Month: <span>June 2009</span>


The sun was shining when I left work, a great brilliant light, dazzling me as we started to commute home. I’d been in a foul mood shortly before but there is something about that light that lifts my spirits no end. Even sitting in the traffic jam in the one way system in Paisley I was still smiling away to myself.

Looking up at the skies, in the direction of home, there was nothing but grey clouds, big deep dark clouds that threatened rain, and the closer we got the darker they grew until the first few big fat spots started to fall. My smile vanished, my mood returned to grey.

It didn’t turn into more than a quick deluge but it was enough to soak the roads and, driving with the sun behind us, brought a wonderful, beautiful effect of nature into play.

Not only was there a bright and vivid rainbow overhead, but from the spray of each car in front of us a tiny fragment of colour flashed and glinted. It was quite mesmerising and beautiful.

At one point it even looked like the car in front of us had driven THROUGH the end of the rainbow, such was the brilliance of the colours. The smile was soon back on my face as I tried my best to capture this wonderful moment so I could repeat it later, but sometimes words just aren’t enough, nor are photos (Louise did try with her mobile phone though).

It’s a shame, I’d loved to have shared it with you.

So, with a spring in my step I fair bounded through the front door to find that our new bathroom has progressed well. Tiles on the walls, shower installed, units built and installed, new radiator in place and the new counter top basin in place, with the taps installed on the right of the sink.


We asked for the taps to go on the left.


The countertop was the last one in stock, the nearest other place that does them is in Edinburgh, but hey, that’s not my problem but will, no doubt, delay the job. The bathroom certainly won’t be finished tomorrow, and even Saturday might be pushing it.


Still, that rainbow was really something.

Life Photos

Home last night to view the latest bathroom work and we now have gyproc’d walls, floorboards and a bath. A great big, deep, long, WHITE, bath with centre mounted taps.

We also have a very dusty cat.

Whilst part of me knows that cliches are such because they are, usually, true, there is no doubting the fact that curiosity is very much in the nature of a cat. I think he’s explored every single inch of the stripped out bathroom that he can reach, including clambering up onto the windowsill to stick his head up the gap where the pipe work disappears into the loft and if he’d been able to I’ve no doubt he’d have clambered up in there.

He’s obviously a little stressed too with men in the house all day, thumping and crashing about, not to mention all the new smells and that big climbing frame that is currently in the hall (the stack of boxes containing tiles, sinks and other bathroom parts).

Oll-E does two things when he’s a bit stressed, he sleeps a lot and becomes a right wee sook *.

Whilst most nights he’ll sleep, well anywhere he wants really, including the occasionally venture onto the foot of the bed, last night found me lying on my side with a small black furry creature, purring loudly enough to wake the dead (but not Louise) curled up in the gap between my stomach and the edge of the bed.

Which is very cute but makes rolling over a tad tricky!

Cat Life

Helter Skelter

When I get to the bottom
I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and turn
and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again!!!!

Ever get that feeling that you’ve been here before?

I write this blog post with haste as I’m halfway through the penultimate week of a particularly arduous project. Not only are we releasing a new version of the product, but we are completing the first major stage of our move to Author-it.

Overall the migration has been pretty painless. There are still some Word templates issues to work around and getting to grips with Variants has still to be tackled, but overall we are pretty happy with our choice. The only major gripe we have is partly our (ok, MY) own fault, and it’s here that I’ll offer the most valuable tip I can.

If you are migrating legacy content to Author-it (we were moving from Structured FrameMaker), make sure you thoroughly test and check the import settings. Time constraints had me rush this stage and we ended up paying for it, spending far too long cleaning up rogue topics than we had planned. Every cloud has a silver lining though, and it does mean that the documentation is now far more consistently written and styled than it had been. However, going through some 5000 odd topics by hand wasn’t the greatest use of our time!

Soon we will be looking to how we can leverage the output to provide better access to information, feeding into the developer community website we have already built, and improving how we deliver information alongwith our product set.

