The creaky topstep

We’ve got the worlds most horrible carpet. It’s a persian blend of red, brown and black, and it’s truly offensive to most people’s eyes. Even the cat spends hours trying to rip it up.

After 6 years of living in this house, we are finally going to get rid of it and have the floors sanded and sealed.

It’s funny how you live with things that need fixing for so long just because they are familiar. After a while you don’t even notice them, until you have to apologise for their horrendous offensiveness. Or until you go away for a month and come back to discover just how much more bright and offensive the carpet has become while you were away.

So with persian carpet in mind, I’d like to apologise for the teeny css glitches all over this site. They’ve been there so long, as each new browser is released I keep thinking that I must fix them. And yet I live with them.

Maybe I’ll redo the entire site. Next year. I’ll hire a sander and scrub the code back to the bare boards.

The only worry then is – what if I end up living with bare boards for a few years? 

Only time can bring the answer to that.

This is not a blog

Of course it isn’t – that’s why it’s called the anti blog. Because a blog is supposed to have some kind of regularity of posting. This is definitely not a blog.

But of course, I do have a place where I blog. At first I hesitated to join my personal blog with my professional site, but in the end I decided that as writing is something I hope to capitalise on more on in the future, then it only makes sense to link the two.

And in fact, I’ve just received my first “payment” for some writing I’ve done. It’s very rewarding to be paid for your efforts. In the same way that it’s very frustrating to do commissioned work and then not get paid for it.

I guess it all comes down to motivation. It’s important to have motivation for your work. And sometimes you need to give other people some motivation in order to pay you. I must present a persuasive argument. But in the end, it often comes down to honesty.

This is a vague and confusing little post, I know. But the upshot of this is that I want to leave you with this: Be honest in your dealings with others. Have integrity in your professional conduct. Avoid people who have neither. And if you can’t – and if you don’t find out until afterwards, don’t let them get away with it.

When you have nothing to say…

…it’s usually best to say nothing. But that’s not the way the world seems to work anymore. Every day more and more systems pop up to enable people to share their monosyllabic grunts with each other.
Twitter is my biggest bone of contention. It’s like facebook status without the rest of facebook. And what is the point of that? And what seems even more pointless about twitter is that it doesn’t make any money at all – despite several rounds of funding – it seems to have no future value. And yet it has millions of users. It seems to me that if it people had to pay to use it, then almost no-one would.
If something has value, then people are willing to pay for it. So in social networking, what exactly is valuable? And is social networking as we know it now aptly named? The main systems that are available place all their emphasis on the individual. That’s not really social, now is it. I think that eventually all of these systems will collapse on themselves in a whorl of mindless babble. Something new will emerge from the rubble – something that actually IS social. More on that later.

upgrading the engine

I’ve just upgraded the software that runs this site (it’s moveabletype in case you’re wondering!) and discovered a whole new look to my backend. Which isn’t nearly so eyebrow raising as you think, those of you with dirty minds.
I’ve always like moveabletype for its clean and simple administration area, so for a moment I was totally lost and wondering where all the menus had gone! But after a quick browse around I am really enjoying the new layout and the added extras.
I’ve used moveabletype on quite a few of my clients sites because it gives them a very manageable system that doesn’t drown them in features that they don’t need. And I like the fact that there is NO html code in the templates unless I put it there myself. So unlike joomla and its nested table debarcle (just try and use relational sizes for a td and see what happens in some browsers) i have total control over how the content is displayed.
The learning curve for mt is quite steep IF you’re not already familiar with html and basic markup. But once you are au fait with it, building dynamic sites is a breeze.
I have recently been using drupal for a client, and I have come to the conclusion that either I need to spend another year learning it, OR it should be flushed down the toilet forth with. But I think that my harsh opinion of it is that it’s a system for programmers to play with, not designers. I did find some of the management part of drupal to be very un-intuitive, and a bit “bolt on” in aspect. That could be true – it’s not often that a system get built from the ground up with the end in mind, now is it.
Joomla, on the other hand – is currently in my bad books for upgrading and making me learn a whole new way of building templates. However I think that there is a glimmer of light in the distance. The changes do seem logical and a step forward. I am only annoyed because I have had to learn it very quickly when I needed to upgrade 3 sites in quick succession.
Even though this is an antiblog, I do have a real blog hidden away somewhere. It gets a new entry once a month or less, and an average of half a comment per entry. But looking at the new moveabletype I am almost seduced into the idea that I could blog. Hopefully I will put that idea away quickly. But if I don’t – this system will make a much sexier version of my blog than yuku ever could.

