn Tennis Association found pictures of them drinking beer, partying and, in Ms Brady's case, posing at a nightclub with her legs wrapped around a vending machine.

Your blogs are your chance to show your work to the world, not your drunken exploits to potential employers.

Source: Facebook can ruin your life. And so can MySpace, Bebo...

Friday, 8 February 2008

Blogging for Charity

This is a strange one. I picked up from a post from Paul Webster that he was going to blog for charity. "Hmm", I thought, "that's a good idea. Can I adSense and give any pennies raised to charity?" So, I was about to email a certain charity, but searched on Google's adSense site to find out their policy.... here's what they say...

While we do appreciate your charitable efforts, this practice is not permitted by our program policies. We want users to click on ads because they are interested in the products or services offered by the advertiser, not because they are interested in supporting a site or a charity. Using this type of language can draw undue attention to the ads, and we aren't able to verify whether earnings are actually donated to the third-party mentioned on each site. As a result, we don't allow publishers to offer these types of incentives.

But they go on...

However, please know that once you've received your payments, you're still welcome to use them however you wish - whether it's donating them to a charity, paying your hosting bills, or treating yourself to a night out on the town. We just ask that you avoid using any language on your site that would directly or indirectly encourage users to click on your ads. (source)

So, the upshot is...if I put adverts on my blog, I can't say that they are for charity. I can't imply that they are for charity. So, what is the point in me cluttering up my blog with adverts. Readers could accuse me of raising revenue via this site, and I'd be unable to say that it was for charity.

Yet more stress caused by people behind the computer systems. So, finally, the upshot is ... this site is still advert-free. Money I donate via memberships and donations are still my own business, or maybe I'll set up a "justgiving" site for donations instead - but you can do that yourself, so why should I get involved.

Prosperity and long life - it is indeed the year of the rat.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Lovely Morning

The benefit of working on the 6th floor of the tower block.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Personal Wind Turbine

This came through on Kirou's newsfeed: the alternative power source HYmini is now available for purchase.

A quick search and there's a longer article on CoolHunting. I'm more interested.

I find the manufacturer's site:

I finally see a photo giving me an idea of scale. I'm impressed. I want to see if I can secure it to a pack during the day and use it to generate and store power. Even tie it between 2 guylines overnight.

YouTube search brings up some good videos, for example, this one:

I want one for the next long hiking session. After 3-days, I get concerned about recharging the mobile phone. And finally, it looks like the output is via USB instead of some proprietary connection.

Monday, 4 February 2008

And The Clocks Were Striking Thirteen

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

And so starts George Orwell's "1984".

On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Orwell was writing it exactly 60 years ago this year, and it was published in 1949.The book is as apt today as it was when I read it in 1984.

He had been appointed to a sub-committee of a sub-committee which had sprouted from one of the innumerable committees dealing with minor difficulties that arose in the compilation of the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. They were engaged in producing something called an Interim Report, but what it was that they were reporting on he had never definitely found out. It was something to do with the question of whether commas should be placed inside brackets, or outside.

Following links from Wikipedia, there are copies from Australia and cartoon versions, even a radio play from 1949. I must re-read it before April this year. There was a good series on BBC2 recently about British Science Fiction. I think it came originally from BBC4. I used to read a lot of early sci-fi when I was travelling to/from school on the bus, but I think it was American early and "golden years" stories. Unlike tv programmes and fleeting media, I find that reading things stays more in my brain. But I'm sure that's just a sign of my age. But then again, what's the point in remembering tv programmes if you can't give a copy of the documentary to a mate - but you can point them to a book, or a film. We are losing information into the aether of marginal tv channels where the makers can generate extra revenue in the hope that we, the public, will follow. If the data is out there and we can't find it, then it might as well not exist and we should call the fire brigade.

There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means

If you've never read the book, go to the library and get it. Go to a bookshop and buy it (maybe even from one of these cheap shops or charity shops). Or read the linked file text from Wikipedia. You won't regret it. Or you can get back to your entertainment, being happily advertised as "brain-dead tv".

How Many d's in Luddite?

I won't apologise for stating the bleedin' obvious, but computers create as many opportunities for problems as they do solutions. 

There, i've finally said it! And the world hasn't come to an end yet!

