30 December 2006

2006 in review, 2007 ahead...

Ah, the end of the year. They just seem to be racing by, to be honest. I said in a previous post I'd set some personal goals for 2007 to go with the business goals, so I'll get on to that in a minute. First up, though, 2006 in review. I doubt anyone's interested; this is as much for me to be able to remember what went on this year.

2006 was the year in which, after over a year of planning, umming and ahhing, general scaredness and procrastination, I quit my job and became my own man. Scary? Yes. Worth it? Definitely. It's been the best thing I ever did. I miss the people I used to work with; and, I suppose, the certainty of the pay, but nothing beats the feeling of working for yourself, in your underpants. 2007 is going to be the year it all takes off. The last couple of months were just practice.

2006 was a good year for music; Wolfmother, who I have on iTunes at the moment, were my big discovery for the year. I've been to lots of gigs, too; the Subways, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, local bands, the list goes on. Theatre-wise, I've seen some oddness. Film-wise, Bond was very good, but little else really sticks out.

I discovered the Backstreet Bistro this year, which I fully intend to go to again, when I have some money. Also, Ta Bouche, with nice food, pleasant staff, and free wireless. I've found a love of The Pickerell, which is a great little pub. I've managed to not go to The Snug, the pub I've been intending to try out all year.

I watched the World Cup in Cambridge and didn't enjoy it. I bought a giant china cat from a charity shop and now keep my pens in it.

I fell in love with Apple computers this year, too; my little Mac laptop is the best investment I made all year.

2006 was the year of living like a month; my budgeting exercise. Not exactly fun, but well worth it.

I said goodbye to two great friends this year; Michelle, who I met, had a wonderful time with, and then watched (well, metaphorically) fly to New Zealand; and Monty, my lovely MG Midget, who I had to sell to finance the business.

All in all, a good year. Wouldn't change a thing. Except perhaps the World Cup bit.

Aims for 2007

So what's next? Here are my personal aims for 2007. I've not actually thought about these at all, so I'm just making them up as I go along. I bet I won't achieve any of them.

  • Get back on the stage - I'd like to gig a few more times, just to keep my hand in.
  • Live like a monk - extreme! - that's January. No going out, extremely careful budgeting, buying the minimum of anything and not wasting a thing. Time to clean off the bike.
  • Fence in a couple of competitions- if I can afford it, I'd like to compete a bit more. It's nice to fence some new people.
  • Pay off my credit card - somehow. I may alternate months of living like a monk. I'm certainly going to be working as hard as possible and saving every penny I can. Maybe I'll alternate live like a monk (living to a set budget) with live like a monk - extreme (just not spending anything).
  • Take more photos - I like photos.
And that's it... a modest set of targets. I'm going to print these out and tick them off as I achieve them.

10 December 2006

Being unreasonably ambitious

Way back in 2004, the organisation I used to work for held one of their series of "ideas talks", getting leading thinkers to talk about business, ideas, and creativity. This particular event - Robert Heller holding an "ideas audit" for three leading regional businesses - called for business to be unreasonably ambitious. Well, I'm working on version 2 of my business plan at the moment and I'm trying to do that. So as we round up 2006 - the year in which I quit my job with nothing to go to, sold the car I loved, discovered fresh ingredients are far, far superior to anything you can get from a supermarket, and won my first awards for something I've done at work - I've decided to set out my unreasonable plans for 2007:

  1. Find a designer to work with. To provide a fuller service, I'm going to need a designer. I also need to find someone who'll be there for small projects - I've got "associates" who are perfect for bigger projects, but I doubt they're interested in little bits of work here and there. A freelance designer who thinks like me would be a great boon to my business. Someone I could learn a bit more design from would be ace in itself.
  2. Go limited. Earlier than I originally planned, I'd like to go limited in the middle of next year. The paperwork as a sole trader isn't as bad as I thought, so I can handle that; the benefits would be great; and the risks seem lower than I thought at the moment, with some decent clients coming in and some good work on the way.
  3. Refine what I offer. Small business stuff doesn't seem to be particularly "me", or in demand, while public sector, strategic work, and content - writing and planning - are working well. I think I might drop the small business side of things. When I've used up a few more business cards.
  4. Sort out an office. Working from home is great, but the cat can be incredibly annoying, it's difficult to concentrate at times, and there's no-where to hold meetings or anything. I'd like an office. I'd like something interesting and different. And room for a decent chair and desk.
  5. Join a professional body. Like CIPR, CIM, or - possibly, but it's too design focussed - UKWDA
  6. Upgrade the PC. And replace it with a decent big Mac running Parallels.
  7. Market. Market hard.
I think that's about it from a business point of view... I imagine I'll write some personal objectives over the next couple of days too.

05 December 2006

Even more awardy

There are photos of the awards ceremony online now - rather small, but I'm about to email the photographer to get a copy of at least one of them.

See them here: http://www.ipr.org.uk/prideawards/eastanglia/2006/photographs/photographs.asp

04 December 2006

Oh dear, oh dear.

I've succumbed to seasonal fever... not to the point of looking forward to Christmas, or anything like that, but maltpress.co.uk has been updated to reflect the season.

Of course, it's going to be a little while before the fairy-lights go up in Maltpress HQ, what with me being a grumpy old scrooge who's not a massive fan of Christmas (I think I'm just quite ant-hype; I don't think it's worth all the fuss and pressure put on it... although the parties are fun). Mind you, the corporate world moves at a different pace and it's probably about time to be thinking about sending cards to my contacts. Being a new company, and having better things to do with my time - and not actually having that many contacts yet - I'm probably going to send actual, physical cards to people rather than electronic ones.

I've also updated the site to reflect the fact that I'm now an award winner - or at least part of an award winning team. See the post below for more details. But I'm going to remain smug about this for some time.

01 December 2006

Award winner...

Last night was the East Anglian CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) PRIDE awards - which I went along to, and at which the project I was there with (Running the Gauntlet) won two gongs. A gold and a silver.

My role in the project was as an internal consultant - providing advice and support for the electronic communications part of the campaign. Because one of the awards was for integrated PR campaign, I'm rather proud of my involvement. It shows that what I'm doing now is something I'm actually pretty good at and I can prove the results I'm capable of getting; a job for today is updating maltpress.co.uk to highlight the award.

I'm also rather pleased that I'll be getting a copy of the physical award which will be taking pride of place on my window-sill. Oh, and the fact that I wore a self-tied bow-tie - although I did have to have help tying it...

EEDA, my former employers, won five awards in total last night - including the Grand Prix overall prize for an internal communications campaign. It was incredibly nice to sit and bask in the reflected glory for an evening.

26 November 2006

*puff* *pant* *wheeze*

Arrrgh... I've just been for my first ever jog. I've learnt some things:

  • Fencing doesn't keep me as fit as I thought.
  • I run like an idiot.
  • It's not actually as cold as I thought and a fleece might not have been a good idea.
  • I'm a wimp.
That's right - 0.75 miles nearly killed me. So when I got back I made an Excel spreadsheet to keep me motivated and to tick off how far I do every time I jog. I'm planning to do it every other day, in the morning. Oh yes - that's the other part of this hare-brained scheme. I'm going to get up in the mornings a bit earlier. As it is, I'm at my desk and at work by nine - half past at the latest - and I'm not going to change that. But I am going to have been up and for a run or walk to the shops before that.

