Monday, 31 March 2008

Spring is in the air . . .

Whilst out walking Dylan our Springer Spaniel in Froggatt woods wearing shorts the other day, it was hard to deny Spring was well and truly in the air. I'm not saying that winter might not have one more bite left in it yet, just that Spring has taken command.

The Silver Birch that dominate the woods were slowly coming into bud and even the later budding Beech was showing signs of finally dropping all of its last season golden crop of leaves.

I wasn't shocked to see that I wasn't the only fool hardy idiot out walking in shorts, in fact I passed several and it was because the air was so undeniably warm. If this evidence wasn't substantial enough, as I came down from my walk back to Grindleford I passed my first grass cutter of the year, obviously wanting to start with the official start of British Summer Time.

I always find it a wonderful time when you start to see the seasons change, which ever they may be. But I think Spring has to top the season changes, when it come to what a new season may hold, there is something so expectant about it. Winter draws to a conclusion slowly, still leaving the odd frost well after we have all started wearing t-shirts (if not shorts!), but Spring proffers Summer up, warm nights and lazy weekends warming our cold bodies after the dank Winters we get in Britain.

The psychological affect it has on you can be astounding, some how all of the worries that have been with you over the Winter months seem to slip into your sub-conscious and you are reborn with this new feeling that everything is going to be all right after all.

It's been nice to really start noticing the smaller components of season change since we left London to live in the country again. Whilst in London you obviously still get the major factors of the air temperature and the hours of daylight, you don't however notice as many of the other factors. The abundance of life is slapping you in the face at this time of year out of the cities, birds everywhere nest making, flower bulbs pushing their way out of the now fully soaked soil. Give it a few more weeks and the Bluebells are going to adorning the wood floor like a fairy carpet here.

With a young child in our family now, it seems to be all that more important to witness these things, I grew up having all of these changes pointed out to me by my parents and they have stayed with me all my life. My wife mocks my boring tirades whilst we are out walking as I point out every detail of nature as we pass, but for me this is what I love about nature, it's detail and it's this detail I now want to share with our daughter in the hope that she too will incorporate it into her vision of the world.

I am currently reading Wildwood - A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin, which whilst a somewhat eccentric take on woodland life is a refreshingly detailed account. Someone who truly encapsulates the comings and goings of a woodland environment and their seasonal changes. Some times I feel that in this fast paced modern world, which we all enjoy in different ways, we don't take enough time to notice the details. So next time you are out walking, whether it be in a woodland or even down Charing Cross Road, take a pause and take in some of life's wonderful details.

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Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Yahoo!, the people search engine?

Its been interesting to read about Yahoo's adoption of semantic searching in their search engine, something that Google has been opting out of to date, partly because I suspect the cost of implementing the technology. but equally it must be related to the way Google has implemented its AdSense and a fear that it may lose current clients when it tries to evolve its approach to searching and indexing.

This coupled with Yahoo's rich search features that it is now starting to use, allowing web masters to incorporate other details in search results such as ratings, address details or whatever seems appropriate in a snap shot, might start to bring Yahoo's search engines back into the front line battle, a battle that recently seemed to be a one horse race.

With Google taking approximately a 59% (based on ComScore figures) share of the US search market currently and larger figure in the UK, closer to 75%, it seemed that we were already in a solo market similar to that of Microsoft's domination in the OS market.

For us the consumer, Yahoo's news can only be a good thing. With Google's acquisition of DoubleClick not so long ago it was looking like our ability to search the web freely was becoming less and less likely with customised ad's springing their way onto our screens depending a Google's judgement on our internet behavioural patterns.

Google's method or the otherwise traditional method of searching via related links to websites predominately around big subjects always favoured the big players, semantic searching on page content should allow some more specialist content pages to be found on popular subjects, that is if Yahoo can get it to work properly and for developers to adopt it sufficiently.

Google adopted some new methods themselves recently into their own search approach, with a new feature that furthers the existing search through related links, by actually searching within a search. This allows pages to be searched and then the related linked pages searched as well, some say this may actually backfire on clients that might find consumers going to their competition after their pages have been identified in the search instead. But like all SEO work, it will depend on careful content planning by web content managers and their SEO advisers.

Some diversification in the market and some competition keeps the chase alive, with global spends on SEO technology and advertising investment in the area booming at the moment as clients pull traditional "above the line" advertising spending to spend on digital, even with talk of a global recession in the air.