Sunday, 3 February 2008



I noticed with interest that "Live for the outdoors" (Trail/Country Walking) have an advert in a photography magazine (Digital Photo, March 08). It's not great, as it isn't tailored to that market especially, and the graphic used is badly pixilated....but, in the same way that Bob's TOS allowed him to move away from 'just' being sticky content for, so this rebranding allows L4dO them to market their online content to people who are interested in the outdoors, but not the magazines.

As this involves a lot of user-generated content, I wonder how people who participate in it feel about being 'used' in this manner. No doubt, so long as there are still meets and competitions, and a feeling of community, they are happy that the hosting of photos, and cross-fertilisation of ideas and gaining of new ones is worth it. Of course, as magazine sales drop in favour of online content, one also wonders how long it will take before revenue generation becomes a bigger part of online companies. The usual way of doing this is to have basic (free) access, and additional (subscription) content. Just look at for this model.

The fight is on, not for you to buy their magazine, but for them to get you going to their one-stop-shop for all your <insert interest here> needs. If you take photographs of the outdoors, go to <insert name of site> and you'll find content that you can customise to give you the information that you want and need. Of course, there'll be advertising tailored to this, but it will not be spam, because you might find some of it interesting.

The hunt is on. The customer is the prey. You can always switch off, escape from it all, but you'd better not go near a digital media service of any sort. Artificial intelligence and marketing. All for your benefit. Just don't eat the soylent green.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Spell checker needed for windows

Oh dear. I hope it wasn't one of my students who wrote this.


d/l'd the Halo demo n gave it a whack. Sim controls 2 old Castle Falkenstein, which evolved into Doom. So intuitive. Loved the Gunny character that appeared when I quit (having failed to get thru doors in the Easy - Silent Cart'pher miss'; but also failed in my attempt to drown the warthog at sea). Sale's pitch for the full ver: "It's got tanks, guns"...all to a happy jingle. "Buy one, heck, buy two" (uToob, n spoof)

Friday, 1 February 2008

Perceptions Change

I get strange looks in my office when the wild weather outside cheers me up instead of gettting me down. Nature in its element. Inhuman. Impersonal. Uncaring. It accepts no blame for your misjudgement. It just is.

Can i check your bags, sir

I didn't take anything out of the server room meeting but a headfull of ideas. And now it's snowing. Cracking stuff.


It may not be my choice of abbreviations, but BS08 marks "Breathing Space Day 2008".

Anyone can feel down or depressed from time to time. It helps to get some Breathing Space. You are not alone and talking about how you feel is a positive first step in getting help. So don't let problems get out of hand, phone Breathing Space where experienced advisors will listen and provide information and advice.

Breathing Space Scotland's Home Page

Breathing Space Day aims to encourage people to think about what they can do to take a breathing space from their hectic lives in order to nurture their mental health and well-being.

Tony McLaren, National Coordinator for Breathing Space, said: "This is an exciting initiative, designed to get people talking about how they take care of their own mental well-being in daily life, and in general promoting awareness of positive mental health and challenging stigma in relation to mental health problems.

Who could resist an organisation that uses a photograph like this? My idea of heaven - except I'd be wearing more appropriate gear and heading up that track to see what's on the other side.

For example, Cairn Toul during a 4-day unsupported solo trek to the Cairngorm plateau, Summer 07. It's 1291m/4236ft, and the Lairig Ghru's off to one side. Topped 5 Munros in the circuit. MapLink

There's lots of information on the site: "open up when you're feeling down".


PS: Looking at the photo again, I think the chap may be caught at the bottom of the slope, concerned about it. Aye, here's the same chap again under the "Lonely? Feeling isolated" heading.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Determined to Unwind

Even grabbing a few minutes during a busy day can refresh the psyche. Even if i can't get away from the desk, just do what i can. Put aside the emails, texts and distractions and kick back.

In this case, a colleague had returned my copy of "Porco Rosso". Along with the latest "Photoplus: Canon edition".

Another Glorious Day in the City

The crispness of the day heralds bad weather ahead.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Citizenship by Osmosis

Pete Seeger playing via the Naxos Music Library. It was Satchmo earlier, then some pre-Elvis rock 'n' roll. Woody Guthrie next, i think.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Why is the sun setting?

I thought it was almost lunchtime?

