Category Archives: Life

Changes are afoot

Since leaving “Digerati Studio”:http://digeratistudio.com/ in June, I’ve been picking up odd bits of freelance work but not yet really enough to provide a decent income for my family. “I mentioned on Twitter on Friday”:http://twitter.com/t1mmyb/status/2571505623 that I’d had an interview and been offered a job. On Monday, I accepted the offer. So far, I haven’t mentioned what — or where — the job is. Fear not, your wait is over.

I will be working for a medium-sized company called “N4 Solutions”:http://www.n4s.co.uk/, which is based near Cirencester. That’s surprise number one – many of you will know how much I have enjoyed, and advocated, cycling to work in the last nine months. I still think cycling is an excellent solution for in-town transport; it doesn’t work quite so well for 42-mile commutes (though I know distances like that, and longer, are ridden by keener cyclists than I). This does mean, unfortunately, that my carbon footprint is going to increase as we’ll have to buy a second car; try as I might, I haven’t so far been able to convince Kathy that car-free childminding is attainable. I’m a reluctant driver, though, and one who’d rather go cross-country because the route is interesting than get there quicker on the motorway. When I have to drive, it’s with economy and safety, not high speed, in mind.

N4 is a subsidiary of Experian, and makes web-based software for selling financial products, used by banks etc. It’s quite far away from the world of Web 2.0, socialthisthatandtheother etc. but there is quite a lot of Ajax and UI wizardry involved.

Surprise number two relates to technology. Again, many of you will know that I use lots of open source software (and a Mac…) in the web development sphere. Well, my new job is Microsoft all the way: Windows on the desktop and .NET for web development. The thing is, though, that my role is very much focused on client-side code. I’ll be working with the open technology of the Web — HTML, CSS, JavaScript — just as much as before. In fact, I’ll be working with it more than before, as I won’t be digging into .NET code (probably for the best).

Despite the location and the tech, this role is so far up my street that it’s virtually in my front garden: it’s about developing a coherent and consistent best practice with regard to the company’s use of web technology in an accessible and usable way. It sounds like I’ll get to learn about ARIA(Accessible Rich Internet Applications), something I’ve known about for a while but haven’t had a chance to make use of, and there will be a good mix of development and advocacy, which I enjoy very much.

Other jobs came up closer to home (as I was going for interview or after I accepted the role) but this new position will, I hope, give me and the family a bit of financial stability after a turbulent month or so. N4’s location (the middle of nowhere) means that it looks like a great place to work, and there’s a gym on-site so I can make up for not cycling to work.

I guess I’d better start taking notice of the traffic reports on the radio.

+*UPDATE*+ I should mention that this job was sorted out by Stewart Smith of “Novate IT”:http://www.novate-it.co.uk/. I’m not being paid to say this, but they’re a recruitment agency that actually know what they’re doing, which sadly is often not the case.

Horizons

It feels quite weird to be writing this, but I’m leaving “IOP Publishing”:http://publishing.iop.org/ after nearly eight years: my longest-running job by a country mile. I’m going to “Digerati Studio”:http://digeratistudio.com/, a Web agency in Bath; no more train-induced commuter stress for me.

I’m leaving just as the first project I worked on at IOPP — the Magazines Online Subscriptions system — is being retired, which I feel is poetic: a complete project lifecycle.

I’ll be doing similar work to what I’m doing now, but for clients in other firms (rather than elsewhere in the same company) and using different server (PHP) and desktop (Mac) technology. I’ll also get to do some User Experience Architecture work, an area I’ve been wanting to get into for some time.

While this means I won’t be in Bristol anything like as much as before, I still hope to get along to SkillSwaps and other such events. I also plan to be at Horts to meet ex-colleagues after the IOPP Christmas Company Meeting and catch up on the gossip.

As Merlin Mann is fond of saying: “see you in cyberspace…”

September 19th

Off the train; voices in a garden. I look and see barbeque smoke.

Up the hill, more smells of outdoor cookery; further on, it blends with the aroma of the chip shop.

A beautiful reminder of the summer we never had.

dConstruct 2008: part one

Last week I made the annual pilgrimage to Brighton for “dConstruct”:http://2008.dconstruct.org/ – one of the UK’s leading grass-roots Web conferences. Now in its fourth year, the theme of the conference this time was “Designing the social Web”, a topic increasingly of relevance to what we do at IOP Publishing.