They (and by they I mean the BBC, who were the first hit for "jogging" on Google) say that you should have something to aim for. I'm not sure "not having a heart attack on the fencing piste" is clear enough. So I suppose the Grunty Fen half marathon, next September, is a decent enough aim.

Of course, what I really mean is not dying of a heart attack on the Grunty Fen half marathon next September...

22 November 2006

The global web - a challenge for the web professional

As long as I've been writing professionally - for over six years now - I've been aware of the need to write for people who don't necessarily have English as a first language. Whether it's writing for an international intranet for a pharmaceutical company or for a regional website recently in the news for initiatives on migrant workers, there's always been some reason to bear that in mind with what I do. It's not just about internationalisation - the average UK reading age is apparently 9 years old. Factor in dyslexia and learning difficulties and the non-written aspects of web deisgn and build suddenly become incredibly important.

What's been an interesting challenge recently is working on a website which isn't in my native language, but in Italian, which I don't really know a word of. It really drives home some of the things you need to think about with the language you use and the way people use visual cues on a site. In the research stages of the project I'm working on I've found myself muddling through several sites simply with what little GCSE Latin I can remember and the images the sites use.

It's taught me a lot - especially about the assumptions we make regarding design:

  • Photos are at first sight a lot less ambiguous than most stick-figure diagrams might be - but there's so much detail in them you never know what's the important bit. There's a photo of a man wearing a pilot's uniform. Does the section it links to relate to men? Men of a certain age? Professionals? Pilots alone? Strip all the distractions and present a representation of an action, a profession, a type of person and things become clearer. Subconsciously we know that if a detail is present in a simple diagram, it's probably there for a reason.
  • You can often muddle by with words which are similar in several languages. Useful for European languages with similar roots, but of no use with other languages.
  • Big chunks of text suddenly become even more daunting. They're bad enough at the best of times but in a different language you switch off immediately and start looking for pictures, numbers, anything you can relate to. Use this - make contact numbers, email addresses, maps, names, prices, anything internationally recognisable - stand out by using bold formatting and bullet points.
Working with bilingual sites is actually quite easy, if you have the money - there are plenty of content management systems out there with multi-lingual support, and if you can afford someone to do the translation for you it's not a problem. It's when money is tight but you still want to open your market internationally - or even multi-culturally across one small area - that you need to address the way you write, design and build your site.

20 November 2006

Blogger beta

You may have noticed (if you're a regular reader) that the blog's had a major re-design. And that my spelling's getting a lot better. Two innovations I'm quite pleased with are responsible for these things:

Blogger Beta is the new version of the Blogger software - and it's really quite good. It's almost as flexible as WordPress (which I use for Cambridge.IsHome, about which more later). The template I'm now using is almost completely as-is from Blogger, and it fits my branding almost perfectly, which is why I've kept it. The new templates available are really very good, and I am pleased with the way this new one looks.

It's also going to allow me to do more clever things with my feeds and the way I parse them on my sites. I can tag posts on here with a particular keyword (much like WordPress allows) and then - when I eventually found out how - I have a feed for each keyword. That means the Maltpress.co.uk site and the JuicyFly site can have different feeds on them and I can choose which site my blog posts go to.

FireFox 2.0 is responsible for the better spelling you can now see, thanks to a lovely inline dictionary function for web forms. You simply download the dictionary you want to use - UK English or US English (or any number of others) and all your sperling misteaks are suddenly underlined in red for you. Lovely.

Joel left a comment below saying some nice things and asking about Cambridge.IsHome. Well, as he guessed, I've been somewhat busy lately. Things are about to change though - I'm about to re-start it, and that begins with a bit of re-design work. I've never yet managed to get a design I've been happy with, so I'm going to spend some time tonight on the mac with the Gimp (and perhaps with some felt-tips first) to get it looking nicer. Then I have some articles planned which I'm actually going to go out and research (well, do) and write.

I would have reviewed The Bluetones at the Junction the other night had I not been late leaving a business event, meaning I only got to see three songs.

19 November 2006

Corporate life spoils you

I'm finding this out more and more lately. It's the little things which you never think about until, like me, you suddenly have lots and lots of time.

The big things - like regular pay, sick leave, having people around you, IT support - I never took those for granted. I was always grateful for them and knew I'd miss them when I was gone. But the following things, I have discovered, are the ones office-bods never think about until they have to start paying for them from their own pockets.

  • A decent mouse. I'm getting fed up with cleaning desk-scuzz out of the rollers of my cheap mouse; but an optical mouse costs money I don't really have at the moment.
  • All the red-tape and paperwork and suspicion. I have to fill in a form to prove I'm an actual business to the VAT man. Not that I mind, really; it's good that they check and, I suppose, if they didn't you could get away with all sorts. But I don't have a dedicated business landline, and that's a matter of suspicion, apparently.
  • Having cups of tea made for you. I still drink a silly amount of tea, but rarely have it made for me any more. It surprised me how grateful I was on Friday when my brother did it for me.
It's been one of those weeks when I've wondered a little bit what I'm actually doing this for. It's been hard work. But then I look at the other option; wasting my life in a job where I have no prospects or control over what I do; taking the easy route; not feeling satisfied. And I think of the Friday morning I had, in the company of possibly one of the nicest men I've ever met, who made me lovely Italian coffee and put my mind at rest that I'm not alone in this at all. For a couple of hours that day, it all made perfect sense.

16 November 2006

Monty makes a choice

Well, well, well. What an interesting day.

Got the MG back. Long story. Deeply unhappy about it, but you live and learn. Top tip from today: don't sell a car on eBay, and never sell to someone who's not viewed it first.

15 November 2006

Hello and goodbye

It's been a difficult couple of days, to be honest. Some hellos and some goodbyes:

Hello - to the new version of Blogger. I'll be sorting the template out tomorrow, and taking advantage of the new-found ability to tag posts with keywords - and to generate feeds for each keyword, which is going to make it very easy for me to choose whether or not to put posts on my websites.

Goodbye - to the car I loved, my MG Midget, once called Monty. It was bought today and it was a real wrench to see it go - there was a tear in my eye as it drove away for a new life. Still, it's paid the wages for this month, which is good - any paid work for November is a bonus.

Hello - to some new contacts, who I met at the excellent EEDA event last night - the Ideas Exchange. Yes, I used to work at EEDA - I ran their website for three years. It was good to see the staff there again, because they're good friends, and I also got to meet some very friendly new people and found out that I'm not alone with the fears and worries I have starting this business.

Goodbye - to the routine of Cambridgeshire Enterprise Agency training courses on a Wednesday. I've done all the ones I can afford now. They were very, very good, and a great way to meet new people.

Hello - to a new phone, which doesn't work. Damn. Back to the shop tomorrow.

Things are going to pick up soon, I'm sure. But for the last couple of days it's been incredibly, incredibly hard work and quite lonely.

10 November 2006


Yesterday I didn't have masses to do, which was a little dull. I did a lot of ironing, and while I did it I listened to a bit of Bowie. Which got me thinking about the film Velvet Goldmine, which I saw one snowy day in the first year at university, at the Taliesin cinema at Swansea University.

