Life is sometimes best shown in the obscure

In search of a Holy Allegory

"Holy metaphorical connundrum Batman!" the Boy Wonder exclaimed exclaimingly, "how can we emphasize the point to the client without yet another mis-appropriated allusion that he doesn't understand?"
"I'm not sure," replied the Caped Crusader pondering the ponderable in a pensive manner. "Though perhaps…"
He spun and confronted the Capracious Client
"it's easy you villanous fiend," intoned the black masked hero, "building your site is like constructing a house. All houses are built differently though many of them use an exact same pattern and the same pre-fabricated parts and construction methods and…"
"Holy wandering allusion," moaned Robin as yet another metaphor rained down like a house on fire.

Okay, so we've all been there. You build a framwework for the client who is prepared to waste months to-ing and fro-ing a design based on just the right shade of vermillion to a bunch of low-life interface skinners (like me); comfortably burning into both the budget and the time to complete the project when you come to the final pieces.
These can be anything from the shipping model to the shopping cart or payment processor, or perhaps it is the packaging types – it doesn't matter. What does matter are the words: "heck, every business like mine has one of these, why can't we buy something 'off the shelf' or adapt an existing one?"
Now you know the answer is really quite simple, and as you mentally put the hammer quietly down and reconstruct the clients mangled body in your thoughts, you smile politely and try to explain it to them.
Except of course you cannot.
Well…. you can….
You can tell them about data models and hooks to code and logic processes and the many other elements that have been custom built and uniquely implemented onto their pretty interface to actually make the site work (using the new way they required), and then you could get a bucket and scoop the melted remains of their brain into it and funnel it back up their nose.
Or you could search, as our eponymous heroes might, for the next best thing, a real-world metaphor or allegorical situation to give them. Except, like many prophets have found, these do not always work. I always liked the parable of the lost sheep myself, go away do wtf you like as long as you return right at the end and say sorry I love you God, you're safe. Hamlet hated that clause. But it does show that a message can be lost as it is not always the allegory that's wrong it is how people interpret it.
So what can we do, well the answer is not a lot really. Search for the best allusions and metaphors we can and share them is about the best I can come up with. So here we go, an I have thought of and seem interesting as to why custom elements have to be used even if there is similar technology to be bought 'off the shelf' so to speak. If I think of more I'll let you know.

The Conveyor/Escalator
Imagine that every site is in fact a gold mine (or diamond/steel whatever you like), now the mines all use the same techniques for digging, the same tools and the same processes for extracting their ore and they all use conveyor belts for transferring that ore and pumps to keep the mine dry. But, they are all different shapes, in different rock and at different depths, so the mining companies do not in fact buy standard conveyors and standard pumps and adapt them, as they will either end up with more than they need which is wasteful or end up with an inadequate solution. Both of these will result in lost profits or dead miners, both of which are disastrous. So mines have custom built conveyors and pumps, the principles are the same but the exact equipment is different.

You can even use a real world example of this to explain why sometimes it takes so long to fix or ammend custom created code by referrring to the refurbishment of the London Underground escalators which took many years as the originals were very old and were custom built to size and purpose.

Some shops and mass produced buildings do have standard fit designs, but these are generally less-favoured both by architects and engineers as they are an unwelcomed compromise in terms of creativity and flexibility of design and construction.

If you start to compromise your entire construction just to use regular repeated elements you will not only build an inadequate item but will suffer from looking like every other of that type in existence and loose the edge of being individual.

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More smiles with my new 50mm Prime

Out and about in lancaster with Ricky, jane and Nathan, one day after getting new lens and still playing fitfully with it. Interesting thing is lots of people seem to smile at it, i wonder if it has a secret smile function!

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Leigh and Matt with the new lens

So these pictures were all taken within an hour of me buying a new 50mm prime lens (Canon 50mm f1.8 for those who wish to know). It needs a good light source (preferably the sun) as the app is best small. Anyway here they are, going to have to practice with it to learn the depth of field.


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Pictures of some friends and places

This is Matt and Dyana and the 'bunnies who put their love into the pot' on Matt's 24th Brithday in 2007

Leigh in the foreground and Nathan in the background, taken on Skerton Bridge, Easter in 2007

Linda and Leigh on Morecambe beach on Palm Sunday 2007

'The Lesser-Spotted Sims' Steph sans camera on the Beach in Morecambe on Palm Sunday 2007

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Design Discussions 01 – Simple light effects in Illustration

The following example is a simple method for creating a lighting effect of a spotlight from a single source hitting a sphere. To do this I have used Inkscape for Mac under the X11 (I also use Inkscape on Linux and Windows). This is not intended to be a guide to using Inkscape or an endorsement, though it is a very useful OSS tool; if you are a designer on a budget or, like me, a fan and supporter of OSS tools please download it and give it a spin, you can find it at

Okay first use the circle tool and draw a sphere like this:


Then create a small oval of pure white (our spot) and place it in the desired location of the spotlight effect (opposite /reflecting where the light source would come from). it is best to create this using the circle tool and then convert it to a path for ease of editing the shape. The effect we have achieved looks as if we have taken a slice from the image.


Now turn the oval into a linear gradient and angle appropriate to the light source with the fade going away from the closest reflective point.


You have just created a simple 3d light effect. You may now wish to play with opacity and transparencies to create a stronger effect of muted lighting.

To further round your effect, you might want to add a darker area (the shadow) under the circle to indicate that the sphere is on a surface or attached to another object that isn't 'bouncing light onto it. This is simply achieved by creating a duplicate of our sphere and filling it with a darker tone of the same colour as a faded circular transparency . Use a reverse so that the centre is not coloured and the gradient comes inwards then increase the distance that you see the gradient from and offset the centre (which has no colour) so that it is behind your light source. Make sure you bring your light (white) spot to the top or to the highest layer.


Or as a shade of grey/black to indicate a much darker shadow.


You can even create glass marble-like effects by running a duplicate spot at the opposite side to the main spot making it appear as if there was an inner reflection, the use of reduced opacity (changing the transparency of the entire object rather than a transparency or gradient) really helps this effect.


The strength of the white light and number of spots can easily be altered to create many more effects. This is a very simple 3D lighting trick. There are many more ways to achieve this to create glassier/more rounded surfaces which I will discuss later.

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Okay on my first post…

Okay on my first post i am going to talk about some of my pictures and upload them here…

This is an image of Ulverston in the Lake District, it was taken in March of 2007.

This next one is Southport Beach in Conneticut, also taken in March 2007 about 4 days after the Ulverston image – looks like the same storm/cold front hit both sides of the Atlantic doesn't it.

Okay one month later and 12 degrees centigrade higher this next image was taken in April (actually about a fortnight later) both are in Lancaster (UK).

This is the view from our front door in the early morning

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