“Social Software” is merely software that gets better the more people use it; it’s not necessarily about creating the next “Facebook”:http://www.facebook.com/ or “MySpace”:http://www.myspace.com/, and many (though not all) sites could benefit from social features. While we, as a company, have dabbled in several of the Social Web’s themes (blogs, commenting, registration, social bookmark links etc.) and have oft-stated aims of engaging with communities of interest in the world of Physics, it’s probably fair to say that our efforts have been piecemeal and not informed by any overall Social Web strategy. I could start going off on one about the need for multi-disciplinary Web teams, but I’ll save that for “BathCamp”:http://bathcamp.org/ at the weekend…

In previous years, I’ve come away from the dConstruct conference wanting more depth; 45-minute sessions are necessarily biased towards an overview or taster of any given topic. This year, I booked onto Joshua Porter’s workshop “Social Web Design: from Strategy to Interface” in order to get a bit more substance.

!>http://www.timandkathy.co.uk/journal/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/dsc00005-300×225.jpg! I left Bristol on Wednesday afternoon, taking a slightly odd train journey via Bristol Parkway and Reading. Four hours later, I was in Brighton. A taxi ride took me to the hotel (“Kemp Townhouse”:http://www.kemptownhouse.com/), which was small but perfectly formed; after checking in, I wandered out for food. Knowing that geeks and healthy food were unlikely to be in close proximity over the following days, I chose “Sawadee”:http://www.brightonlife.com/reviews/sawadee-thai-restaurant-100053.html, a Thai restaurant in St. James’ Street where I had a new experience: asking for a table for one. No matter, though; the next two days were bound to give plenty of social interaction so some peace and quiet was welcome, and the food was tasty but relatively healthy: Thai fishcakes followed by pan-fried cod in a sweet-and-sour sauce with rice.

After that, I returned to the hotel to get some rest before the learning-and-networking onslaught to follow.

*To be continued…*

A further reduction in wisdom teeth

*[This was a slightly incoherent ramble which I haven't had time to tidy up. I blame the anaesthetic (for the incoherence) and Life in General (for the lack of time)]*

My lower 8s (bottom wisdom teeth to non-dentists) have been trouble since they first started coming through in 1999 – the gum pockets got infected before the teeth had even emerged, so I had to have a trip to the emergency dentist (in Melksham, as I recall) and some antibiotics.

I’d had my upper wisdom teeth removed in 1998 on the advice of my dentist; although they were at a bit of a strange angle (they pointed outwards, causing me to bite my cheeks – owie!) they were fairly easily removed under local anaesthetic.

I had heard that lower wisdom teeth were not normally so obliging. After an initial recommendation in 2006 to have them removed, I finally got around to seeing the consultant surgeon, a very genial chap by the name of Mr. Lutterloch, in February this year.

My initial appointment for the surgery, in April, had to be postponed as I had a cold but -yesterday- +on May 21st+ the day came at last. Mr. Lutterloch reassured my nerves regarding general anaesthetic and my suggestion of sedation instead (“general anaesthetic is like riding on a train; sedation is like riding on a motorbike”) and I went down to theatre just before 9am. I woke up in the recovery room at about 9.40, feeling quite sleepy yet elated – I kept smiling spontaneously as I realised those pesky teeth had gone.

I was back in my private room by 10.10am and able to use my mobile to text Kathy that I was all fine. An hour later my swabs were taken out and I had scrambled eggs (no toast, though – not soft enough) just before midday. Kathy picked me up at 2pm and that was that.

I’ve got stitches in my gums, which will be in for a couple of weeks, and a cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics to take. On the whole, though, I feel pretty normal. Well, as normal as it gets ;)

+UPDATE: the normal feeling didn’t last. Once the local anaesthetic wore off, I felt pretty rubbish. I’m still in some discomfort now, which may indicate an infection on one side that requires more antibiotics. Repeat to self: “at least the teeth are gone.”+

Pearl Georgina Emily Beadle, 1938-2008

Pearl Beadle, my Mum, passed away peacefully yesterday morning, April 2nd 2008. She was surrounded by the love of her family during the last week. Many of the family were at her bedside when she left this life at 9.40 am.

