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Monthly Archives: June 2006

This week at my new job I’ve been coding up a new site design for a high street jewellery store. From a usability perspective, their current site is easy to navigate and the products on display are simple to buy from. The new site design, designed by the jewellery store’s brochure designer, looks a hundred times better, but in terms of usability, it sucks.

Nevertheless, I’ve completed the design, adhering to separation of content and style, ensuring that the site is as accessible as possible. The next step is to tweak the site into something more functional, which will ultimately lead to more sales. At the moment, it is impossible to tell what is clickable, navigation style switches between pages, common elements such as headings and menus are positioned differently between pages, there are CSS hover menus that break the device-independent WAI guidelines (or I haven’t found a more accessible way to do this). And I’m sure there’s more but I gotta go to work now.

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It is a sad day. The Blackamoors Head, a pub known to many in Chessington, is, after many unsuccessful re-branding exercises, finally losing it's name and perhaps "unique" atmosphere. Many happy a time was spent in "The Blacks" through the ages of 16 to 20 and it shall be dearly missed by all punters. I haven't been in there a while because I don't live in Chessington anymore, but if I did, I'd have certainly been a regular.

Many of you will remember populating the pool hall nearly every night for what seemed like a whole year of my life, with a jukebox installed that pumped out at 100dB on request. Privileged punters would be offered occassional "deals" from behind the counter, no doubt something of exceeding quality. Of the three or four years spent as a regular, I can't recall a single time when I was drunk. Now for Marc, the star new barman (see below), I can instantly recall two distinct drinking bouts: (1) the day he was made redundant from… wait for it… Whitfords and (2) the day of the "It's a knockout" event where dutch courage was required for his star appearance as Liam Gallagher.

To carry on the spirit of the best bits of The Blackamoors Head I feel the management of The Chessington Oak has made the perfect choice in hiring Marc as barman. He will bring back the soul of the pub, which has been lying dormant in the cellars for years. He will give you "a bit of head" along with a nod and a wink, and you will feel safe in the quiet knowledge that the past lives on in the new shiny exterior.

Here's an invitation from Marc himself about the opening of the pub. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing his witty invitation to the trial night of The Chessington Oak.

Dear Friends,

For those of you who have been on the end of one of my rather tasteful concoctions (Dave, Lee & Alan) it may come of no surprise that I'm putting my good skills to use at last. I am soon to be the part time Tom Cruise of Chessington when I take up my part time job at the Blackamoors, Now to be known as the Chessington Oak as a pot man, I mean barman.

The pub officially opens on Tuesday 27th June, but for all you loyal and trusting friends of mine, I am inviting you to the trial run for all new staff on Monday 26 th June. To entice you all in, I am authorised to pass you all a voucher worth £5 off you bill. You will have to spend at least £5 in the one transaction though, so tight bastards may not apply. If you do decide to take up the offer, please be prepared for a few spillages and pints with head, but I'm sure all the men won't mind a bit of head as this is a trial run for new staff so we may get it right when we open for real the following day. The pub also has a fantastic and appetising new menu, like nothing served at the Blacks before with prices from £4.99 so why don't you treat yourself to some grub also?

Unfortunately there is no TV screen at present so you will be unable to watch the world cup and we do not sell shots or shooters. The pub has undergone a complete refit with new windows being made where people had previously been thrown out of to make it lighter and more welcoming. There is a new Landlady and the pub is trying to shake off its old image, which I think it has done already. You will notice the difference when you step inside, trust me!!

Make the Chessington Oak you local and give your old mate a bit of loyal support! Heckling is allowed.

Should you wish to take up this fantastic offer please email me back as it is by invitation only so I will need to give you a voucher prior to your arrival, doors will open around 19:00.

I would be grateful to see as many of you there on Monday.

Cheers
Tom

For £5 you can buy a raffle ticket to win Flat 4, 5 Brunswick Road. The couple selling their flat seem genuine and the terms and conditions are simple. If they don’t make at least £200,000 out of ticket sales, that’s 40,000 sold tickets, they reserve the right to award the winner 70% of the monies received so far. The current winner’s pot stands at £4,595.50, which is 70% of 1,313 £5 tickets sold so far.