It got me thinking about Swansea and how much I miss it there. I think it was - as much as anything - the fact I could walk through the park every day to get to things. The fact that I was a "regular" in the university coffee shop and my cup of tea was on the counter by the time I got to it. The lovely big house I had. And the lovely heavy rain.

The point of working for myself, from home, was to recapture that a little - to get the independence back and to do my own thing a bit more. To be completely in control. And I'm loving it. Still not a regular anywhere, but once I have a little more cash available I'm going to start working on that. But it's great to have some control.

Today is paperwork day. I'm - surprisingly - quite enjoying it. There's something very satisfying about it.

07 November 2006

Some very general updates

Things seem to be picking up a little - I have some work to do, which makes a very nice change and will be keeping me out of trouble (and should start to pay the bills as well, which is the most important thing). I'm certainly starting to settle in to the somewhat different pace of life working from home - it's been odd to work a normal day and then not have to do anything until the next one, rather than finishing one job and then coming home to another.

There are still odd setting up admin things to do here and there - today I started my VAT registration process, the results of which I'm now going to have to wait for in the post. That should just about be it in terms of set-up - at least until I'm ready to make the change from sole trader to limited company, something which I'm trying to avoid thinking about but which has an inevitability about it.

I've also got my first fairly big networking event coming up - the Ideas Exchange, hosted by my old employers, EEDA. It should be a good afternoon - catching up with a few ex-colleagues, plus there are some interesting speakers lined up. It'll also be the first real test of my networking and selling abilities and it would be nice to leave with a few more contacts and some possible future work.

Then, at the end of the month, I have the CIPR PRide awards - a campaign I advised on (in much the same way as I now intend to work - web and e-marketing consultancy) is nominated in two categories, although it's really only the integrated PR campaign I can take any credit for helping on. It's a great selling point for me and certainly something I think I should be shouting about more - tomorrow evening I intend to add a link to it from maltpress.co.uk. At some point I need to hire a DJ so I can look my best for the winner's photos... here's hoping, anyway. If nothing else I'll be throwing business cards around like confetti.

And finally, I now have Skype, but not a number for it yet - I'm waiting for some income before I actually spend any money on it...

Anyway, how are you all? It's been ages since I actually heard anything from anyone on here... I know you're out there, I'm rapidly approaching 2000 hits, many of which are mine, but surely there's someone out there...

02 November 2006

Corporate social responsibility... kind of.

I've discovered the good thing about working from home is the ability to walk down to the shops rather than having to wait until the evening to drive to the supermarket. It only takes five minutes, it's free, it's non-polluting and - best of all - it gets me out of the house.

Plus I'm supporting local shops and eating healthily...

Maybe - hopefully - things will change when I get a bit more work to do and I'll have less time. But until then I'm making the most of it.

In other news, the JuicyFly site is completely refusing to work in Safari 2.0.4, which is thoroughly annoying - I think it's something to do with the variables I'm trying to set, and using display:hidden, but I'm not sure. It's a puzzler. If anyone wants to have a look at http://www.juicyfly.com and see if there's anything stupid - and obvious - I've missed, that would be great.

I'm going to crack on and build the rest of the site and fix that page later. In the words of Brian Wilson (I'm watching the Pet Sounds live in London DVD) "I know there's an answer"... I'll find it when I stop thinking about it, I'd imagine.

29 October 2006

Hopping on the bandwagon

I've been reading a lot of articles online recently about MySpace. Opinions are divided - it's either the best thing to happen to the web, bringing people together in new ways, or it's the worst thing ever, encouraging grooming, phishing, stalking and - probably provoking most horror - bad design.

So I decided to get my own profile. Not just to see what the fuss is about; not even to see if it is possible to make a nice looking page which is actually readable (it is, but they don't exactly make it easy). Oh no; I was looking into the business applications of MySpace.

In short, there are very few. Very, very few. You can have a rant about it as a web designer because that's the "in thing" (and most rants about it are justified, to be honest), but aside from that - and the special case of the music industry - it's very difficult to see a way a business could make much use of it.

I did think that, perhaps, it would be a way of making a small (well, one page) promotional page about a small business - after all, all "the kids" are using MySpace and there's the possibility of getting some credibility with your customer base by using it. However, there are many site-builder options out there with far more flexibility and just as much customisation available to them - setting up a WordPress or Blogger blog would be a far better option. There's the usefulness of comments and friends as product endorsements, but that's about it.

I said the music industry was a special case. Well, it is. It's what MySpace was created for and it works really well - free samples of music, gig diaries, images and of course endorsements... and if they're from other bands, so much the better. There's also a two-way thing going on here - people want to be listed as the "friend" of a famous band. Bands want to look like they've got lots of fans. Everyone wins. But the model is virtually impossible to extend to other businesses. And you'll see that bands have another website anyway - the only real purpose behind a MySpace account is to give away samples of their music to a very specific audience. And once they have a video, YouTube's the better place to do that.

Anyway, that's my opinion on MySpace - and it's not just sour grapes because I find it exceedingly frustrating trying to get it to look right. Oh no.

25 October 2006

Panic! Not at the disco, though.

So... tomorrow is my last day in the office and from that point on I'm alone and need to find business. I think I'm about ready; bank is sorted, website is sorted, contacts are sorted (although I need more), business cards have arrived, I've had training on legal things today (which made my brain hurt a little and is responsible for the current state of panic) and I feel ready - as ready as I'll ever be.

In other news... the JuicyFly site is coming along now, and I've learnt lots of interesting JavaScript - not just a couple of individual functions, but (long overdue) a lot more about the syntax and putting it to use. You can see it in use on the navigation for the test page I've set up - http://www.juicyfly.com/template.php - it needs cross browser and cross platform testing to make sure it's all OK, but it's getting there. Still a lot to do on this but it's certainly moving now.

All that remains is to find a way to stop the cat constantly bothering me for food. We wormed him the other day. So far it's had no effect.

05 October 2006

Business devices as consumer electronics

I love my Mac. Using it, and reading about BlackBerry's new consumer handset, has got me thinking about the differences between business and consumer electronics, the closing gap between the two, and the interesting consequences for the way we use them.

If BlackBerry can succesfully create and market a consumer device with the purpose of giving you push email and the web on the move, then it means one thing: consumers want access to their email all the time. Even down the pub on a Friday night. So what's wrong with phone calls? Well, nothing, but there are several reasons for email and the web on the go; it's cool (honestly - that's a big factor for the sort of people who'd buy one), the world's growing smaller but timezones aren't (it's easier to email someone in New Zealand than call them) and attention spans are getting shorter. Waiting for someone to get to the pub? Now, rather than eyeing up the barmaid, you can fire off a couple of quick emails, organise the next night out, maybe even keep ahead at work. Blog a bit. Shop online.

So what are the consequences for business? They're two-fold. Firstly, it means small businesses can get hold of business tools for lower, consumer prices, and for phones on cheaper, consumer tariffs which still fulfil our needs. Often we have to sacrifice some functionality or benefit - in the case of the BlackBerry, it's ruggedness and keyboard size. But for a small business that's fine - and it can kill two birds with one stone because our business tools become something we're not ashamed to be seen with out and about.