What can I say? Her passing came as no shock, given the events of the past ten days. Mum suffered a second stroke on Easter Monday, this time affecting the left side of her brain. Combined with the stroke she had suffered to the right side in December 2006, her chances of recovery were low. The doctors gave us three options: all-out treatment; see-how-it-goes treatment; or let her go. We had to ask ourselves “would Mum value the quality of life she would have?” The answer, sadly, was “no” and we opted to let Mum go in as peaceful and a dignified way as possible.

For stroke patients whose relatives have opted in this way, the average time from withdrawal of fluids to death is ten days. The doctors and nursing staff didn’t think that Mum would last past the weekend; in the end she lived on for a week. Despite the damage to her brain, her body was strong and she continued to display the guts and determination that had led her to learn to speak and walk again, albeit only short distances and with the aid of my Dad and a stick, after her first stroke. She was unconscious for much of the time but responded, when awake, with noises and facial movements.

We did as much as we could to make Mum’s last days as comfortable as possible. She isn’t disabled anymore; she has gone to a better place where there is no more crying, no more illness, no more disability, no more sadness and no more death.

Mum is singing now; her beautiful voice is praising God in heaven and will do so for ever.

I love you, Mum. I miss you, but I’ll remember with fondness all the special times we’ve had together, and I’m especially glad you got to meet little Abigail. Thanks for being my Mum.

Upsizing our car

!http://farm1.static.flickr.com/62/196222499_82457835d9_m.jpg!:http://www.flickr.com/photos/cokeeorg/196222499/

“Renault Scenic”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/cokeeorg/196222499/

Originally uploaded by “CokeeOrg”:http://www.flickr.com/people/cokeeorg/

*Our Christmas trip to Basingstoke (hello, glamorous life!) took place before Abigail arrived; nonetheless, the sheer amount of stuff we took with us and brought back (presents, kids’ toys etc.) rather emphasised how small our little “Honda Jazz”:http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/Review.aspx?model=291 is. Its small size but generous interior space is one of the reasons we bought it in the first place and its boot is one of the largest in its class, but now we have two kids we’re starting to consider upsizing to a larger car.*

At first, I wanted to stick with Honda; the “Accord”:http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/Review.aspx?model=307 seemed like a good step up, with plentiful supply in our price range (under £4000). Having driven one on Sunday, though, I soon went off the idea. The example in question was a bit older (2000/W), cheaper (£2750) and more untidy, but the low-down driving position and low ceiling common to most saloons & hatchbacks really put me off the idea of _any_ Accord.

The Jazz, while short, is quite tall. It’s not as tall as some full-on MPVs, but it’s got a nice amount of headroom (less important for me at 5’6″ but Kathy, at 5’10”, appreciates it). Consequently, the move to a regular saloon or hatchback just feels…wrong.

Kathy’s dad suggested looking at the Citroën Xsara Picasso or the Renault Scenic (which Kathy’s uncle has). So I did:

* “Citroën Xsara Picasso [00 on]“:http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/Review.aspx?model=141
* “Renault Scenic [03 on]“:http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/Review.aspx?model=744
* “Renault Scenic [99-03]“:http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/Review.aspx?model=741

The newer Scenic has better reviews than the facelifted original, but is a rarer find in our price range. The older one is more common and is the definitive mini MPV(Multi Purpose Vehicle) but is older technology. Argh! What to decide?

“Big Dave”:http://www.soda-pop.co.uk/ has owned both the Scenic and the Picasso and says he prefers the Picasso overall, but admits the Scenic looks better.

And then, using Parkers’ “also consider” feature, I stumbled upon the Vauxhall Zafira:

* “Vauxhall Zafira [05 on]“:http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/Review.aspx?model=1388
* “Vauxhall Zafira [99-05]“:http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/Review.aspx?model=995

The older model is, again, more plentiful, but I’ve found an 2006/06 1.6 Life in red for under £4000 on “Auto Trader”:http://www.autotrader.co.uk/. Is it too good to be true? I’ve emailed the advertiser; watch this space…

h3. UPDATE

+We bought a 2002 52 reg Citroën Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDI Exclusive in metallic mauve. Phoebe calls it “our purple car” though it’s not _that_ purple.+

Mobile GMail, Twitter and why I’m no better than Crackberry addicts

At the company Christmas meeting/lunch/disco in 2006, I had the pleasure of sitting at the same table as one of our directors. During the meal he checked his email on his Blackberry (nicknamed “Crackberry” due to the addictive nature of anywhere, any time email) several times. I seem to remember telling him, in jest, to “put it away”.