Start the week

You know it's going to be one of those weeks when you finish marking at 230am, force yourself out of bed at 645am. Then, after a snack of goji berries, find that someone has stolen the doormat from the hall. Ah well, maybe the Fates reckon i'm enough of a doormat myself and don't need another.

BBC WorldWide on MySpaceTV

I missed this as it's been a busy week, so thanks to Michael for referring to the feed in his blogging assessment:

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC and MySpace, the world's largest social networking platform, today announced the launch of a ground-breaking partnership to bring new and archived short form BBC content to MySpaceTV.

The announcement marks the first global agreement of this type between MySpaceTV and a major broadcaster. Under the partnership, the best BBC video content will be made available online globally via MySpaceTV, the social networking site's popular new video platform. MySpace users will be able to visit and subscribe to the BBC Worldwide's MySpaceTV video channel in order to view, embed and virally share BBC content across the MySpace community.

Full report available at:

BBC Worldwide's page on MySpace - they've already got some clips from Doc Who and Red Dwarf. Lets see if I can embed the code without being a MySpace member (stifles evil cackle)...

Red Dwarf: Taranshula

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Missing Forms Not Yet Found

You're probably already aware of this but...

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has apologised after five out of eight boxes of surveys, by 1,400 students from seven colleges, disappeared.

Names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, gender and ethnicity are included in the documents.

They went missing when a Glasgow market research firm sent them to a consulting company in Edinburgh, the SFC said.

Students from Aberdeen College, Adam Smith College in Fife, Anniesland College in Glasgow, Barony College in Dumfries, North Highland College and Telford College in Edinburgh, have been affected.

The National Union of Students Scotland has advised students to change internet and banking passwords, to help protect their identity.

From the SFC site:

Students at seven colleges across Scotland took part in a survey Learner Choice in FE 2007 between 1 October and 3 December 2007.  SFC contracted York Consulting LLP to carry out the survey, who in turn sub-contracted the interviews to market research company Research Resource.

The forms contain personal data which the interviewees may prefer to remain private, such as name, address, date of birth, phone number, and demographic information (such as gender and ethnicity).  For many people much of this data is already in the public domain.  It does not include bank data or national insurance details.  Nonetheless, SFC and the contractors are very keen to alert all interviewees that this information may become disclosed in a way that they have not authorised.

...despatched eight boxes containing the original paper forms with the data collected in the survey by City Link courier to York Consulting LLP.  York Consulting LLP informed us that three boxes were received.  Despite extensive efforts by Research Resource, City Link, and York Consulting LLP, five boxes containing about 1,500 forms have not been found.

The SFC point out that they have "contacted students individually".

Friday, 25 January 2008

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

Robert Burns, born 249 years ago; and with 11 months left to go until Christmas.

Here's an extract from the Bard:

"Look not alone on youthful prime,
Or manhood's active might;
Man then is useful to his kind,
Supported in his right:
But see him on the edge of life,
With cares and sorrows worn;
Then Age and Want-oh! ill-match'd pair-
Shew man was made to mourn.


Source and prose in full

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Paxman on mental health

There's an heartfelt piece by Jeremy Paxman on last night's Newsnight blog: "Bravery in the face of mental illness":


For some reason, mental ill-health retains an aura, which seems at times to make it almost impossible to talk about it sensibly. Quite why this should be, when so many of us are going to suffer from depression or other illnesses, I don't know.


I suspect it's because we're frightened of it ourselves. How much better it would be if we could all treat it as we treat physical conditions, like 'flu or cancer or a broken arm.
Mr Bondevik's honesty in putting his cards on the table and telling the people of Norway what was going on in his mind and in his life is admirable. But the reaction of Norwegian voters is just as impressive.

They voted him back into office.


Full post and comments

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Humberside Police Seizure

More 'civil liberty' stuff:

A Humberside Police spokeswoman said: "Camera film was seized by Humberside Police following complaints from members of the public about photos being taken in the area of the Prospect Centre.

"Any person who appears to be taking photos in a covert manner should expect to be stopped and spoken to by police to enquire into what their business is.

"Humberside Police would expect other officers within the force to act in the same manner if given a similar situation.

"Following a thorough investigation into complaints made to Humberside Police it has found the police officers acted in a right and proper manner.

