codeRambler Ramblings on code, the web, and technology

Phone calls on the train
Thursday July 26th 2007, 3:58 pm
Filed under: Ramblings

I take a train every morning into London as my daily commute begins. Most mornings I travel in the same carriage and so I have begun to recognise some of my fellow travellers. I recognise the tall guy with frizzy hair who always tries to push to the front of the queue, I recognise the fat scowling woman who spends all her time sighing dramatically… and I recognise the chav teenager with the short tie on her way to school somewhere.

All these people, and most of the others who board the train, share one thing in common… they never smile – they all appear sullen and grumpy… and they don’t like it when you attempt to communicate with them about anything. The only time I’ve seen people smile and communicate with others is on the last train home on a Thursday/Friday/Saturday – when they have had a few drinks.

So why do they have no problem holding loud telephone conversations whilst on the train? If there was ever a need for mobile phone signal disrupters to be introduced, this would be it. I blame the mobile phone companies – if they made it more expensive for people to make phone calls, maybe people would use them less frequently.

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Four Seasons in One Day
Tuesday July 17th 2007, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Ramblings

The weather in London this summer has been miserable (I know complaining about the weather is a waste of time – and a very English thing to do). Today it was sunny, windy, rainy and decidedly “stormy” at times – very much “four seasons in one day”.

Neil and Tim Finn wrote “Four Seasons in One Day” and released it on the Woodface album in 1991. It’s just as relevant now as it was then.

Even when you’re feeling warm
The temperature could drop away
Like four seasons in one day

Neil and Tim’s words remind us that even when everything is going well, there is a chance it could all go horribly “pear-shaped” at the drop of a hat.

So, dear readers… prepare for all four seasons. Work hard for autumn, save for winter, plan for spring and celebrate for summer. Don’t neglect one for the other.

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Maori Mix brand cigarettes – from Israel
Thursday December 15th 2005, 8:09 am
Filed under: Ramblings

I like to keep up to date with media around the world. I grew up in New Zealand and miss the local newspapers that I read in my earlier years. They had a very closed view of the world (which is one of the reasons I felt so desperate to leave).

Most of the newspapers in New Zealand are owned by Fairfax New Zealand Ltd. These papers are represented online at and whilst they don’t have every story available online, a good smattering of local content is always on offer.

New Zealand is pretty much an anti-smoking country. Sure, lots of people smoke… but it’s generally not acceptable to just “light up” anywhere you please (unlike my experiences in Europe – and specifically France). So it was rather entertaining to read that Phillip Morris (a global tobacco company) have a brand of cigarettes in Israel called Maori Mix.

The Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia website has an emotive comment from the Maori Smokefree Coalition.

Maori Smokefree Coalition (Te Reo Marama) spokesman Shane Bradbrook said the use of the Maori name and the image was a defilement and unbelievable considering the high smoking rate among Maori, and asked: “Would we have them here and call them Jewish Mix?”

A very good point. These cigarette packets have Maori motifs on them, Pacific Island stylised drawings, a holiday theme and the english text clearly states “Maori Mix”. Ripping off the brand of any identity is insulting… let alone that of the indiginous people of such a “clean green” appearing country as New Zealand.

The story (whilst no doubt a big deal in New Zealand) is hardly that important “in the big picture” of life… but I was glad to then read this transcript from the ABC Radio Australia network where Philip Morris representative, Colin Lipiatt said:

This packaging displayed on a limited number of packs of the Philip Morris international L and M cigarette brand was a short-run edition.

It’s no longer actively on the market in Israel or any other country, nor will it be used in the future.

We regret any offence this packaging has caused and the intent of the packaging was to communicate open-minded acceptance of cultural diversity as a key element of the L and M brand.

I wonder if they would have kept producing them if nobody from New Zealand had complained.

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UK World Heritage Website shunned
Monday December 12th 2005, 6:16 pm
Filed under: Ramblings, Web development

I recently read an article on The Register that revealed the UK World Heritage web site got only 77 hits in a year!

The information came to light after a series of questions tabled by Brent East MP Sarah Teather. This was picked up by the Guardian who ran the original story titled “The websites nobody wants” that paints a rather bleak landscape of the effectiveness of many UK Government sponsored web sites.

As you probably don’t know there are a quite a lot of World Heritage locations in the UK, 20+ in England alone – and the UK World Heritage web site would more accurately be called a portal (which is indeed what it refers to itself as) – providing links to specific web sites that deal with the individual locations (and that appear to be under seperate control).

Whilst the markup still relies on tables for layout (which is a big faux pas – especially for such simple sites), its real failing is a lot worse. If you visit the site without Javascript turned on, then you do not get to see any of the navigation! You can’t navigate to Map of sites across the UK nor can you report these problems to the DCMS team using their Contact page.

I don’t know if that is the real cause of their low page hit rate, but doing a simple search in Google to see how well they are indexed reveals that only two pages are indexed. The map page is linked (probably because another site links to it) and the initial front page but no other pages on the portal are indexed. No wonder nobody visits… nobody can find it!

Someone needs to tell them that the best way to optimise a site for search engines is to create a Standards Compliant and Accessible web site. Use a complete doctype and validate against it.

I’m available for consulting.

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