Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Well, the Christmas decorations are back in their boxes and up in the attic for another year. So, that’s it for 2012, but these two will be back next Christmas as a reminder of what a year it was.

So I guess this is about as late as a review of 2012 can be posted, right? Okay, some lists and photos coming up, no great insights. If I had any of them I’d have posted them at the relevant time.

The You-Know-What Games

I started work at Visit London back in April 2005, so I’d been there just three months when we won the 2012 Olympics. The next seven years were all building up to that event. Was it worth it?

Yes. I was lucky in the ballot of tickets and got two lots of Athletics tickets – morning sessions, “just” heats, but I got to see both Jessica Ennis and Mo Farrah in action.

More photos of my London 2012


After the games were over Lettice and I had a holiday in Bath – I’ve never been before. Loved it – the Roman Baths, loved the American Museum, loved the Postal Museum, everything.

More photos of Bath


For books, see the last post. Museums and art, apart from all the stuff in Bath, I went to Mapping the Underground at the London Transport Museum, Bronze at the Royal Academy and the Crossrail archaeology exhibition.


I managed five trips to the cinema, more than in the last few years. The Iron Lady, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Prometheus, Avengers and Skyfall. They are all films that reinvent icons. Is that a theme at the moment?


I also manged six trips to the theatre. Noises Off, The Ladykillers, One Man, Two Guvnors, Timon of Athens, Hedda Gabler and Chrous of Disapproval.


Adam Ant at the Fairfield halls! Also saw Ben, Howie, et al at the Surya; and The Life and Death at the Cavendish Arms – first time I’ve actually seen Justin play live in the ten years I’ve known him.

And the rest

I joined the 21st century and bought a smart phone. After seeing me get very lopsided carying my old SLR around Bath, Lettice bought me a new camera for Christmas. And as I replaced my PC last Christmas, I’ve had a near complete technological upgrade this year. Still no jetpack though.

For my birthday, Lettice took me to East London – Mudchute City Farm, the new cable car across the Thames, and treasure house that is the Who Shop. I love this crazy city where you have a World War II anti-aircraft gun in the middle of a farm, within sight of the towers of high finance.

Well, come on 2013. So far you’ve been full of stress, germs and broken boilers. Let’s see if you can do better?

'Out of this World' at the British Library

Last Thursday evening I attended the launch of the Out of this World science fiction exhibition at the British Library. I’ve blogged about the exhibition for work.

The launch night was fun in a peculiarly geeky way as I got to play spot the author/critic/BNF. Some people (Kim Newman to give the obvious example) are easy to spot but far too many fall into the general category of middle aged men with greying beards. In fact I could easily have been looking at the crowd at Salute or @media instead.

At the same time that I was listening to China Miéville give a speech to open the show, Lettice was at a different exhibition launch with Cilla Black and Ringo Star. There’s probably something profound in that contrast but I’m really not sure what.

As a follow-up to Desert Island Discs, the team at work have been doing our top ten films, and this week was my turn. The only condition was that one of the ten had to be set in London. Once again, I’ll be buggered if I’m writing all this lot up and not turning it into a blog post.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

I remember watching this, aged about 8, sitting on the floor at school during one of our headmaster’s film nights. As most people know, it’s Shakespeare’s Tempest mixed with a bit of Freud and set in outer space. The special effects contain some real “how did they do that back then?” moments. And notice that the starship is a flying saucer and the crew are all men – that was the status quo in almost all science fiction back then and would be for another ten years, until Star Trek rewrote the rules. The “sequel” is also well worth seeing 😉

Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

My London film. Well the first half is set in 22nd century London (that looks awfully like 1960s London).
This is the second of the two Peter Cushing Doctor Who films, big(-ish) budget, technicolour, remakes of the first two Dalek TV stories. To be honest I prefer the TV version – the scenes of Daleks patrolling an abandoned London are much more atmospheric in B&W. But this film is more important because this was repeated on telly almost every summer holiday from the mid-70s onwards so several generations of Doctor Who fans grew up with this version in their childhood memories. So much so, that at least one later TV episode references events as they took place in the film, not the original.

The Italian Job (1969)

(Also got some London bits) I haven’t seen the remake. Why would I want to?

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

Just a private enterprise operation.

The Sting (1973)

Probably the best confidence trick movie ever. And parts of it are ripped off by almost every episode of Hustle.

