Category Archives: work

Time, time, time, see what’s become of me….

Yes, it’s about time I wrote something here. Been busy with the new house, redecorating, DIY, taming the huge garden…. And trying to get on with putting next year’s Elfin Diary together.
Money’s short of course (when is it not?); so I’ve decided to try for more web design work. So, anybody wanna website, go here. Or use the contact form on here. Or tweet me.
OK, commercial over.

view through window

View from my office


At least I’ve got much nicer working space. I’m no longer squeezed into a draughty hallway, fighting for space and wishing I could see some natural daylight; instead I have a big room with a fabulous view. It’s not all mine – I share it with B and his array of mighty laser printers. But it’s big enough for both of us, our books and files and even a sofa.

And I can’t believe how lucky I am to be living in a beautiful place like this.

Review: Serif WebPlus

I’m a big fan of Serif software – I’ve been using their PagePlus DTP program since v2 – which came out sometime in the mid-90s. Since then I’ve also added two other Serif programs, Photoplus and Drawplus. I’m happy with the performance of all three and use them all the time; I do the entire Elfin Diary in PagePlus, for example. But until now, I’ve never bothered with their web design program, WebPlus. That’s because I’m entirely self-taught in web design and consequently learned to code in Notepad and other text editors and never had any need for a WYSIWYG editor like WebPlus. Continue reading

Wurk….

These last three weeks have been incredibly busy. First, the first batch of Elfin Diaries arrived from the printer at least three weeks earlier than I’d expected, while I was still trying to unravel the structural mess that is the Astrological Association website and before I’d got the Elfin Diaries site sorted with new e-commerce software and a new design.
Then, I went down with a tooth abscess. The previous bouts of tooth pain I’d had before mild compared to this time. After a weekend of increasing pain I was was in a bad way by Monday, desperate enough to see a dentist. Came home with painkillers, antibiotics and instructions to return next month for extractions, fillings and drillings. Oh well. Was ill for a couple more days, occupying the sofa for much of the time. But now fully recovered.
Anyway, managed to get the diaries website up and running in record time, sent out hundreds of newsletters and am now busy dealing with orders. And still trying to sort out the AA site…
Sigh. So I’d best get on with it.

Clouds and Other Beasties…

Clouds over Yorkshire

Clouds over Yorkshire

So we went to a weekend camp in Yorkshire. Not the usual Oakleaf one, a smaller invitation-only camp. I had a better time than I thought I would. The weather was better than it might have been, only a few heavy showers for a day and half, quite a lot of sunshine the rest of the time. And I got to see some old faces and have a natter or three.
On the Sunday, we took an impromptu trip to Thirsk – we’d originally gone to Bedale to treat ourselves to a Chinese takeaway, found the place wouldn’t be open for another half-hour and said “OK, how are we going to pass the time?” And I decided I’d like to see the town where I’d lived for four years back in the late 70s/early 80s (and where we’d met…)
So off we went. And when we got there, I actually couldn’t recognise the place; the town centre seemed so much bigger – surely the street hadn’t been anything like that wide? And the layout was totally unfamiliar. There were a few buildings that I remembered – the library seemed to have been turned into a dance studio, the old Ritz cinema was tattier but still a cinema, the vet’s surgery (where my daughter had once taken a poorly hamster) was now the James Herriott Visitor Attraction, the laundrette where I’d taken my washing every Sunday morning was now a clothes shop…
We decided to go and look at the house where I had lived, on a council estate that had been on the edge of the town. Once I’d spotted the vets surgery- oops, the Visitor Attraction, I knew where I was; the road leading to the council estate was first left at the top of the street. Except that when we got to the top of the street, what had been a big open green space with the council estate tucked behind it, simply wasn’t there any more. Instead, there was just houses – lots of them. We drove hopefully down a side-road and got lost in the maze of little streets and cul-de-sacs. There was no sign of the older houses that I remembered. We were hungry; once we got back onto the main road, we decided to give up the search and go find a Chinese (we found the the Hung Moey in the Market Place; it has a decent vegetarian menu and serves enormous portions).
Well, they say you can’t ever go back. They may be right.
This morning I fired up Google Earth, found my old house and was able to take a good look at it on Street View. The little front garden is now concreted over – goodbye to the buddleia that I’d planted by the door – and the council has finally got around to properly fencing in the back garden so that local kids can no longer take a shortcut across what had once been my veg patch. But otherwise it looked pretty much the same on the outside; though no doubt the purple hallway and rainbow-coloured bedrooms have been redecorated with inoffensive flowered wallpaper…

Managed to get the 2013 Elfin Diary finished at last and zipped off to the printers. I feel quite proud of myself for having done nearly all nearly all of it myself; only the Chinese astrology article was by somebody else. Now I have to get on with the Astrological Association site; after that, the new design for the Elfin Diaries site, then marketing and selling the 2013 Diary; inbetween all that updating the badly neglected Oakleaf Circle site…
So I’m going to be very busy. Just as I’ve developed terrible toothache….

Just Had A Bit of Fun…

….with a spammer. Got this one this morning (URL munged so they don’t get any google goodness):

Hi,

I’ll take this opportunity to introduce myself, my name is Eddie Brown,
very nice to meet you. I’m SEO expert working at iSEO Traffic.

I came across diary.astrologicalassociation.com while making a research for one of
my partners and I have few interesting suggestions for you
like increasing your traffic & improving your rankings.
I would love to tell you more about my ideas.

If you are interested I will be happy to send the additional information
and all the details needed to make it happen.

Thanks a bunch,

Eddie Brown
somespammyspammer.com

So, I wrote back:

Dear Eddie,

Thank you for taking such an interest in my site diary.astrologicalassociation.com. It is heartening to see that people across the world are taking an interest in British astrology meetings. Regretfully though, I doubt that I need your SEO expertise, as I am quite happy with the page hits we are already getting (especially from people such as yourself!)

But, on going to your site somespammyspammer.com, I noticed that the copy is badly written and has a number of glaring grammatical faults. As you must surely know, bad writing and poor use of English are amongst the features that drive potential customers away from a site. It looks unprofessional and gives a poor impression of your company’s competence. So I am taking this opportunity to offer you my copy-editing and copy-writing services. I can work in both UK and US English and my rates are reasonable. Please do not hesitate to contact me for details.

Yours,

Val Dobson

:D

Well, at least that’s cheered me up.

ETA: Got a reply back a few hours later:

Hi
thanks for responding

What I am actually speaking about is making an article exchange between us, I’ll send you my article that will be about ~300-~400 words for you to place as a fresh page in your site.
In return, you’ll send me your article (at any length that you’d like) and I’ll publish your article in the site I’ve promise you on. Inside my article I’d like to have 3 links and of course that I’ll return the same to you.

I think this will be excellent diversity links for both our websites and I’m really looking forward making this exchange with you.

We are offering our services for FREE!
Waiting for your reply
Eddie

Sigh. In his first email, he’d included a link to his LinkedIn profile; according to that he’s American, living in Boston (and with a High School and college education which clearly failed him in the area of English).
It appears to be true that some Americans simply don’t get British humour. Play the game, dammit!