Secondly, it means people are using our websites and services in new ways. At different times, on different devices, and with different restrictions. Site "stickiness" changes when we come to using a mobile or small screen; before, it was a comprimise between giving people what they were looking for and pointing them to other things to browse to that they *didn't know* they were looking for. On a mobile, though, people don't want to browse for ages. It's about giving them what they want quickly but - after the transaction is complete - encouraging them to return. Doing a site variant for the mobile web is less and less about just fitting it on a small monochrome screen - it's about changing the whole navigational system and user experience.

02 October 2006

Being 28

Being 28 feels no different to being 27, really. Not that I thought it would do.

The beer-belly my brother promised would arrive at 25 still hasn't materialised, but then again I don't drink beer, and I do lots of running about waving swords, which I think holds it at bay. That and living on nervous energy and caffiene.

This coming year's going to be a good one. Much working for myself and general career-based merriment will follow, I'm sure.

Oh, and thanks to anyone who gave me a present or a card. They were much appreciated.

30 September 2006

Maltpress.co.uk finished!

Well... mostly finished. I need to have a rest from it for a bit before I do final testing and see if there's anything which needs re-doing, typos which need correcting, abd so-on. I've also got to do the header images on the home page because I messed up the reds when converting to gifs - and it took non-colourblind people to point that out to me. From now on I design in black and white...

Actually, no I don't. I'm about to start on the JuicyFly site, which is going to push me even more. Maltpress.co.uk is a fairly safe site, which tries to be a good corporate one - it works on all the browsers I can test on, it's standards compliant, it's content-led (the design doesn't detract from what's going on) and it's pretty gimick-free. There are only three complex elements on the site - the blog parser, the contact form (just waiting for sign-off on that from the bloke who runs the server - don't want to open it up to any attacks) and the search.

The whole point of the JuicyFly site is to be something a bit different - to push the boundaires a little more. There's going to be some interesting JavaScript, which I'm playing with now (ByteFX - although there are a couple of typos on that page) and some decent PHP, hopefully. I'm just going to go all out. Work to FireFox, and possibly sacrifice IE a little. Bad, I know, but I'm playing.

Playing is good.

25 September 2006

Getting older

So... I'm nearly 28. A mere week away, in fact. I'm loving it. Getting older, so far, rocks. I'm working pretty hard (in fact, I've worn myself out so I'm about to go to bed, now I've sorted the navigation on my site in Safari - seems to be working well in everything but Firefox 1.0.7 for some reason).

The business is going well, especially now I'm part time at the day job. I've made a list of things to do and got some of my deadlines into iCal. I've bought felt-tips and big paper (surprisingly one of the most useful bits of kit in my arsenal - I've done massive amounts of really good work with nothing more than an A3 sheet and a couple of felt tips). All in all, things are good.

But with birthdays come presents, and I'm rapidly running out of ideas. I don't really want that much material stuff. Mostly because I'm running out of room. I'm using del.icio.us to put my list together, here, but I've not got much on it. What do I want?

That's my plea for human contact today. In the words of Scaryduck, plz to suggest-me-up.

21 September 2006

A day off - how odd

I've not been in the office today - first day of working part time, and it's really odd. I feel kind of guilty for not doing work.

I went to Ikea with dad and I'm now sitting in a surprisingly comfy swivel chair thingy which only set me back £14. Bargain. In all, I only spent £25 and that's including one unplanned buy (which in itself is pretty good going for a trip to Ikea).

Tomorrow work starts in earnest, though. I shall be learning OmniOutliner for the Mac, finishing my website and starting the JuicyFly one (design concept completed, couple of technical things to sort and then build will begin). All very exciting. Then there's an ex-colleague's leaving do in the evening - the warm up for mine.

17 September 2006

New banner

There's a new banner I just made. I'm having fun with The Gimp and - I admit - probably overdoing the reflections and drop shadows. Oh well - I'm enjoying it. :)

16 September 2006

Comng along nicely

Maltpress.co.uk is coming along nicely, and there's going to be more to see as soon as the server's up and running. In the mean time, have a load of this... i made it tonight with a little bit of Gimping and some patience. And quite a bit of fun.

13 September 2006

I'm very nearly part time.

I've only got a couple of days left as a full-time employee. It's seeming more and more real and - to be honest - more and more scary as time goes on. There's still so much to do.

Mind you, everyone's been very supportive and I'm getting contacts all over the place. Friends of friends, colleagues, all sorts. It's very encouraging.

I'm off to Ikea next week with dad to get a couple of office things, and also to spend a bit of time with him - while I have loads to do in the next couple of months, I also know I've not had much time off at all since I went to Budapest earlier in the year. I've worked at least half a day most weekends since then and many, many evenings, so I'll ease myself in that first weekend.

And then panic a bit.

A list will appear soon of all the things I have yet to do. It'll be quite long.

11 September 2006


The internet's a wonderful place to share things and to find out about other people. You could probably learn more about me than I actually know just by looking at stuff I've made available. What I've been listening to, thanks to Last FM; what I've been taking photos of, thanks to Flickr; and now what books I own thanks to LibraryThing.

I'd read about it a while ago on Geoff Jones' blog and thought it would be a great idea to actually sort my bookshelves. So this weekend - having cleared an old chair out of my room and created enough space for a much needed second shelf - I decided to catalogue my books.

It was fun, and I got to dust them all off as well. Plus you can stalk-me-up proper now by looking at what I have on my shelves. I'm half way through at the moment, with 130 books, and most of the fiction yet to come.

I wonder if there's a way you can use LibraryThing plus the Amazon API to estimate the value of your collection? Now that would be scary... good for insurance, but scary.

07 September 2006

40 years

It's the 40th anniversary of Pet Sounds being released this week.

Best. Album. Ever.

Anyone who disagrees - I'll take you. It's the only album to ever make me cry.


I had to say a very difficult "see you soon" (6 months, probably) to Michelle this morning, which has put me in something of a low mood. Along with being very tired. At the moment I'd like nothing better than to crawl into bed and sleep for a few hours - but I'm at work. Still, major deadlines have been met and now it's full steam ahead on handover things now. And setting up the business properly.

There's not much more I can say really. I'm thinking about preparing for my birthday in just over a month but shortly before that a colleague is leaving and shortly after I'm leaving - so it'll probably be a low-key, friends only affair.

06 September 2006

Pip pip old bean

Hello all.

So... a safe choice for the Mercury Music Prize. I don't think my love of Thom Yorke's Eraser is any secret, but to be honest I'd have been happy with (almost) anyone else but the Arctic Monkeys winning. Not that I think they're bad; just that they're an incredibly safe choice.

Of course, winning isn't necessarily a good thing all the time. What's happened to the excellent Anthony and the Johnsons, who won last year? Not much, really. And not winning never harmed Radiohead any of the times they've been nominated.

Personally I'd have liked to see Richard Hawley win; he's a talented bloke and - somehow - seems to fit the mood of the Mercurys better. Don't ask me to explain that - I don't think I can. He just seemed more right.

Anyway, as the Grauniad explained today, sales for everyone have gone up since the shortlist was announced, and if it gets people listening to something new then that can only be a good thing. Now, if we can stop the Arctic Monkeys being so damn precious about what they do and start just enjoying themselves, we'll be on to a winner.

Other stuff: I have a book on Neuro Linguistic Programming to read, so I'll be manipulating everyone I know before long; Michelle leaves this weekend, which is very sad (but incredibly exciting for her); time is ticking by until I become part time, which is very exciting for me; and my moustache growing is going slowly (but, thankfully, surely).