For the former we have taken some inspiration from the presentation by Rachel Potts and Brian Harris (Red Gate Software) at last years UA Conference, titled Delivering Help in a Support Portal. For our implementation the Publications team will take the lead, and it’ll be interesting to see where it takes us. Web 2.0, anyone?

We will also be looking to provide better online help by introducing Keystone Topics, as suggested by Matthew Ellison. Author-it should make these topics, which are the first topics the user lands on when they start the online help and which provide sensible links to common information (rather than just providing repurposed user manuals), very easy to build.

Two of the team will be in Cardiff for the conference this year so it’ll be interesting to see what we learn there and how we can really start to leverage Author-it in more and more powerful ways. I’m definitely keen to start innovating what we do and, in a few weeks time, we won’t have any further barriers to stop us.

Tech Work

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Well, exclusive to my inbox at least, hey don’t look a gift horse and all that, right? I’m not troubled bloody diva, published everywhere and rubbing shoulders with the stars or anything, I takes what I gets!

So it was a very nice surprise to be able to receive an email in my inbox offering me a preview release of an upcoming EP featuring a band whose:

sound has grown stronger and surer as a result of their creative self-empowerment – alive with animalistic rage, suffused with emotive human spirit. Quite simply, it is enormous

Which sounds quite bloody impressive if you ask me.

The band in question are called Lupen Crook & The Murderbirds, and this is their first self-published work and also marks the first time I’ve heard anything by them. I’ve listened to the EP a couple of times now and I’ll happily admit that it’s good if not quite as startlingly original as the press release makes out but hey, when did a press release ever resemble reality?

Folk-Punk is the genre, apparently (yeah, new one on me too) and at first listen it sounds fairly derivative, some punk-lite melodies and an ‘authentic’ voice. Nothing out of the ordinary. A second, closer, listen reveals more depth and a nice grasp of rhythm and lyric, and I have to admit that it is growing on me. A third and fourth listen immediately followed and already the songs feel comfortable, like older friends. There is a definite quality to the tracks which hints at grander things to come.

The band are ploughing their own path and seem to embracing all forms of media in their quest for artistic expression. Whether or not that will stand them in good stead only time will tell but, based on the music, there is no reason why they can’t push on to bigger and brighter things. Whether they want to do that or not remains to be seen.

Either way, this is definitely a band to watch.

The EP is out on 4th July, more details available on the band website:


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Despite suggesting that I had, I didn’t actually purchase a 1TB drive the other day. I was perilously close and it was only the realisation that we were getting the bathroom done (and the car needs an MOT) that stopped me.

The same basic maths (money in – money out) is what will stop me getting the new iPhone 3GS when it is available. The one thing that excites me the most is the improved camera as it is safe to say that I’ve started using it far more than I imagined, largely thanks to the application Flickit which makes uploading images from my iPhone to Flickr achingly simple. Add in CameraBag for some post-processing fun and I’ve actually quite enjoyed using my iPhone as a camera.

Still needs must and if I’m honest a new iPhone isn’t a need. Neither is a 1TB drive, nor a second monitor or a second LCD TV for the bedroom, nor any manner of media gadget for the living room, indeed there is not really any need for any other shiny new things.

Yet the desire to get something shiny and new remains and, no matter how many I purchase, just isn’t sated by recent Threadless purchases.

Note to self: whatever happened to that t-shirt project you were gonna do? huh?? Lazy sod.

The iPhone remains the best gadget I’ve bought for a while, largely because the “ohh new and shiny” appeal is constantly being polished by the discovery of a new application that I didn’t know I needed. Apparently there’s an App for That too…

I don’t think I’ll ever be cured of the need for something new. It’s almost, but not quite, a grass is greener type desire balanced only by the fact that I can’t really afford to ‘experiment’ with new shiny things so said purchases are always well considered and match my exacting and specific needs. Part of me wonders if I enjoy the planning/researching stage more than I let on.