Star Wars (1977)

I am a member of the Star Wars generation. This film came out at the exact moment in my childhood for me to be hooked. And that’s why we have the original here, not the “more grown-up” The Empire Strikes Back. This was when George Lucas knew how to have fun, before CGI, before the “expanded universe”, before we all became cynical.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

There have been 11 Star Trek movies to date. Some of them are rubbish; some of them are good fun; two of them are really quite splendid. This is the film that saved Star Trek. After the worthy but dull and expensive Star Trek The (Slow) Motion Picture, this is the film that remembered that Trek should be fun and brash and really over acted. This is the film that gave us some of the finest Shatnerisms. (Including, of course, Khaaaaaan! )

Aliens (1986)

I think that the Special Edition of this was the first film I owned on video tape. An incredibly influential film – twenty years later and films, comics, computer games are still playing with variations of the future-war look created here. “I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

The Usual Suspects (1995)

This was from a period when I was going to the cinema a lot and seeing a lot films that have really stuck in my mind (Unforgiven, Apollo 13, Once Were Warriors, Quiz Show, Strange Days, Ed Wood) but this one stands out. Repeated viewings are about spotting clues and inconsistencies but if you saw it first without any spoilers, watching the story unfold without knowing how what came next was something special.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

(Also got some London bits) Best British film of the decade? If you grew up in the home counties, where winning village of the year was a big deal, then parts of this film are worryingly accurate…


At the start of the year I was working Wicked Web in Clerkenwell, living in West Norwood and had been going out with for six months. We went on holiday to Boston and Tennessee. WW moved office to Old Street in the spring. I went to Las Vegas for Andy’s stag weekend.


I took Lettice to Budapest for her birthday. WW started laying staff off towards the end of the year.


WW went into liquidation and hence I was made redundant. I became self-employed and started freelancing for many ex-WW clients. Went to the south of France with Lettice’s family – first time I’d ever seen the Mediterranean.


I spent the first part of the year working on a site for the BBC. Towards the end of the year I started doing contract work via an agency which meant that I got a large refund from the tax man, eventually. I went on a falconry day and flew a Harris Hawk. I asked Lettice to marry me.


I started this blog and spent several months working for the Home Office.


I gave up freelancing and started work at Visit London. I started cross posting this blog to LiveJournal and joined LibraryThing and Last.FM. I moved house to larger flat, ten minutes down the road from the old one, and Lettice moved in. We got married and went on honeymoon in Canada. 🙂


I learnt XSLT. 🙁 Lettice also started to work at VL. I joined Flickr


Relaunched with a new CMS, clocking up a stupid number of days off in lieu in the process. I did jury duty. I joined Facebook. We went to Dublin and Amsterdam.


We went to Venice. I learnt JSP and jQuery. I joined Twitter


We went to Barcelona and tried to buy a house. I grew a moustache for charity.

Part 1 of a few.

It seems that everyone has started talking about HTML5. I’ve recently converted (still a work in progress) to HTML5 (ditto) and built a microsite at work in the language.

So, what parts of the brave new world am I embracing?

The new doctype

<!DOCTYPE html>, well that will save a few bytes per page. I’ve never tried to type a doctype from memory before, I’ve always cut and pasted from another project or from an authoritative source, but now I might just type it, saving a few seconds. I can’t help feeling that the lack of versioning information is a making a problem for the future (and let’s not get into the related area of all the things that HTML doctypes do/mean in comparison with what SGML or XML doctypes are meant to mean…).

The new character encoding

<meta charset="utf-8" />, again that will save a few bytes on those pages where I bother to include a meta tag rather than just trusting to the HTTP header (and I know why the belt and braces approach is useful, so long as they both tell the same story).

The new block level elements

<section>, <article>, <header>, <footer>, <aside> and <nav>. These are rather cool. Not immediataly earth shaking but they make code cleaner and debugging easier – less often will I be staring at </div></div></div></div> and wondering whether my current problem is caused by having too few or too many closing div tags.

The new input types

number, tel, email, url are already being used in several forms on and it makes me smile ‘cos me and a handful of other Opera users get to see the benefit right now. I think these will be my favourite part of the new spec for some time to come.

There’s a lot more to HTML5. This isn’t meant to be a tutorial, just some personal observations and use cases. I’ll try to delve a bit deeper into how I’m using these pieces of code and why I’m using these but not others in future posts.

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November has arrived accompanied by wind and rain and cold (and indeed a cold). How to spend the month?

Well mostly Lettice and I will be spending it buying a house. Or trying to. The other day we took a tame civil engineer to have a look round the place we’re hoping to buy (in a sort of “look for the massive faults before paying a surveyor” kind of way) and he could only see one potential problem. Fingers crossed that it isn’t.

Like last year, I’ll be taking part in NaBloPoMo as a form of half-hearted solidarity with the people who are attempting NoNoWriMo.

And I’ll be growing a moustache. Some banter in the office on Friday has somehow led to me agreeing at the last minute to take part in Movember. Now, despite having a silly name and being an Australian import, this is a very good cause so please make a donation. I promise to only post very occasional photos of the mo’s progress.

Finally I’ll be hiding from the bad weather and watching telly, not least Doctor Who which is back for a special on the 15th.


At work, we’ve been doing Desert Island Discs and this week is my turn. I’ll be buggered if I’m writing all this lot up and not turning it into a blog post.

I win. No seriously, I win this game because I have had a theme tune written for me. Well, technically it was written for my blog, oh okay, it was inspired by the name of my blog. What? This isn’t a contest and I can’t win? Oh. Sorry.

According to my mother my first musical experience was dancing (or being danced, as I was baby at the time) round the room to T Rex. Was I too young to be influenced by this? Or did it somehow generate an interest in dinosaurs rather than glam rock? Lucky escape.