What about you? Tell me something. Please. Let me know you're out there.

01 September 2006

How to live like a monk

Following a little "live like a monk" confusion, I thought I'd reitterate the rules.

Inspired by Alvin Hall, money-saving guru and wearer of turtle-necks and bad trousers, as well as BBC3's "Spendaholics" (I love that programme) I thought I'd address my budgeting before the business starts up.

Unlike Spendaholics I won't be standing in my old school's car park shouting "what about me?" and nor will the nation be laughing at my habit of buying utter tosh for no reason. However, just like that show I will be living to a strict budget, calculated using complex algorithms and much picking of numbers out of the air. Once it's gone, it's gone, and at the end of the month anything left in my account goes into my savings. Direct debits and standing orders tick over as normal.

It's very good for me - in that I save money - and it also makes for some interesting evenings and days out saving as much money as possible. I find interesting free things to do and see. Hurrah!

And while we're on the subject of money, I've been convinced to do Tacheback again this year. It's all about raising money for male cancers by growing a moustache. Which I already have, but I'm about to shave off so I can start afresh and everyone can laugh at me as I pass through the facial equivalent of the dodgy mullet - the pootache. Photos will appear on Flickr, I'm sure. You can sponsor me here.

So, all in all, I'm not going to be leaving the house this month.

31 August 2006

Live like a monk - part the second. Ish.

Well, I did two successful months of living like a monk. Then I met Michelle, and gladly threw all that out of the window, having a most enjoyable month not living like a monk whatsoever (although I did drink more wine than usual, which is a bit monkish I suppose).

Anyway, incredibly fun though it has been, I still need to save more for when I work for myself, and time is ticking away. So I'm reviving live like a monk month.

It'll be an interesting experiment again - I start working part time in the middle of the month and it'll be good to see how that affects cashflow. I have a horrid suspicion it's going to be tough. Still, I can at least start doing local shopping at the butcher and greengrocer's in the village, which should mean less petrol money.

So... off to the bank to get the cash today, pick up the footpump to get the bike tyres inflated, and time to get prudent.

29 August 2006


Well, had an update on the server issues.

Looks like Maltpress.co.uk, JuicyFly.com and Cambridge.IsHome.co.uk will be down for at least a week, as will my email. If you do want to get in touch, eggy_little_man@hotmail.com will be working so you can get me on that. Can't be sure I'll get to stuff particularly quickly, though, so be patient.

Apparently the server's currently in bits - physically rather than just metaphorically for once - while things get fixed.

When it's all back up, though, hopefully there's going to be a spanky new www.maltpress.co.uk in place with all sorts of cleverness going on.

28 August 2006


Maltpress.co.uk has been hacked. Well, the server it resides on has been, so for the moment some of my icons and banners have gone AWOL. Sadly that also means cambridge.ishome.co.uk has gone, as has www.juicyfly.com. Bums.

The very nice man who runs it is - I'm sure - currently at work on it. I hope. My email's down at the moment too.

It's very frustrating because the new-look website is coming along very nicely at the moment and I wanted to show it off to the world. :(

25 August 2006


Originally uploaded by Maltpress.
I've been helping Tracy with her Gimping. We had fun. She made this.

24 August 2006


I need photos of me for my website. I think. I'm not sure - yes, it'll personalise my site, but most of the photos of me I have ever seen are of me looking somewhat rough, drunk, tired, or all of the above. None of which are particularly professional aspects of myself to show the world.

So - do I need a picture of me on the site? I know I need imagery, and I should start taking some snaps here and there to fill it. I feel a little uncomfortable "posing" for a picture for the site, so maybe I could go through my friend Tracy's photos for a decent one, although there are some terrible haircuts in there (and terrible facial hair, and lots of pictures of me bending over... don't ask...)

The other option is to ask my better half to bring her snazzy camera when she comes to see me next. She's a very good photographer. Although sadly it's the last time I'll be seeing her before she leaves for New Zealand for a year (followed by six months travelling) and there are probably better things to do with our time than taking photos.

Stop sniggering, you smutty devils.

Anyway - todays plea for human contact of some form is as follows: do I need a photo of me on my business website? And what should it be like?

16 August 2006

The thank you project

I'm bored. I've being doing something exceedingly dull all day for work and it's really tough. Now there's nothing on TV. So I'm going to start a project I thought of a while ago and never did.

I'm going to email or write (actual postal letters) to people who've made me smile or whose work I've enjoyed over the years. Authors, musicians, comedians... whatever. It's a bit brown-nosey, but I figure these people take a lot of rubbish and rarely do people ever just say thank you.

I'm going to look like a wierdo stalker, I'm sure. I'm not. I don't idolise celebrity. I think the cult of celebrity sucks. I just like talented people who are good at their jobs. When I do something good at work people say thank you. Other people deserve that too.

I'm going to start by thanking Thom Yorke for The Eraser. It's a lovely album and I like it.

14 August 2006

Most enjoyable weekend

I just had a most enjoyable weekend. Friday was spent as tour-guide and sober person for a colleague's night out with some non-Cambridge friends; although there was lots of pressure to find nice places to go, the people were very nice and we ended up having fun. A late, late night though.

Saturday meant a trip to London to see my lady friend for her friend's birthday. I've not done a train trip to London for ages, and it made a really nice change. Also meant there was a chance for a nap on the way. The evening was spent first in a Carribean restaraunt in Camden, and then in the Jazz Cafe; both were incredibly good fun. I even did dancing, which isn't like me at all. Maybe it was the wine.

Anyway, the end result is that I'm getting the work/life balance a bit more on track. Which is jolly nice. And it's mostly down to my friends.

09 August 2006

Breaking my site

Clever me. I managed to truncate my blog post on a link element and break my website layout by effectively removing a div tag. Chances? Low. Rate of occurence? High.

Think I've cracked the navigation though...

Some designs I like

Following on from yesterday's post, I've had a look at the navigation on the site and I think I know what I'm going to do with it now. I thought I'd also point out some nice looking sites which - although they don't have the "oh my god - I've never seen anything like that before" factor which I'm beginning to think I'll never find - are nice looking sites.

This one has navigation which I might "pinch" - I can see how to work it using A List Apart's "sliding doors" technique and some .pngs - and with a little more work can do it with gifs for proper cross-browserness. Anyway, it's a pretty site, if a little busy. Does kind of have that "nothing new under the sun" feel about it though.

This one's a whopper - huge page sizes and very over the top but looks really nice. But one of millions doing that "tattered edges" thing. Again. Yawn. But the photo background really inspired Cambridge.isHome

Very pretty, but photo-led - and it's not a content/text friendly site. Everything's below the fold, which some people claim is no longer an issue, but it winds me up.

It's got the cross-hatching thing going on - but it's got some really stunning elements on it too. The splash page actually has a purpose to it, too, what with needing Flash to make the most of the site, and with the Google Earth KMZ. There's some lovely simple and clean design on the site too. Plus the KMZ and Flash map are really well executed.

Thing is, I've not done anything particularly new on Maltpres.co.uk (coming soon) - and even by looking at other brand new sites I doubt I would be able to. I'd just like to see something new and different.