And part of me wonders just how much I have left on the credit card…


I may have mentioned this before, or at the very least hinted at it, but I’m big on planning. I research things, figure things out, make sure I understand them and then progress. If money is involved then I’m always keen to get the best I can, or something unique and original.

So when it comes to a major bit of house renovation like, say, getting a new bathroom fitted, obviously I’m going to spend a lot of time preparing for something like that, right? Well I should’ve but, truth be told, the bathroom is small, there aren’t many options (or at least I didn’t think there were) so after receiving some quotes we decided to go ahead.

Which means that tomorrow the plumber arrives to rip out the current bathroom and on Monday they’ll come in and starting tiling. We’ve chosen the wall and floor tiles, as well as some ‘effect’ tiles. We’ve picked out the bath, shower, lights, sink and w/c but, as of yet, we’ve yet to decide what goes along with them.

We’ll either get some built-in units under the sink (boxed in alongside the w/c) or we might just decide not to bother. We have a small cabinet which holds plenty so don’t really need any more storage. So we might end up with a nice wooden counter top and just get the rest boxed in.

It’s all been a bit of a rush since we got back from our holiday and I can feel my stress levels rising every time something else comes up to be discussed. Frankly I’m teetering near the “fuck it” stage.

It’ll all work out in the end of course, same as it did, eventually, for the kitchen. Hopefully we won’t be without a bathroom for a month though, that’d be a bit awkward… and smelly.

* The post title is in tribute to my prim and proper wee Granny. The bathroom in my parents house is on the half landing and rather than say she was going to the loo she always referred to it as “visiting the half landing”. I do miss her.


Back from Spain, lightly roasted and still not quite up to speed with a working day (what, no siesta?!).

As I normally do, I reviewed the list of actions I jotted down before I left and looked over some of the last bits of work I completed, just to make sure I had been focussing on work and not been too distracted in the run up to the holiday.

One thing that leapt out at me was how I still, all these years later, struggle with consistency. It isn’t something that comes naturally to me and, truth be told, I’ve still to find a working system that helps.

It’s all well and good relying on Style Guides and whatnot but until I can make myself write consistently it’s always going to be something I need to consider. It’s not a huge problem, I am talking about a very fine level of detail here, but it does irk.

Aside from that, the usual hurtle towards the finishing line is well under way and by the end of the month we will see where things stand and what things we need to tackle next. All part and parcel of software development and, even though it’s a high stress time, I did kinda miss the buzz whilst I was away.


Part of me thinks I’ve read The Buddha of Suburbia, part of me doubts it very much, and a quiet part of me, which knows better, points out that it was probably White Teeth by Zadie Smith or the unending London Fields by Martin Amis. The comparison is all I’m looking for which is particularly unfair as I thoroughly enjoyed this book, far more than London Fields (still to be finished after several years) and White Teeth both of which feel a little exclusionary to those not ‘blessed’ enough to live near the capital of England.

The Black Album is the story of a somewhat naive and trusting soul who embarks, unwittingly, on a journey of discovery in which it comes to light that, of all the characters presented here, he is perhaps the best balanced and most well reasoned, if not the most rounded.

He is a young British Asian, taken in to a Muslim group whilst simultaneously embarking on an affair with an older married woman. He learns the ways of both worlds, of sex and debauchery, of fastidious religion and fanatical shortsightedness, all of which adds up to … well that’s the thing, I’m not entirely sure but so much the better to be honest.

The book covers many moral and semi-religious themes, from the bettering of oneself, the abandonment of morals and finally to the integrity of man. Large themes, yes, but all presented in an easy manner, sweeping you along as the story progresses. It’s a rich world this, veering from run down council estates and squalid student accomodation to the upper reaches of English society. Whilst perhaps a little too obvious in direction, the journey is enthralling and after a slow burn beginning you are soon turning pages, delaying dinner and generally grasping each moment you can to get to the next page, then the one after.

The Black Album