Freedom was something that drew some of the original users to the internet in the first place and it seems to be slowly eroding as internet pioneers become billionaire business people. Let's hope the internet doesn't go down the road that the mass press and television media has, where you struggle to find a fresh thought or perspective on any matters without the undertone of a advertising or commercial agenda.

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Friday, 14 March 2008

New place, new space . . .

Long time no blog . . .

Well it's been a while and in that while a lots happened.

We've moved, leaving behind the lovely countryside and mountain landscape of Cumbria to move to the Peak District, an area that we don't know so well.

The move has mainly been in the search for work that was sadly lacking in Cumbria.

But its not just our location that has changed, but our martial status changed just a few weeks ago after we eventually tied the knot in a wedding that should have been last year, were it not for the car accident. What a day, I would highly recommend it if you haven't tried it before . . .

The Peak, so far, has been superb. A perfect combination for us of rolling countryside and access to plenty of outdoor pursuits, but with the urban access to Sheffield and Manchester not all that far away. Access for us to all of this countryside seems all that easier, but it can only be on a psychological level, as we could walk out of door onto the fells in the Lakes, but either way it has helped me to get a lot fitter than I have been for several years.

But for others the Peak is a lot easier to access physically than the Lakes, with Sheffield on it's doorstep where we are. With this easier access you get a different variety of weekend user than we were used to seeing, equally in much larger numbers.

You start to miss the solitude the Lakes provided, where you could be on the summit of Great Gable, with no one except your own party for company to watch the mist slowly gathering around the back of Lingmell Col.

To alleviate our pining for bigger adventures we both went for an explore of the Kinder Scout area the other week, going up along the Pennine Way, Jacob's Ladder and on to the downfall where the wind on this particular day was blowing the waterfall back up the mountain with quite impress effect, and then back across the top and down Crowden Brook. A curious landscape with the gritstone forming many fantastic shapes among the black peat, like some 60's Martian film set.

But here we missed the additional push required to reach the summits that we were used to from the Lakes and while the view across to Lancashire was impressive it didn't have that somehow untethered beauty of the Lakes.

All this aside, we think we may have found our new home here and we are falling for the area quickly, with access to some of the urban facilities, that even we missed after a decade in London, on our doorstep in Sheffield. Yet, peace and quiet at night and a blanket of stars over head when it's clear. Oh, and not to forget some very friendly folk who have made us feel nothing but welcome.

Right, I promise, not so long till the next post . . .

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Monday 5th November 2007 - A Weekend in Luxury.

Just spent a very nice weekend relaxing at a friends wedding, a thoroughly pleasant experience all in, our friends company, the location and the event itself.

To get to the lovely venue of Babington House though, we had to drive across the majority of England, which while it was undoubtedly worth it, it meant we had to experience some pretty awful driving in both terms of traffic and also time spent on the road.

Unfortunately we haven't had much luck on the roads over the last 12 months, having been involved in two serious car accidents, neither of which I hasten to add, were our fault

I now find it hard to be anything other than concerned for the future of driving cars. Let me start from the beginning and move from there. I was a late starter, big into my cycling when a kid, I would cycle everywhere and I mean just about everywhere, sometimes gone for days on end and even once cycling Lands End to John O'Groats when younger and fitter than I am now. So when I turned 17 and started to learn to drive it didn't hold the same excitement as I think it may hold for other new drivers, I already had my independence.

I eventually passed my test after I turned 30, when my partner started encouraging me to drive her car. We were free to alternate in our drive of 2.3 miles to the Sainsbury's where we used to live in London.

Since we left London our driving requirement and miles have rocketed, no longer can we travel anywhere by train, well we can but it can take an eternity, cost a fortune and since we have a little one on board now it can be very hard to accommodate all her bags, babies don't half take a lot of luggage!

With my partners new job came a company car and with a newer car and the extra miles we were covering I began, shock horror, to enjoy driving. That all came to a very sudden end when last year, just approaching Christmas we were involved in a very serious traffic accident after a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction came over the brow of a hill on the wrong side of the road and hit us head on.

The accident, without going into all the details,left my partner who was driving at the time, with life threatening injuries and me with some bad cuts, bruises, broken fingers and most significantly from my perspective some mental scars.

Then just a few weeks ago, after we were both well onto our way back to normal life, well as normal as we could get after the injuries we received, I was involved in another accident, where the driver in front of me was hit by an oncoming overtaking car.

This has compounded the already developed lack of trust we both gained for other drivers and that unwritten agreement that they won't cross the line in the middle of the road unexpectedly.

