California trip #2 – Warming my Heart in San Francisco

Well, I have fallen in love with San Francisco. It only took 24hours. Conference done and dusted – and a successful one, too, with two good connections and good feedback for my presentation – on Saturday evening I at last was able to ‘kick back’ and begin to relax. The evening began with the conference reception at the Asian Art Museum, where we were treated to lovely Californian wine and an enormous spread of sushi, which I tucked into with gusto. The Samurai exhibit was small but very interesting. However by far the most impressive of all the exhibits was a 12th century wooden statue of the Boddhisatva Avalokitesvara, (male aspect of the female Boddhisatva, Tara) which still carried with it the power and presence of a deity, and made quite an impression on me. It was quite humbling and quite an honour to stand before it.

Models in a Castro denim shop
The evening then continued with a visit to San Francisco’s gay district, on Castro. I have to say that I found this much more appealing than Manchester’s Canal Street gay district, which has very much lost its shine since the 1990s. As well as a number of bars and clubs, Castro includes restaurants, and a whole range of different shops, catering to the gay community. The Twin Peaks bar, moreover, caters to everyone. Quite in contrast to Manchester’s Canal Street, this bar was full over men over 30 – some indeed quite elderly – as well as younger men, and women of a similar range of ages. This was SO refreshing, and I immediately liked the bar, its atmosphere, and fell to talking with people at the bar, and had a thoroughly good night! People in this town are so friendly!

Golden Gate Bridge
The following morning, I got a lift with one of the new friends I had made in the Twin Peaks bar – a retired Judge – in his Lexus, around the town and over the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito, where he dropped me off before heading off further north. Sausalito is a lovely little place, and I had a delicious Clam Chowder at one of the pier restaurants, and wandered up and down the sea front until finally getting the ferry back across the bay to the Ferry Building at San Francisco. There was a couple on the boat, too, who took my photo for
Me on the Ferry

Back in the City, I of course then had to take a ride on the Cable Car, before finally returning to the hotel, tired but beaming after a truly delightful twenty four hours in friendly, welcoming San Francisco!

San Francisco Cable Car

California trip #1 – Stopover in Calgary

Westways Bed and Breakfast
Calgary. An unexpected stopover. Hadn’t noticed in my itinerary that I’d be stopping overnight in Calgary on the way to San Francisco. Didn’t realise til the Air Canada desk at Heathrow spelt it out for me. Heathrow was a nightmare. I followed the signs for ‘Flight Connections’, after disembarking from my comfy BMI flight down from Manchester, only to find, when I finally asked someone where I was, that ‘they should have taken those signs down’, and that I was now a long way from where I ought to be, and landside. The woman at the Air Canada desk was very understanding and helpful. I went through security again, and sat at the gate tapping away at my iPhone, found a gay B&B in Calgary, and booked a room, before boarding my transatlantic flight. (Well I wasn’t going to stay in some faceless Holiday Inn, after all!) We landed 20mins early, but the luggage took 90mins to get to the conveyor belt, so it was 9pm before I was being shown my very comfy room in the very welcoming and friendly Westways B&B. A very retro, 1910 building with everything Victorian they could lay their hands on, Westways was old (in Canadian terms) and lovely. The sky-scrapers of central Calgary rose around it, overshadowing it, in quite an eerie way. Canada’s 3rd city is split into four districts with a grid of streets and avenues, and has a No. 216, 25th Avenue, in the NW, the NE, the SE, and – where Westways is – the SW. Probably the most interesting thing about Calgary, that I could gleen, in my very brief, unexpected stopover. Montreal was SO much more interesting! I hear tell that Vancouver is too. I should visit.

Why the critique? Well, I suppose when it boils down to it, as an Englishman, I am so in love with the rich and ancient human history that piles up layer after layer in the landscape of the British Isles, that the great expanses of North America, where the remnants of human history are sparse and hard to find (save for the recent thin crust of 20th century habitation) lack much appeal for me – on that score, at least. The natural history, on the other hand – the main focus of my holiday, once the work is done – is breathtaking, and I eagerly await it!