Adam and the Ants – Stand and Deliver

I was torn between a classic Ants track or something from his later albums. In the end memories of Saturday morning’s spent watching this video on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop won the day (but if you’ve only heard his old material check out the 1995 album “Wonderful”).

Drill Queen – Born Depressed

Justin is an information architect with whom I worked on several projects; he also played guitar for Drill Queen.

Traveling Wilburys – Tweeter and the Monkey Man

Just about the only bits of vinyl from my dad’s music collection that I copied to tape, and one of the few bands that Lettice and I both love. It looks like the record label have been at YouTube so we’re lucky to find this animation:

Moxy Früvous – My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors

Moxy Früvous were a cool, funny, somewhat cheesey Canadian band who I was introduced to via two friends at university. If you saw the groaning bookshelves in our flat you’d know why this song always makes me smile.

Cerys Matthews – Oxygen

I can’t sing. I really can’t sing. Neither can my brother, though as churchgoer he makes up with gusto for what he lacks in aptitude. Clearly we got our singing genes from the English or Swedish parts of our family not the Welsh.

Pulp – Mis-shapes

The end of the summer of 1995. On the news it’s Blur vs Oasis. But, before Blair, there was a much better third way.

Aziza Mustafa Zadeh – Ay Dilber
Stiff Little Fingers – Tin Soldiers

Hands up who wanted (or even expected) to hear some Azerbaijani Jazz today? Well, you’re out of luck as I can’t find it anywhere on the web. So have some classic punk instead.

Tanita Tikaram – And I Think Of You

The reason I’m here. Sort of. I created my first home page in 1995 (personal home pages, remember them? Like Facebook profiles but you had to do all the work yourself) and wanted to do a bit more. So looking around the nascent web for the various artists I liked I spotted that Tanita didn’t have any fan pages dedicated to her. The resulting site helped to get me my first job at a web design agency.


Assuming I’m going to be here for a while then I want something fairly long. An old favourite or something I’ve never gotten around to? I think I’ll go for the latter and take Peter Ackroyd’s London: The Biography to remind myself of home.

Luxury Item

A brewing kit. Let’s see which of the fruit on the island makes the best booze.

Hey kids, the latest craze is to stack your (toy) animals. Well it keeps us off the streets…

@media 2008

Better late than never, what did I make of @media last week?

  • Number of talks that included LOL Cats: 1½
  • Number of talks that included Rick Rolling: 2
  • Number of talks that included comedy graphs: 2
  • Number of talks that included mention of Twitter being down all the time: I lost count, but at least 4

There are a few technical subjects (HTML 5, WAI ARIA, jQuery) that I hope to post more about later so here are a few impressions of each session:

Jeffrey Veen included some of my favourite charts in his talk (I have favourite charts/graphs/maps – what do you mean that you don’t?). Indi Young made me think that every single project I’d ever worked on had been poorly planned. Drew McLellan says “everyone hates their CMS” and he’s right. According to Stuart Langridge the fact that we use 410 responses on puts us in a very elite group. Nate Koechley explained why what I do is really very important. Richard Ishida baffled the audience with Unicode.

Good fun all round, roll on 2009.

Saw The Lord of the Rings musical courtesy of work and the producers. It’s not really fair to call it a musical as it barely contains more songs than the books do, though the fight scenes are superbly choreographed to music. The producers prefer the term ‘spectacle’ and it fits that label very well. The design element is superb – Black Riders, Ents, Shelob, the Balrog are all achieved on stage in innovative but effective ways that you probably wouldn’t imagine. The use of crutches and prosthetics to distinguish the orcs may not be very politically correct but it does convey the twisted and deformed nature of their creation.

It’s quite long but still has to compress the story somewhat. The first act follows the first book reasonably closely (no Tom Bombardil, though he does get namechecked at the end, no Barrow Wights, no Glorfindel, and the Nazgul attacks on the Prancing Pony and Weathertop are combined), but after the interval things start to diverge rather more. I was starting to get suspicious when Boromir kept on talking about “The Kingdom of Men” rather than Gondor and it turned out that they had indeed combined Rohan and Gondor – and hence Theoden and Denethor, and Helm’s Deep and Pelennor Fields. Whilst this moved the plot along quite quickly it removed some of the subtlety from the story and a lot of “fan favourite” characters and scenes – no Eomer, no Eowyn, no Faramir, no Palantír, no Wormtongue, no Paths of the Dead, no Witch King. On the plus side they do, briefly, include the Scouring of the Shire.

The performances ranged from the very good to the very camp but even Malcolm Storry as an excellent Gandalf suffers somewhat in comparison with Ian McKellan in the films. In fact the hardest thing to keep in mind when reviewing or just watching the stage version is that it’s an independent adaptation of the book not the film. It aims for a very different feel – more mythic, more rooted in fairy tales, rather than the “realistic” fantasy of the films. In this sense it’s perhaps a little truer to the spirit of Tolkein even if it taks much bigger liberties with his story.