08 August 2006

Menus and all that

I'm struggling with Maltpress.co.uk re-design stuff. I can't figure out how to get my menus looking good. I've tried A List Apart's Sliding Doors technique and - while it's good looking, easy, surprisingly code-light and generally very good, it doesn't fit with the way the site looks. I've done most of the page without thinking where to put the navigation and now I'm paying the price. I'm sure there's a simple solution, though, which is going to look good.

I'm having a look through CSS Beauty for inspiration at the moment. There's some lovely stuff on there. I always have loved the site, although patterns are obvious - everyone has that same diagonal cross-hatching thing going on. Everyone has soft-look buttons and gentle grads and subtle tints.

Today's plea for some kind of human contact comes in this form: point me at a site which looks incredible, and isn't your bog-standard web 2.0 soft focus, reflecty-picture drop-shadow fest.

One day someone will talk to me.

03 August 2006

Stress and stress relief

I'm not known for being a happy person in general. But at the moment I am. Things are going well for me. As you can see below, I've completed probably the biggest project of my working life so far. I've handed my notice in and all sorts of exciting prospects await me. I'd like to not be stressed for a little while.

Problem is, I'm still wound tighter than a tight thing after that big project. The nervous energy which propelled me into the early morning shouting at IE and Firefox last week now has no-where to go.

So - if there's anyone out there - I'm after suggestions for relaxation. I'd like to come home from work tonight and think about nothing work related whatsoever.

So far I've tried washing, ironing, cleaning the bathroom, and trimming my beard. None of these have helped yet.

Ideas, people! I need ideas!

02 August 2006

The biggest thing I've ever done.

...so far, that is. I've just launched (well, yesterday) a jolly big website, which I've been working on for months. I'd like to say "single-handedly", but the design work was done by Pixelwork, who provided me with some lovely (but empty) HTML pages - about 12 of them I think - which I then built the site from. It took a jolly long time. There was much heartache. I spent many late nights working on it.

But now it's live. There's still loads to do but there's a real - and somewhat nerve-wracking feeling - that I'm entering "the next phase" of my life. What that phase is, and what's involved, I have no idea whatsoever. But it should be interesting.

I'm going to take it a little easier than I have been doing for the next couple of days. There's still stuff to do but there's more time to do it, so I get to have a bit more of a play with things. I want to try adding an ASP RSS parser - something I've done quite a bit in PHP but never in ASP. I've got the code, so it's a copy and paste job - but should get me more used to the ASP syntax when I tweak it.

29 July 2006

Day off

Well, certainly the morning off. I've only just got up and I'm sitting in my pants. Hurrah!

The site build I've been working on for the past few months is coming along really nicely now. I'm launching on Tuesday, so watch this space.

I've also handed my notice in. Hurrah! Maltpress Web Consultancy is go. Because I have nothing really to go to, I'm working a long notice period. As part of that I'll be using up the masses of holiday I have left, so I have roughly a month of working three-day weeks towards the end; that'll be the time to get all my final things set up. I'm looking forward to it. In general, I'm very excited (if a little scared) about the whole thing. It's been a real relief to hand my notice in and, if nothing else, it means I can get advice from people at work about things... there are some really good designers, marketing bods and managers there whose brains I'd like to pick.

Right - I'm going to shower, get on my bike, go in to Cambridge and meet an old friend. Then I'm buying iWork, coming home, finishing the website ready for Tuesday, and relaxing as much as humanly possible.

Pip pip!

28 July 2006

Done it

...quit my job. Eeek. In three months' time I'll be unemployed, unable to sign on, and having to fend for myself.

Does anyone want to buy an MG? Or give me some money? Or hire me? Or just tell me it'll be OK and I won't be poor at Christmas?

27 July 2006

Still here.

Still swearing at Internet Explorer (actually, swearing at Firefox and nested relative font sizes... although technically correct it's still annoying when you're working to IE...)

Still hanging in there on the day job... by days... more to follow...

Still working very very hard trying to get a site launch done on time despite technology...

Still enjoying the radio over the internet.

14 July 2006

Very, Very. Very...

Tired. *Yawn*. See?

BBC 6 Music is ace. This afternoon, I've had Dandy Warhols, Weezer, Menswear, and the new Thom Yorke single.

I've also been told to stop using the word "monster", which is a shame. Because all of the above are indeed monster.

13 July 2006

A rant and a hurrah

Rant: "does what it says on the tin". If one more person uses this phrase to describe anything - except perhaps a tin of buzz-word spouting marketing person poison - I will scream. They even said it in Hollyoaks the other day. Is nothing sacred?

Hurrah: Javascript in another language - it just makes me smile to see "new String(Request.Form("messaggio"))". I don't know why.

09 July 2006

Doing drawing, listening to music

Redesign work continues apace at the moment. Cambridge.ishome (still experimenting with the capitals) build should start Wednesday, when I have a day off work. Maltpress.co.uk rebuild has started and, despite a few early IE/Firefox issues it's now working on both browsers, and on Macs too.

Yesterday I set up my office round at Dad's house; I'm about to go buy memory for the old computer I'll be using and a wireless thingy too.

I'm learning GIMP more than ever before. My CSS and HTML are coming along very well. PHP holds no fear for me. I'm saving money well, helped by not driving in to work any more.

All is well with the world.

05 July 2006

Damn him. Damn his eyes.

This bloke got there first - it seems he's doing all that I want to do and being all that I want. JuicyFly should be what this bloke's brand is. And, damn him, damn him all to hell, his design stuff is utterly incredible. Doesn't work in IE, but hey. Maybe it will in IE 7.

As lame as it may seem, my goal is to kick ass at anything thrown at me. As marketing fluffers would say, I want to provide compelling and unique design that ultimately helps your bottom line. But that's crap, I'll let my fingers do the talking, thanks.

OK - so I don't do design, I do information architecture and "stuff" - but that's an ace philospohy to have. Good on you, sir, but damn you some more for getting there first.

30 June 2006

To celebrate a month of not spending done well

Let me kill your connection:

Ace. Utterly ace.

I love YouTube.

28 June 2006

Last night

I watched the Spiderman 3 trailer on my mac.

It was almost *too* good. Shiny.

26 June 2006

Once again...

I'm glad I got out of pharma marketing. I'm sorry to say nothing in this article surprises me in the slightest; it's stuff I've actually helped people do. I feel dirty. Thing is, most people involved are good people under pressure to perform because that's what they get paid for, and they want to pay the bills. No one person ever goes out there to say "let's make everyone afraid of some natural feeling which is rarely a problem - then we can make money". They say "how can we make more money for our company so we can research new drugs?". No-one gets around to researching the right new drugs, though. They're all thinking about making more money in order to do something altruistic. And the altruism never surfaces.

That's business, and it sucks. At least it sucks when you're talking about people's health. To be honest, Coke can do what they want, because it's my decision whether I buy their product. They're not telling me there's something wrong with me which can only be cured by their product. And if they try, I know they're a consumer product and I shouldn't trust them. We all think that we should trust pharma because they wear white coats.

Here endeth the rant.

I'm having a confidence crisis at the moment. A recruitment agency told me I don't have enough commercial experience to run my own business. Now, the plan is to do it part time for a while while I get that experience, but it's one of those things you don't want to hear. Especially when it's a fear I have anyway. Still, if commercial stuff means getting back into pharma and things, that's probably for the best.