This leads me to the purpose of this post; even in the relatively short time I have been driving, cars have jumped forward light years in comfort, performance, safety and now even size. It leaves so many drivers with an air of invincibility, a feeling of "it will never happen to me". I am obviously a lot more aware on the roads these days as a consequence of the accidents and I see too much bad driving going on. People seem to have almost forgotten about the use of the indicator. Acceleration in modern vehicles encourages people to over take where previously they would have never considered doing so. Mobile phones are distracting people whilst they drive, it may be against the law in this country but I see people using the mobiles whilst driving on a daily basis.

The worry is that is that as a responsible driver, you are no longer in control of your destiny on the roads. Its a concept that the irresponsible driver probably never considers. So while I don't want to ban cars or peoples enjoyment of driving cars, even if I am in favour of greener alternatives, I just hope that some people can start thinking beyond their personal desires whilst driving and consider how they may affect someone else life by their reckless actions.

Next post I promise a positive post!

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Thursday 10th October 2007. Cooling Towers and Firefox Powers.

Okay, second entry, first was some whiter about nothing in particular followed by some babble about walking on the hills, what will this instalment cover? Well if you can't guess I am making it up as we go along . . .

I watched the demolition of the Sellafield cooling towers the other week from the summit of Muncaster Fell and I have got to admit, whilst it was reasonably impressive I wasn't left with any feeling of awe and wonderment of the whole event. They came down very quickly, neatly and disappointingly and almost disturbingly quietly. Well the horizon here has now changed forever, for the better, although I do know several people who started work at Sellafield in the late 60's early 70's who shed a tear or two.

Quick quip, where do the Dutch buy their tomatoes from? If they are the ones we get in the supermarket here in the UK, I pity them . . . I enjoy cooking and whenever possible will buy local produce, particularly meat from around here as it is so damn good, but when forced into shopping in the supermarket I generally avoid any veg from Holland if I can due to its unbelievable lack of taste!

Anyway, where next, how about internet standards. When I started working with internet technologies I had already been converted to a Firefox fan, since my learning curve took a sharp upwards twist I can categorically demand an answer to why so many internet users still use IE (other that it ships with the worlds most popular OS)? It is so poor as a browser, non-complainant piece of code. I think some of my web-site imagery might not work in IE and to be honest I don't give a monkeys.

Moving on, I have a continual debate with a colleague who is a big Flash designer and fan. Since started getting into the rag-bag trade of web development I have sat in the accessible and standardised (said with a cough considering the previous para . . .) camp of xHTML/CSS and he the lovely smooth camp of Flash. We continually trade stabs at each others failings, when really we should be embracing each others qualities and getting them to work in harmony (trying not to sound too flowery!) which of course we do in reality. But a recent delve into the subject of SEO seems to bring that embrace to a more logical conclusion, but with SEO being one of my sucker punches against Flash design perhaps the days of trading stabs are over . . . Anyway before I reveal that this is about the extent of all my knowledge I am going to cheat and point my blog to someone else's with an interesting discussion on this and call this entry a wrap.

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Thursday 20th September 2007. Don't forget your Torch.

First blog entry and I am already stuck for words, what do I talk about? Well first this has been a long time coming, not just the blog, but the whole website. Over the last 18 months I have embarked upon a series of training sessions and taken on several projects relating to web development. I have found the whole experience much more rewarding and satisfying than I expected.

Its been able to meet my need for techie know how and yet fulfilled a desire to get a little bit more creative in my work. IT Management which had been my bread and butter for several years prior had slowly declined into vast amounts of paper work and audits and legal requirements. With the convergence of several leading companies it was hardly a choice any longer on strategy and decision making and it was slowly taking the road of structure and compliance to such a degree that there more business development managers in large IT teams than there were people who had worked in IT.

What else has been on recently, well today I had the delights of appearing on the local news in my volunteer role as a Mountain Rescue member in the Wasdale team. Call outs are rising exponentially and this has only been further exacerbated by Wasdale recent claim to fame as the best view in the Britain, which has been drawing the crowds (there's me thinking no one actually watched ITV).

But as member who was out on the call out the other night to assist a couple off a local fell and witnessing many other members of the public out on the fells, there are just too many people who go out ill prepared. The weather can turn foul, it may take long than expected to finish the walk you are planning. So I am going to finish my first blog entry and go and put my baby daughter to bed with a lesson on going out on the hills all over the UK: take spare clothes that are suitable, tell someone where you are going and plan delays into your walk that might mean finishing in the dark (so be prepared for this with a torch or even better a head lamp) and finally wear suitable footwear. Here endeth the sermon.

Oh and because I should, the views expressed above are my own and not those of any other party . . .

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