Life is sometimes best shown in the obscure

Happenstance to illuminate a vernacular with archaic lexification is so quaint

(IN A SUFFERABLY ENGLISH MANNER, OF COURSE)

I am perceived as a wordmonger

For the phlegmatic, autocratic, I hunger

In as mellifluous tone

Onwards I drone

Because I don't get any younger

I can even be tiresomely described as a verbiator, which sounds like a Prodigy song:

I'm a verbiator, twisted lexicator, yeah

I'm a word-addicted, twisted educator

lexicate the verbiator, twisted verbiator

"Don'na du Anglish, as wurds as bad fur us all as it twists ur littal mindz rund and rund…"

Good morning one and all and welcome to the cheap seats where you have the wet and wild view of a man so lacking of a coherent thought it is like watching an epileptic disphasic during an acid flashback. So, and anyway, what's it all about Alfie? Not a lot really, in a weird mood and just wanted to jot some stuff that randomly floated into my mind.

Insane in the mainframe, a written spew of dialogue and paraphrase that is vaguely edited or maybe that should be remotely edited by a bloke called Bob from the little town of Swiftpiddle-on-the-Marsh.

"I clear my mind of the random crap that is floating below the level of consciousness so that I can amuse you for a brief moment, a passing minute of your time."

"Really?"

"Yes, for there is a belief that if we empty the consciousness of clutter we can access the pure reasoning that floats like a three week dead sturgeon in the depths of our subconscious."

"Float in the depths? Really, that's a nice mixture of imagery."

"I'm glad you think so."

"So, are these icy-depths?"

"No, I wouldn't have thought so, icy depths cannot quite describe the bleak blackness of inner space one achieves in the vast reaches of the abyss."

-Finis-

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Hubrisitation on your moribundity…

Hubrisitation on your moribundity

or…

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I'm the CEO of an SME

You open the door and step through the window of reality into a land where the trees grow down and the sun sets like a jelly in a fridge. At last you see the value in forms and regulations, of the minutiae of governmental organisations and their repetitive acquisition of information. You clap at the endless stream of brown envelopes with franked stamps and paper clips. No, you're not on drugs nor have you sustained a bump to the head you have in fact entered…"The Managerial Zone".


do.do.doo..do….do.do.doo..do

Internet startups, software consultancies, software houses, yada…yada… all usually contain the same set of internal dynamics. A small group of people who decide (foolishly, those poor deluded children) that they can make a 'go of things' outside of the constraints of larger organisations or corporate strictures. Often they are almost entirely a technical team, there will be the, occasionally confusing, mix of talents and abilities and one of them will be given the role of manager. Like me, that's you.

So what is the principal problem that you'll face?

Is it…getting people to obey your instructions…

No. they will either do it or not do it dependent on circumstance and nature of the person asked, so don't fight battles for your right to rule.

Or…making the workers part of a team…

If you have to 'make' someone part of a team then there is a fundamental problem. Teams, relationships and groups form by themselves in human interaction* so you cannot force someone to be part of one, or force others in an existing team or group to accept them (*A cheap term and I know there is a lot of learned manner and distinct forces for relationships in this, but this is not going to turn into a discussion on the nature/nurture aspects of social and cultural experiences or on human need for extended family/familial interaction).

You can encourage people to work together, and you can try to make it a level playing field with methods for discussion of team focus, a neutrality of position when it comes to complaints and compliments and etc. (to be discussed later perhaps). You can appoint a team leader, or group co-coordinator or any other titled position to provide a core direction. But, you cannot force people to like it, or to participate freely unless you allow them a little more freedom. So in real terms you don't really make teams, you put people together and add some salt, place them in a hot pan of sizzling butter and simmer until they burn. Though occasionally they caramelize and you have a great tasting dish.

Perhaps…achieving the company goals….

ROFLMAO…Seriously, I will cover this elsewhere. Not only is it a different discussion, but it is a pointless one as no-one truly has the answer to it. Those that do are selling you something 😛

Okay before I take too long I will tell you. it is getting someone's respect. As it says in the alternative title. So how do you do that?

Simple. You don't. They give you their respect. You earn it by being good at what a manager really does.

A lot of people see their manager as the pointless b*stard in the suit, who turns up when he feels like it and sends irritating messages about tardiness and focus. A person who decides to have group forming and team-building days doing something he would like to do without asking his staff. They often discuss people freely, yet prohibit that type of communication unless they started it. they are in fact SFFA.

Small businesses are different to this as there is often a lot of work for a manager as well. The person appointed as manager will often be expected to be part of the work teams and to answer all the irritating paperwork and do the unimportant stuff like banking, accountancy, payroll, the mediocre stuff that stops you getting sued, imprisoned or going bankrupt. They also have to interact with the clients. It is a job with 24/7 stress and little fiscal reward in the first few years. It is a huge challenge and many people think this gains them respect when they do this, and they do it on time and without 'too much' complaint.