Ada Lovelace Day Profile: Julie Howell

Julie Howell When I signed up to write a blog post about a woman in technology whom I admire, I knew straight away it would be Julie Howell. Born in Hampshire, UK in 1971, Julie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 19. Her first impact on the internet was described in Louise Proddow’s book ‘ the names and faces behind the dot com era’, (2000) lauding Julie for creating and developing an award-winning online social network of people with multiple sclerosis – Jooly’s Joint. Founded in 1995, membership of Jooly’s Joint now exceeds 20,000 world wide, and was named ‘Best Online Community’ at the New Statesman New Media Awards (2000) and ‘The Mirror Readers’ Choice’ at the Yell UK Web Awards (2000).
Julie Howell is currently Director of Accessibility at digital design agency Fortune Cookie. Before this she was Digital Policy Manager at RNIB.
Julie has spent much of the last decade working with businesses and government agencies to ensure the usability by disabled people of digital information services – probably the most vocal and effective champion of Web Accessibility in the UK. She is Technical Author of BSi’s specification for accessible web design, ‘PAS 78‘ and Chair of BSi’s Web Accessibility Technical Committee, that will hopefully soon produce a British Standard for Web Accessibility. I am not, of course, the first to applaud her work. Julie held the New Media Age Effectiveness Award for ‘The Greatest Individual Contribution to New Media 2005/6’ and in 2007, Julie received ‘The Special Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Imperatives Digital Awards. Deservedly so!
I first met Julie in Preston in 2002 at one of her many seminars on Web Accessibility, and, inspired and enthused by her to the cause, immediately made it my own cause, too, and by April 2006 I was pleased to meet her again, as co-chair of a meeting of the Manchester Digital Accessibility Working Group  to which we had invited her as part of her tour promoting PAS78. She has since become one of my Facebook friends where we talk about the much more important issue of cats : ) Not only is Julie a woman who has contributed a great deal to the world of information technology, she is also a very friendly and fun-loving person.

The Incorporation of Commercial Facebook Pages

Facebook Alert to new style of Pages 'Pages are now more like Profiles. Pages have been updated to behave more like your friends' Profiles. Now they feature a Wall, where you can post photos and messages. Soon you'll start to see posts by Pages in your News Feed.

So Facebook incorporate commercial facebook pages as part of their new revamp. Now what used to be simple one-page ads become full-on profiles just like people. Companies are now people on Facebook, just like legal entities in the wider world. What a shrewd move. Their clever adverts will appear in our newsfeeds, thumbs of their antic photos jostling with teasing half-clues bristling with ‘buzz’. The line beyond which the early populace of Facebook will suddenly enmasse desert to some platform less overtly a paragon of establishment corporatism could be crossed at any moment. Watch this space.

#uksnow in the twitterverse


BBC Nottingham home page 1st Feb 2009 10pm


Ben Marsh’s uksnow Mashup Sunday night
Ben March's uksnow mashup 1st Feb 2009 midnight

Transport for London withdraw all bus services!

Transport for London withdraw all bus services 2nd Feb 2009 0.40am

Ben Marsh’s uksnow Mashup Wednesday Eve
Ben March's uksnow mashup 4th Feb 2009 10.36pm

Continue reading “#uksnow in the twitterverse”

The Time Has Come to Put Aside Childish Things

The World in our Hands
I am glad to have been among the 1.5 billion people who today watched
the inauguration of President Barack Obama and to have both exulted at
this historic moment and felt the steel of grim resolve in his tone. As
his motto says, Yes We Can, and I hope that We – all of us, around the
world, not just in the US – can step up to the plate and address the
collective failure to take responsibility for our world. We must ‘roll
back’ the threat of climate change, and with this leadership, I hope, We

Let us hope this is the day America, and the world in general, grows up