I think I need to focus on the positives for a bit. Last night I did some work on Cambridge.IsHome and fell in love with WordPress, and my Mac, all over again. I could just kiss them both. If one wasn't some zeroes and ones and one wasn't a box made to hold zeroes and ones.

19 June 2006

A proper update for a change

I thought I should take five minutes out to do a proper update for a change. I'm in the middle of doing some site-build work for my day job, trying hard to get caught up with everything and the site launched on schedule. It's been hard work and there's a bit still to do, but things are coming along nicely and the end is in sight. I've started to become quite good at the RedDot content management system now.

I've also found working from home suits me brilliantly. I get more done at home in the evenings than I do in the office during the day - simply because it's impossible for colleagues to ask me to help them with anything. My problem is I can't say no - whatever people want help with, I'll help them with it, whether it's my job or not. Sitting in the kitchen of an evening with the stereo on, plugging away at a website, I'm getting tonnes done. I can have a straight four hours on the site build and get more done than in a normal working day. I can also get caught up with my emails.

Cambridge.IsHome is ticking over at the moment, and not much more. I've got a load of photos to convert to banner images, and would have more had my camera not decided to commit bizarre battery-saving suicide the other day (I think it's salvagable - if not, it's just the memory card which needs replacing). There's a lot planned - regular features, a weekly update (although I need to sort out the timing on that), a contact form, and soon a .kmz file I'll keep updated with links to venues and things I visit. I keep thinking there's a lot of potential with the site. Once I reach a critical mass with content, I'll start promoting it around town a little. Then there are some seasonal themes I need to get prepared - Halloween (which I already have an article planned for), Bonfire Night, Christmas... I know, I know. Planning too far ahead already...

As for Live Like A Monk Month, I had a shaky middle to the month but things have sorted themselves out well. I think I'll make it now, and I've not even had a really bad time or anything. In fact, the only monk-like elements to the month are the head-shaving and the chastity. And the filthy habit, ha ha ha.

So... eleven days to go until the end of the month, when it'll be all change for me again. The back of the day-job site build should be broken by then, I can spend again (although I think I'll choose to keep the budgeting thing going), and I should have my own sites slightly further along by then too.

Oh, one last thing - I'm advertising the Midget. Contact me if you want it - adam@maltpress.co.uk

15 June 2006


I've only just noticed I deleted the top banner from this site a little while ago. Damnit.

I'm not going to fix it now: I'm off to bed, it being an ungodly hour. Sorry everyone. I have deadlines which I really want to exceed - the sooner I meet them the sooner I can leave my job. :D

In the mean time, ha ha ha ha...

13 June 2006

Utterly painfully busy

In the next month and a half...
- five sites to build for day job
- normal day-job stuff as well
- two personal sites to redesign, write, and build
- two blogs to run, one of which needs me to review stuff
- business plan to re-visit

Cripes, eh? That's why I'm not around much at the moment, and when I am around I'm in a bad mood. Sorry. Normal service to resume soon.

10 June 2006

Look at the beautiful sun!

My god, it's wonderful. I have to get out there.

Today I am planning to bike into Cambridge to do some photography for Cambridge.IsHome. I need to spend as little as possible, though. Live like a monk month isn't going brilliantly. Don't get me wrong, I'm saving loads, but if I want to keep to my budget I have to spend even less. There's a leaving do for someone at work next week and it's going to be pricey. Especially because it's her birthday too and I want to get her a present.

It's not as if I've even been frivolous. Strawberry Fair cost me little as I was drinking coke all day. Went to a barbeque and took food, but not that much. Been cycling in to work. Did spend on cold drinks the other day but I think that's OK.

If it wasn't for this leaving do I'd be well on track. Oh well - I'll have to see how best I can budget for now...

06 June 2006


Time to reveal the new project. Cambridge.IsHome is a new site celebrating everything great about where I live - Cambridge. As you could probably guess from the title.

You can find Cambridge.IsHome here: http://cambridge.ishome.co.uk

Last night I did some photography in Cambridge, came home, put together a mock-up title bar and had a quick go at the style sheets.

I'm using WordPress to build the site - it's blogging software but I'm using it as a content management system. The main benefits of this system - which work well with what I'm planning to do - are the categorisation of posts, nice control over comments, and a really nice clean look. I'm not messing with the standard look and feel that much. Writing's the main point of the site.

Having said that, I have some nice images from Cambridge today. I'm sure I'll share at some point, probably on Flickr.

Photos look lovely on the mac screen, by the way :D

05 June 2006

For sale...

My lovely car. Sob! Get in touch if you want to buy it.

04 June 2006

Shiny shiny shiny shiny shiny...

...shiny shiny shiny shiny.

Yes, I've got a MacBook. Yes, it's the most excellent thing ever.

Now I'm doing a lot of testing of open source software - MacGIMP, OpenOffice, that sort of thing, in order to make the most cost effective use of it. There's a lot of learning to do - I've (obviously) got the hang of the basic browsing stuff and some of the basic apps, so now it's time to start making best use of the thing.

I've never seen a screen like it though. So amazingly sharp and clear. I really, really want to start using this for image manipulation, hence MacGIMP being the first download...

02 June 2006

Live like a monk month - an update

Well, it's funny how my social life explodes into action the minute I tell myself not to spend any money.

Still, I seem to be doing OK, even if I am driving in to work at the moment in a real display of laziness. I'll start biking again next week. Honest. I have 28 days left (as the new countdown timer - from Free Flash Toys shows) and most of the money left at the moment.

Please don't break in to my house to steal it.

Work is very, very busy and very, very stressful. I'm wound up tighter than a very tight thing at the moment. But its's nearly the weekend. I have fun things planned, including partying, Strawberry Fairing, computer shopping, and sleeping.

Just ignore that bit about computer shopping, OK? If we pretend it's not really happening, then it won't count against live like a monk month.

31 May 2006

Names and sole tradership

So... I'm not going to be JuicyFly limited. At least not at the start.

It's a shame because I love the name and the designs Oli did for me. But for financial and administrative reasons I've decided to go down the route of being a sole trader, which means I have far less paperwork and far fewer costs like accountants. I could be a sole trader "trading as..." but that looks a bit fly-by-night.

So say hello to Maltpress Web Consultancy.

JuicyFly will remain, however, as will the JuicyFly Empire. It's going to be a far less formal "thing", where I'll be playing with new toys, trying some PHP stuff out and having a creative outlet. Maltpress.co.uk will become the official company website and the redesign work will commence tonight.

It's very exciting. Timelines are set, goals are set, stuff is moving along nicely... it's all I can do to stop myself jumping up and down with glee.

Plus I've decided that - if I'm having to sell my car - I need something with which to impress girls. So I'm getting a MacBook. Much drooling will occur. I'm watching the phone, waiting for them to tell me they have some in...

30 May 2006

As of tomorrow...

HM Revenues and Customs recognise me as self employed. Well, back-dated, they will.

I am now a sole trader, trading as "Maltpress Web Consultancy".

And what's happening to JuicyFly? More news tomorrow.

Filling forms

Following a restful weekend during which I watched an inordinate number of films (X-Men III is quite good - not brilliant, but quite good) I am now doing set-up with a vengeance. I've had some good advice and the point at which I say I am self employed seems very, very close.