Well, that does gain you some respect, but it isn't what a manager (or mangler as a child recently called me) really does to gain true respect.

So what does?

The answer is easy… a manager supports his staff.

He doesn't just support them by listening to their complaints, helping them if they have problems, defending their work or their rights, and a host of other obvious examples that are the core of being a manager. He also supports them in small ways.

Recently we moved office. Since we are a small company that involved me doing the majority of the moving of the office. I could have ordered the rest of the staff to help and they may have grudgingly come, or they may have been willing, or they might have told me to stick my head in a bucket of badger's sick, we're an easy going gaggle of gits, that can happen. As it was, they were busy, so I (with the help of part-time staff and friends) moved the office and did the round of paperwork and other minutiae (and there is a lot of it) involved in doing this.

During the move I bought a new kettle/fridge/toaster/coffee machine for the office (as requested when we discussed what we needed collectively). but, I also bought something else, a small thing really. I put a new coffee mug on each person's desk, that I chose to fit the staff member. A nothing thing really, I was in a shop that sold kitchen things getting the paraphernalia that accompanies said electrical items, and I thought it would be a nice gift for the new office.

This earned me kudos. In fact it probably bounced up my karma with my staff more than paying them on time does.

Why?

Simple really. it wasn't needed, it wasn't asked for, and it wasn't expected. But it shows that I think about my staff as people not as part of a company, or a team, or a project, or a goal. But as living and breathing individuals that I should invest in as much as I do a new computer or a profitable client.

I also tend to be in the office more than the other staff. Being a company where the only equipment you truly need is a computer and a net connection, my staff have the freedom to work from wherever they wish. Also we have a number of clients in different time zones so we work odd hours sometimes. This isn't a problem but it means that the office can be empty for a few days and then full. I always make sure to buy coffee, biscuits, tea, and to empty the bins so that they can come into the office at any time of the day or night and work without needing to face those minor problems. Trust me on this, you will earn more love from a staff member who needs to snack at 4 a.m. in the morning with no nearby convenience stores if you leave biscuits in the office than if you take them paintballing on a team-building exercise.

Not that you shouldn't also do the team-building 'thang' as that sounds fun as well. But it is the constant little things you do that mean more to your staff, and it is when they miss you when you're not there and support you without question in return, that says how much you are needed and respected.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, know you know what it means to me…

A little background history for shits and giggles…

I am a literature graduate who also studied education and linguistics as part of my joint honours, I worked as a typesetter (editorial staff) and designer in a publishing house for many years before learning flash, html and css to do the SB website (and to experience the pain of coding for different browsers). My technical knowledge then extends to a good background in science fiction and the adherence to standards in mark-up languages, with a fine grounding in stylesheets. Not a heavyweight I'll grant you, but I have learned a great deal about the way languages and frameworks join together, templates and user interfaces so I am not entirely unnecessary in the technical work as I do a lot of work on the client-side of the frameworks.

My business partner and I decided to take the plunge and form a company in 2005 when we realised we worked well together and that he could handle the technical direction we wanted to follow and I was capable of the business side (my half has yet to be proved ;P ).

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Stephie and Mike’s wedding Day 5th may 2007

One of my oldest (in that I have known her for eons though she remains terminaly youthful while I squander the passing moments in the pursuit of my dotage) and most adorable friends, Stephie, was married today to the quite dandiferous Michael. (So you must be wondering about that new word, so wonder, I like it, dandiferous sounds like a term to apply to Danby Minsk who is of course my phantom child).

They make a lovely couple.

I think, even through my current beer haze denies any serious cogitation, that I am the first person to blog their union and to post piccies, and here they are. My best wishes…lovely couple…interesting bouquet…yada yada, I already said it to them I don't need to repeat it here, on with the images.

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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.

It is important to draw allusion to the fact that like a mass-mining project their site is engineered, we do not have 'off the shelf' solutions for mines, bridges, motorway projects, etc. Any large and complex undertaking requires planning and construction of many elements individually, even if those elements are shared with other constructions of the same type. Internet sites and applications are no different to these undertakings.

At this point my mind has wandered to the many CMS systems and design-a-site-php-alike stuff that is pouring out atm and I would like to distinguish that what I discussed above was not the mass low-level estate housing that these programs cater to (albeit in some cases extraordinarily well and in others truly badly). I was in fact discussing rather grander undertakings and before I wander to the intracacy of design and magnifiscence of soul or ascendents used in their constructions I will leave it here.

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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 http://www.inkscape.org.

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

001


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.

002


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.

003


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.

004

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

005

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.

006


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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