Borked in IE6

Yes, it would appear that I just borked the site in Internet Explorer 6 by editing the style switcher script. So if you try and click the style changing icons on the right and get a runtime error, then you can totally blame me. That means if you don’t like this new style – right now you’re stuck.
I am sure I could find a way around this eventually, but it’s going to stay this way for now. Internet Explorer is the bane of my life when it comes to getting stylesheets working, and now it’s decided it wont play with my scripts either.
I spent a good several hours trying to solve some peekaboo bugs, creeping text bugs and shifting/jumping text bugs with a combination of hasLayout tricks. With the styleswitcher I don’t have the choice of using conditional comments unless they can apply to ALL styles. Why didn’t they create a version of conditional comment that can be used in a stylesheet?
Oh, and the search page is missing the top navigation. I’ll fix that 🙂 Tomorrow.

Holiday? What holiday?

After 6 weeks of rain, wind and cloud, the girls are finally back at school. I did expect a sudden outbreak of sunshine, but it’s still holding off.
That’s something we’ve seen so little of this summer – and last – that I am beginning to wonder why on earth I am still living in this country. Winter is wet and sleety (without decent snow) and summer actually forgets to arrive. Where are the upsides?
Two weeks of normal work/school and then we’re again off for a week. This will be our real vacation. We’ll be in Tuscany for a week with my parents. I have put an advanced request in for sun for this week. As we’ll be in Italy rather than England I am far more hopeful!
I have been working a lot more over the holidays than I expected, including working on some potential government work for a pitch with another agency.
I’ve got a lot to get through in the next two weeks, then after our week off I’ll be taking another week off following surgery. So if you’ve got anything coming up do let me know, but I won’t be free to take on new work until the first week of October.

Clocking off

It’s that time again – school summer holidays. My lifestyle choice means that I am now on 6 weeks holiday in the glorious weather with my glorious children. Mildly paraphrased, I have to struggle for 6 weeks to hold onto my sanity while it alternately boils and storms and the weather does something similar.
That’s almost the truth. Add two days childminding a week to let me take care of business, and it’s not a bad season. So I am not taking on any new work, and that which I am doing will be mostly dealt with on Tuesdays, Thursdays, weekends, and most nights. I feel justified to add a few little curative glasses of shiraz into the mix though. I hope you don’t mind.
I want to find time during this so called holiday to write, as I am letting that slide despite my best intentions. My protagonist has found herself trapped in a storyline cave and the exit is in focus, but the steps that lead to it are unclear. A few days with 6 expresso’s inside me might help. I considered going to my local deli/cafe with the laptop, but that presented two problems. One, the battery lasts for less time than toothbrush timer, and two, the lady proprietor is too chatty.
So that’s me and August. See you in September.

facebook and rambling on

I joined facebook the other day. Finally. Now that it’s old hat, I am still uncool. I am not an early adopter on this one.
Actually, it’s not as bad as I thought. I was under the impression that facebook is another myspace. But when it comes down to it, most of my friends in facebook are people I know in real life. Some of them have their real face as an avatar. Some of them even post up interesting things.
But there is an overload of naff applications – someone turned me into a vampire, and others keep sending me drinks. (If only they were real.) I quite like the “where i’ve been” map, and of course, lolcats is a quality addition, with its exlemplary exlempelary excellent grammar.
I updated my “about me” bit today, and like most things I write, I thought it, I wrote it, and I hit save. I didn’t edit or reread or do any of those things that good writing should be subjected to. It comes out like verbal spew (this is my phrase of the week, and I am GOING to get my money’s worth with it). But actually… I thought it was kinda good. In a fast, summarised sort of way.
And so…
here ’tis.
I was born a long time ago (37 years ago to be not quite that exact). I had a fun packed childhood and grew to adulthood learning a few things along the way.
I first went nightclubbing when I was 17 with carefully doctored ID, and threw up in the toilet after too many kahluas. I am still not quite sure how my pocket money stretched that far.
I was a dag at school. My best friends got a perm and went off with the cool kids, so I joined the chess club. But I never played chess.
The best teacher I ever had was Dr Denise Cole. She died from breast cancer, but she changed a lot of people’s worlds for the better in the time she lived.
I went to university at Newcastle. I am not 100% sure what I learned there, but a lot of it involved popular culture, and some of it included how to drink beer. While I was there I joined the army reserves to piccolo, and spent more time perfecting the art of drinking beer.
After graduating I avoided getting a real job by almost joining the army and playing music full time for a year.
I once got concussion on a bedhead in the navy barracks at randwick. No, I wasn’t doing what you think I was doing.
When the army told me I’d need to join properly, I promptly left and starting working in the design industry. If you can call drawing lawnmower icons with rotring pens for business cards design.
Some time later, I found myself working at the sydney opera house with kylie. We had a fantastic time, and not a lot of work was done. The flock of penguins I saw one night was pretty impressive though. I’d fire me, if I knew what I got up to.
I was offered a job in Auckland, so I turned them down. They promptly offered more money, so I went. This was as good time, since I’d just broken up with a guy for the second time (it’s never a good idea to retread old ground!) and I needed to get far away. It wasn’t very far, but he couldn’t swim very well so it worked.
Later I went to London via Japan. Somehow I ended up staying here. It’s been eleven years now, and I still hate the weather. But I got married, and we bought a house, and we had kids.
Now I spend my days building websites and making posters for the PTA. Today I am makig a paper mache unicorn.
I still dream though.