"It would be inappropriate to discuss the detail of the complaint as this is a private matter between the complainant and Humberside Police."

Full story at BBC News

Additional quotes from Mr Carroll via

'All the shots were of people. I took shots of people crossing the road, the Big Issue seller, two youths drinking from beer cans, people walking in the street and so on,' said Carroll who told us he was making his first attempt at 'street photography'.
He admits a few of his shots were taken candidly, adding: 'I did not take any photographs of children. I took most of the photographs openly, not trying to disguise the fact that I was photographing.'
Humberside Police seized two films containing the shots Carroll had taken. At the time of writing they had yet to return the films to the photographer.


The Stop/Search record form issued by the police states the reason for the stop as 'obtaining photos of poss [sic] sensitive material', according to a copy of the form supplied to us by the photographer.


'At about 1.45pm, just after entering Boots store I was stopped by two police officers… They asked me to follow them back out to Prospect Street as they wanted to question me about 'the way I had been using my camera'.

There's a copy of the police form on the site.

I used to work in Hull years ago. I can't think of anything "sensitive" there. In point of fact, if it has become a standard British town centre, then the polis can just check the myriads of CCTV footage that will exist on Mr Carroll. Much easier to seize someone's personal possessions and search them to see if they have photos of building security systems (a box on a wall) or times and uniforms of security vans (memory and the Internet).

One wonders if the same would have happened if the photographer had been using digital footage. Obviously real criminals use film. Then send it to be developed and have another chance of it being seen. Or have a lab full of chemicals. This is turning into an episode of "The Sweeney".

Thanks to AT for the heads up on this

Noormal Service

Normal service will be resumed as soon as Zooomr finish moving servers and doing the 2008 update.

Fire in the sky

Shame i've not got the EOS in to work with me as the glow from the sky sets windows afire.

Monday, 21 January 2008

News Technology

Rory Cellan-Jones, tech journo with the BBC News team writes:

I’ve been away from my normal beat for a couple of days, getting involved in coverage of the Heathrow crash landing. But reporting on this story has reminded me of how new technology has changed the lives of journalists. Ten years ago, we would not have had three tools that proved essential over recent days – Google, Youtube, and games software downloaded online.

Full story on how Internet technology aided the recent BBC coverage of the Heathrow crash landing. The discussion afterwards is worth your perusal too.


Wonderful word: earworm

a term for a song that becomes stuck in a person's mind.

Earworm. Dig, dig, dig.

Faces from the Lewis War Memorial

An interesting use of blogs can be found here: Faces from the Lewis War Memorial

I've said many a time that blogs are quite a versatile format. A project that anyone can do, and can be a comfort to many families worldwide as they try to track down their relatives. Without a past, we have no future.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Glenshee Traffic

After leaving Braemar yesterday, I stuck with Plan A, and headed up to Glenshee intending to get some action shots of the ski-ing and 'boarding. Heading south, every car park was packed, people were stopping in the road to look at the herds of deer in the glen. We pushed on through to the ski centre where it was even worse.


With no place to turn back, and just space for a single car to pass, we had to pass by The Cairnwell, and Glas Maol before eventually passing to The Spittal, turning round and passing through the tight squeeze again. Complete chaos with cars left haphazardly in car parks and at the side of the road.


An hour to 90 minutes later, we were back at Braemar, with no photos taken and a hope that the MRT vehicles that I'd seen (about 3) weren't needed. I can't imagine any hikers being so selfish to just abandon their car in the road so that they can go and enjoy themselves. I'll never bother heading that way when it is snowing. This sort of thing isn't for me.


Saturday, 12 January 2008

FMAO Cairngorms


-9'c on car thermostat. Brr. (maplink)


Creag Bhalg, near Mar Lodge 


Towards the Chest of Dee 

Moving to the Linn of Dee, we parked in the NTS car park, and walked a couple of kilometres along the Dee towards the sunlight.


River Dee, west of the Linn of Dee. Maplink 


Morning sunlight on the frozen River Dee



Flowing water, frozen water and melting water



Burn flowing down to the Dee




Frozen puddles and pools


New Alpkit jacket got a workout. I was toasty at -9'c with a Polartec 100 fleece and a "life is good" t-shirt. No wind, so no windchill to contend with. I've got to get more practice in blending layers with different colour balances.