Fast forward to 2007. Three has the best-value data packages of the UK mobile operators: £2.50 per month for 10MB of data, which is plenty for mobile e-mail and the odd bit of Twittering and Mobile Facebooking. You can get “unlimited” (actually 1GB fair use) for £5/month, but that’s overkill for me. It’s the same price as ten train times lookups via the official, paid-for service on Planet Three, so in those terms: why not?

Well, it’s a good job that Three’s 3G coverage is patchy near our house. I do find that I don’t want to miss anything on Twitter, especially, while mobile GMail is a strange mix of regular email, commercial marketing that I have signed up for, and mailing lists. The latter, like Twitter, plug me in to online community to such an extent that I find it hard to resist continuously checking for replies and new conversations.

Perhaps I’m filling a void because I don’t get out much IRL(In Real Life). Hey, having just had another baby, I don’t have the chance to get out much! My evenings are mostly cook (unless Kathy’s done that), eat, clear up, do some housework, rock Abi to sleep and then go to bed – preferably early so I don’t feel the effects of broken nights too much.

Online community is most of the community I get at the moment.

Abigail Emily Beadle




Abigail Emily Beadle

Originally uploaded by t1mmyb

Slightly late posting this (I twittered, Flickrd and emailed on the day), but Abigail Emily Beadle was born at 9.25pm on December 30th, 2007, weighing 7lbs. Mother & baby are mighty fine :)

Phoebe is delighted to have a little sister, and Kathy is delighted not to have had another Caesarean section and the -attendant- +associated+ six weeks’ recovery.

The wheels on the bike go round and round

!http://farm1.static.flickr.com/222/522082375_6a48dc6aae.jpg(Bath 9 miles, Bristol 7 miles)!:http://www.flickr.com/photos/t1mmyb/522082375/

I like cycling, if only because it’s not jogging, an enterprise I find tedious in the extreme. I’d much rather be playing football (that’s _soccer_ for any Americans reading this), but you can’t thusly commute to work.

We had a recent reaquaintance with the world’s favourite two-wheeled human-powered transport/leisure activity whilst on holiday in Cornwall. The weather wasn’t great for most of the week, and it bucketed down with rain just as we arrived in the car park in Wadebridge next to the “Camel Trail”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_Trail; nevertheless we cycled from “Wadebridge”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wadebridge to “Padstow”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padstow (Phoebe resplendant in her new rack-mounted bike seat), had a cream tea and cycled back again. It’s about 5 1/2 miles – about 40 mins gentle cycling – each way. We used our own bikes, transported all the way to Cornwall on Big Dave’s bike rack, using about 25% more petrol as a result of the extra wind resistance.

On return from holiday, I put the bikes in the back garden, locked the back gate and thought “I must lock them up before I go to bed.” On returning to the back garden to do so, I discovered that my lovely dark green “Gary Fisher”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Fisher Aquila had been stolen. Someone had climbed over our 6ft-high fence and lifted it _while we were in the house_.

Our insurance company have been great, though. I had a call from their designated bike supplier today, giving me some “ideas”:http://www.evanscycles.com/product.jsp?style=70591 for “replacements”:http://www.evanscycles.com/product.jsp?style=60624. It turns out it’s £650 of bike that constitutes new-for-old. I’d thought of spending perhaps £200. Still, if it makes the 15-mile-each-way commute easier, I’m all for it.

I cycled one way along the “Bristol and Bath Railway Path”:http://www.bristolbathrailwaypath.org.uk/ today, but boy did it take a while. I left the house at 8.15, arrived at work at 9.30, but by the time I’d showered and changed it was 9.55. It’s cheaper (and more fitness-inducing) to commute like this, but it sure ain’t quicker.