Fairways

So today was a fun day. I rolled out of bed at 8am, missing a full one hour of my lie in, poured my cappucino into a handy travelling cup replete with lid, cleared out George*, programmed Kenº and met up with a haggard band of mums at Clock House station. Ready for the Fairways shopping extravaganza.
You’ve heard of Bluewater? Well this is nothing like it. Tucked behind an industrial area, with reject trolleys from a variety of supermarkets is Fairways. It’s a cash and carry for small shops that stock gifts and toys. There is a small metal door to enter between abandoned pallets and the trolley cemetary that leads into a warehouse that is several degrees colder than the rest of Britain.
Towering racks of plastic tat meet you as you enter, and most things are in bulk. Some of them have dust on them that has been carbon dated back to 1937. This is the one place were you can find something to satisfy a budget that requires toy prizes worth 5p.
The purpose of this visit is to stock the bulging sacks for Santa’s grotto, populate the pocket money stall, and pad out the lucky dip. You guessed it – christmas fair time. I might add – the 5p toys were NOT for santa’s grotto!
This place is a gold mine. I’ve come home with 2 large but broken boxes of “ello” for a fiver, a projector and a slushi maker. Christmas stocking gifts are pretty much sorted. I am certain to have nightmares about some of the dolls for some years to come however. Fortunately, most of them no longer cried as their batteries died over a decade ago, but the eyes on one of them were so horrifying that I expected it to chase me down the aisle with a small knife.
Anyway, we successfully found prizes and toys for a range of prices and a variety of stalls, stacked them in George and ended up eating McDonalds for lunch at 3.30pm. What a fun day out!
* George = camper van
º Ken = sat nav (with aussie accent!)

Olive groves are everywhere

I didn’t actually expect olive groves to be literally everywhere, but they were. Almost every hillside was covered in huge twiste hunks of trees, the slope cut up into steps with crooked stone wall reinforcements, and black netting rolled up in lines ready and waiting for shaking time. The trees themselves are fascinating – they look as if the trunks are wound together by many smaller trunks that merge over time, leaving a lattice of holes. Like crochet in wood if you could effect such a thing.
There were no olives on them, which is why I didn’t first realise what they were. But after we wandered about some and dicovered a few wizened leftovers hiding in the foliage, we were in no doubt.
We stumbled about looking for a shrine to which the only marker was a single brown arrow until we decided to give up and return to our bikes. At that point we met the owner of the land we were treading all over. He was from Athens and visiting his land to effect some maintenance and have a holiday.
Overall, it was a wonderful five days – five days that I spent equally missing my daughters as enjoying the time away from them!
The point of this post is of course to mention that I am back, and will return emails and calls!

Back and off again.

We’re back in old blighty (have been for a while now) and I am thinking that we should have stayed in Sydney. Winter would have been more pleasant than this summer. Still, we’ve had a few sunny days. It’s more than you can expect in England.
So being a summer person, I’ve decided to take some time off again – this time sans children for a few days, then with the children after that. We’ll be off to corfu for a few days while the in-laws take care of the girls and the house, then off camping with the girls after that.
I won’t be contactable unless it’s an emergency, and will deal with emails when we return.

yuku

One of my many projects is a long term one with a company called ezboard. ezboard is a hosted messageboard system. With one account, you can join and participate in any number of message boards. But ezboard has come to the end of its life, and they are creating a new product to replace it, called yuku.
I have been involved in yuku in various ways, mostly making skins and templates, speccing up features, checking and developing css and html, bug testing and ocassionally helping people out with their own codes, etc.
yuku went beta at the end of last year, and was targetted for release at the end of this year. There have been many changes along the way, but overall it’s looking very exciting, with a lot of new features building on the old ezboard set. They have updated user profiles to be a far more customisable and interactive feature, and are still working on the domain engines for each message board. There is manageable image hosting, plus integrating with photobucket. All areas have rss and email subscription links, and there are tie ins with many social bookmark sites, such as del.icio.us and digg – plus another 29 or so others. (I had no idea there were so many!)
There is a new code release scheduled for this week, and one of the changes is a lot overhauling of the user navigation. While the eventual design has changed from my original ideas, the overall layout is true. I am looking forward to seeing it go live.
One of the really interesting things about yuku is the way it’s being put together. A major complaint by some people who are used to ezboard is that it’s different, and they don’t like it. But I don’t think that just because everyone else does things in a certain way that we need to too. New users to the system would probably find yuku far more user friendly than any other bulletin board system.
ezboard is also taking advantage of web 2.0 technology, with drag and drop layout of profiles and updating on the fly for domain (board) management.
There are a lot of major components yet to come, but if you want to be part of the beta testing, and get a sneak preview, then have a look.
visit yuku now | visit the lobby at yuku now