If they can generate enough publicity to push up the number of entrants then I may consider entering myself. So why not enter the competition? According to the site,

A provisional date for the draw has been set for
01/08/2006.

Good luck to anyone that enters, and, if you win, invite me to the housewarming!

Blogged with Flock

Today I resigned from my post at Microsoft Gold partner after having only been there 2½ months. Because I was in my probationary period still, the notice period was just one week, perfect for starting at my new job, which start next Tuesday. My resignation took the MD by surprise and I felt bad for giving such short notice and possibly leaving them in the lurch, especially since the company had paid hefty fees to the recruitment agency.

I started working at this company because I thought it was a small independent company, putting to practice the latest Microsoft technologies; somewhere that would enhance my career and be a badge of honour on my CV. In reality, the company had one major blue-chip client, who are using very old platforms, leading to a stifling of creativity and innovation. The main reason I chose to work at a small company and not at a large financial organisation or other large corporate was so I could actually make a difference by coming up with creative solutions rather than being a cog in the corporate machine.

After two months I decided to find another job, somewhere where I could get a lot more job satisfaction, continue to learn, and enjoy the company of the people I work with. Within minutes of stepping into the building at my soon to be new employer I felt at ease, even though I was being interviewed by a panel of four people, two techies and two directors. I was quite relaxed because I had nothing to lose by being myself and this was probably the first interview where my personality came across and wasn't quashed by my nerves.

Steinunn congrats me and points out the other bonus of my resignation:

then the other jobtells him there is no need to work out his notice, he can just go on holiday. paid.

So tomorrow I have some jobs to do: tidy the flat in preparation for Sigrun (Steinunn's sister) and her mate's arrival on Friday, food shopping, gym, and, for your listening pleasure, I'm going to start converting tapes of my old music into mp3, then upload onto my myspace page. I'm going to go back as far as my Sepulchral Thorn days, the first incarnation of the band what was to become the more tuneful Bula Tigers featuring Paul Gallucci on vocals, Peter Tye on bass and Brendan Tye on drums and guitar. There are going to be some embarrassing moments but now it is far enough in the past to laugh at. If you listen regularly you'll definitely hear the progress of the band.

Also, I'm going to sort my flat feet out once and for all. Is there a podiatrist in the house?

YouTube – Thom Yorke interview about the new album "Eraser"

Good effort for getting a traffic cone on the top of this statue!

Over the past few weeks, Steinunn and I have been looking at flats for sale, with no intention of buying just yet. We have a vague idea about how much the banks will lend us but nothing in concrete. We’ve based our figure on what the online mortgage calculators say on the respective banks’ websites (Abbey, HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Bank of Scotland / Halifax), so have been looking at flats at the lower end of the market.

Yesterday we looked at what was billed as a cottage, but was simply a studio flat, which, unlike all of the neighbouring “cottages”, didn’t have a downstairs. The owner tried his damnest to use the lack of 2nd floor as a selling point. The place was too small, with 1 large room doubling as the lounge / bedroom and dining room, a tiny kitchen with no storage space yet fitted with a window alarm just in case we managed to fit in something worth stealing, and a bathroom, the best room out of the three.

Out of the 5 or 6 flats we’ve looked at so far, space-wise, this was the smallest. A studio flat is far too tiny for a couple. Like Steinunn said yesterday, she would have nowhere to escape to when being ill ( I don’t get sick), or one of us is tired and needs sleep. Let’s rule out studio flat from this point forward.

We've just returned to Edinburgh from a day out in Glasgow's West End. Despite being hungover, which seldom happens these days, we got to Byres Road in time for the opening parade of the mardi gras. After tiring of the samba drums, we headed over to the Mela Festival (Asian Festival) in Kelvingrove Park, and found ourselves in a dance tent, which from a distance sounded like some cool bhangra beats, but on closer inspection was an endless conveyor belt of samba drum groups playing over a bhangra beat, the very same samba beats we thought we'd left behind in the West End.

I was hoping for some yummy Asian food of any description but none was to be found. Instead we settled for a burger and undercooked chips from a dodgy burger van. Steinunn got a henna tattoo drawn on her hand. I'm sure she'll scan her hand soon enough to show you all. A good day, and I think the hottest day I've experienced in Scotland too.