clearing the backlog

Having lots of work is always a good thing, but sometimes it also means that non essential jobs keep getting dropped to the bottom of the pile. Jobs like… updating my portfolio. So here’s the plan. I’ll add two new projects every week until I am up to date. Having already added the first two, that’s a small step!
It’s a slightly momentous time for me this month too, my firstborn is starting school – entering reception class (any other country, and that would be called kingergarten, but this is England). Seeing her in that baggy school uniform, skinny little legs ending in white sox and shiny shoes makes her look tiny. Molly is looking forward to it, and so am I. I bet we both end up in tears!

Spring cleaning

One of the best things about living in England is spring. It’s one of a small handful of wonderful natural miracles. Whereas in Australia my favourite season was always autumn, over here that’s a wet and and miserable season. But spring is truly wonderful. After a grey and sodden winter to see the masses of different bulbs bursting up from underground in kaleidoscpic carpets is such a blues buster.
Right now we’re in Feburary – the self confessed worst month of the year here. Which is awful for me, being an Aquarian. I long to get back to the other side of the globe where my birth month is not the dregs of the year!
But in my garden the snowdrops are blooming resolutely, and we are having bright sunny cold days. It’s almost pleasant!
The point of this post however, is to leak some news! We are now planning to move back to Sydney. After ten long years here, I am finally going to get some warmth back into the old bones! The next few months will be a flurry of action we hope.
In terms of my work however, nothing will change. Haul the trusty G5 overseas (do you think they’ll accept it as hand luggage??) and plug it in. Isn’t the virtual world wonderful?
I am thinking of getting a skype phone number for this purpose, so that I can retain a london phone number for clients over here and in Europe. Of course you can always call me by my skype name if you have skype too.
The move is tentatively planned for August. Things may change, although I hope they don’t.
Anyway, stay tuned, or contact me if you have any questions!

back up over

I presume it’s ok for me to call the northern hemisphere “up over”? Having just come home from being down under? I could start a new craze with that.
I didn’t announce that we’d gone on holiday for a month prior to doing so (imagine the really high tech burglers, searching for empty homes to burgle via the interweb, eh?). But we spent a lovely month in the warm sunshine with my parents. The girls had a fantastic time, Santa managed to find his way there and even climb down a chimney. Or maybe it was an exhaust fan. Either way we didn’t really want to come home to London’s cold miserable winter. But we did.
Have you ever spent 23 hours on a plane with two children under 5? Pass the valium please. I believe you can get child valium, that in itself is a the scariest concept going.
So it’s back to work *sigh* and back to sleet and rain. But if you, like me, enjoy the warmer climes, then check out the latest project I’ve completed – paintcrete.co.uk. A bit of mediteranean sunshine can’t hurt!

Joomla templates

If you know anything about Mambo, you’ll know that the core developers that created it have branched off from the main body of Mambo, due mostly to political reasons, and are now working on “Joomla” instead of Mambo.
For the most part, I think that of the two, Joomla will be the one to keep up with, and so I have upgraded my own test installations to run Joomla. Most components and plug ins will still run in both, and are likely to also be upgraded to work with Joomla.
But this isn’t the point I am wanting to make, it’s all a bit by the bye! I have been doing increasing work with both Mamob and Joomla templates, both as installation and as design. One of the most cohesive sites that I have done is for cbp-uk which also involved setting up an eCommerce section of the site.
One of the things I like about Joomla is the ease of templating. It’s hugely versatile, and means that a site can be run by Joomla and yet still be totally unique. While there are hundreds of Joomla (and Mambo) sites out there that have used the default templates, or popular public templates, it’s not necessary for anyone to even realise that Joomla is the site’s engine, or even that there is a CMS system behind it.
In case you’re wondering, this site is not run on Joomla. It’s not a hugely dynamic site in terms of interaction and community. Joomla could handle it very well indeed, even though it’s small, but I’ve used Moveabletype for a long time now, and that’s another CMS that I truly love. Moveabletype is a glorified blogger, but it’s very powerful, versatile, and above all, a very high standard!

updates

I’ve finished mucking around with it, although once again Internet Explorer proved to be the bane of my life. If only they’d bring it up to standard! I’ve added a couple of things, and fixed a couple of viewing errors.
I am currently working on a new site using Mambo – or as it’s now called, Joomla. I have got the perfect layout – a combination of fluidity with fixed placement. I’ll put it up once it’s finished of course. No sneak previews!