So today it's contacting the Inland Revenue and DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) to register for VAT and to register as self employed. That way I get to pay tax, but also get to claim back the VAT on my capital outlay, like a laptop and business cards.

On the subject of laptops, the Mac option is looking really good at the moment. Especially when VAT is taken off. I'm going to get some advice, but I really do think I'll get one - after all, I'm going to be working damn hard for it, I may as well enjoy it.

Anyone got any experience of working between PC and Mac and care to talk me out of it/advise me further?

28 May 2006

My poor brain

I am incredibly hurty at the moment. Beer festival. Ow.

Today I will be mostly laying in bed watching Alien on DVD and feeling sorry for myself. This will be an enjoyable hangover. Hurrah.

22 May 2006

Gosh, what a rotten occurence

I'm trying very, very hard not to say rude words.

Bad car things:

  • Metro has failed MOT and is costing me a bomb to have fixed. Bottoms!

  • Midget needs new points and the only way they could be harder to get to would be to put them in another country. Flip!

  • Tax is due on Metro as well, which is even more money. Crivens!

Please replace the above non-expletives with real swears. Real bad, bad, swears, which would make women blush.

20 May 2006


Sparkly things, eh? They're so ace. This is what the future should be like - floaty displays and thinks you can control by waving your hands about, like the Nintendo Wii (ha ha ha).

Just thought I'd post that in a short break from writing a business plan and doing cash flow forecasts...

19 May 2006

Live like a monk month - the strategy

So, my brother and dad are signed up for this. Dad's going to take my cards from me (with strict instructions not to buy things off the internet with it) and my brother's joining in. I've been trying to work out strategies. Here are some of the ideas, in no particular order...

  • Only "done a poo" at work - hence removing the need for loo paper.

  • Stop going out for lunch. It's not something I do much - in fact this is only going to save me about £10 over the month - but that's enough.

  • Bike in to work. I've been doing that out of necessity the past few weeks, because I didn't have the Metro, but I have to remain strong and not be tempted to drive any more than I have to.

  • Do a proper planned shop - maybe even sharing lifts with my brother and getting stuff together.

  • Eat all the stuff I have in the freezer. Not all together, of course, because that would be nasty. I'm going to start tonight with the quiche I have. Mmm, cold egg pie. Love it.

  • Eat more biscuits at work. I put a pound a week into the biscuit kitty; I don't think I'm getting my money's worth at the moment. Although I doubt they'd appreciate my idea of bringing a doggy-bag.

Any other ideas? Use the comment thingy. No-one has for ages. I'm starting to think no-one reads this.

18 May 2006

June - live like a monk month.

In my quest to not owe money any more and - of course - to fight the evil of capitalism and other higher aims (actually, just to get out of debt - it's purely selfish) I am declaring June to be "live like a monk month".

At the start of the month I'm taking a wodge of cash out of my bank account and then handing my debit card and credit card over to my dad. If I need something which is outside my budget, I need to make a case for it with dad. If he's not convinced, I don't get the money. Obviously, some things I'll have to pay for - the MOT's due on the Midget and I need to get that done before I sell it, and I'll have to pay to advertise it, too.

I hope I don't alienate my friends. If they ask if I want to go out and the week's budget is nearly gone, I'll have to say no. Certainly at the start of the month I'll be saying no to everything, and I'll be more likely to treat myself at the end.

It's been inspired by lots of things, really. The Motley Fool is the main one, with lots of stories from people who've saved loads and are now financially far safer (not necessarily rich, but sorted). Alvin Hall's book Money for Life, which I got from the library, is another one. But mostly it's because I have to sell my baby and that sucks, and it's my own damn fault for spending money on things.

It's also going to mean I'll be out less, which means more time on business set-up. Which is good.

It'll be an interesting experiment and one I'll blog relentlessly.

EDIT - I've just had a look at Moneysavingexpert.com and - as well as the advice being good, the copy writing is brilliant. Design isn't great, but the use of headlines, call-out boxes and so on makes it easy to read. Plus the language used is nicely colloquial, simple and structured.

Pity it's so FireFox unfriendly though.

17 May 2006

I'm such a sucker

For shiny things. I keep trying to justify getting one. There's utterly no way - while the business is going to need a laptop of some description, being realistic a Windows box would be more convenient all round and a lot more affordable. If someone at the bank said "why a mac?" I doubt "because it's shiny and looks nice" would be a good enough reason to spend twice as much on a computer.


Leasing, finance and so on would be an option, but I want to pay for as much as possible at the outset and have a minimum of ongoing revenue costs. While I know I can get at least some work at the outset to pay for things, whether I can sustain enough work long term to keep me in shiny things is another matter. If it all goes wrong and I have to get a "proper" job again, at least if I buy outright I'll still own - or be able to sell - my assets, and I won't be saddled with longer term debts. As it is, the cost of setting up looks like it's spiralling anyway - business cards, registrations, insurance, accountants... frightening.

Oh, and discussions this weekend led me to believe making and selling t-shirts for my imaginary band (which I can't help but refer to as "we", as in "we have no members or songs") might actually be a little bit more mad than I thought. I like to think of it as a whimsical eccentricity.

15 May 2006


No, that's not how I feel - far from it, in fact - it's Adobe's new AJAX framework.

Basically a JavaScript library for building AJAX pages, it's a good preview and intro to AJAX, which is something I've not used but have seen being put to work on some excellent web apps. Flickr's a prime example of this - beautifully functional and looks incredible. The applications of AJAX are limitless, especially for people who want to empower users to add, edit and sort information.

Building a website is becoming less about structuring information the way you think your users are going to want it - it's more about putting in place technologies which allow them to structure the information for themselves. Exciting times with some interesting challenges on the way.

EDIT - I've just seen my visitor stats. Someone was referred to maltpress.co.uk from the searh term "bad haircut mistakes".

Great. That's cheered me up no end.

14 May 2006


I've sadly had to reach the realisation that the Midget has to go. I can't afford to keep it - not only am I insuring it, paying running costs, and renting a garage from the council at over £40 a month, but the money I could get from selling it would pay off my credit card and get me nicely set up for starting the business. Perhaps in a couple of years I can replace it; perhaps even with something nicer. But as it is I have a month to prepare it for the MOT and then it's going up for sale.

It's such a sad thing to have to do. I'm so utterly in love with that car. But the situation's just wrong. As it is, I have to think about moving anyway, possibly even back to live with my dad. Realism sucks.

Still, I need to look for the positives in this. It'll put me in a far better financial situation; the business can really take off; I wouldn't have time to look after it anyway; and I've had a couple of incredible years driving it and playing with greasy things. In another couple of years, as I said, I'll probably be in a position to replace it - with something nicer.

Maybe I'll start putting my mechanical energies into the Metro. Maybe it's time to mod it up. Lower it, flames over the wheel arches, tune the engine up, that kind of thing... ha ha ha.

Mod it hard!

10 May 2006

I rock.

I rock.
Originally uploaded by Maltpress.
I made this.

Cheesehelmet Nosebleed are... well, a phenomenon. I'm not sure what to do with them. It's like a one-man flash mob but without the mob and certainly without the flash part of it. Something like an art "happening" but comedy instead of art and it's not really happening.

The original plan was that they'd be the biggest band that never was, but now I'm thinking that perhaps they should be.

Regardless, it's a fashion icon already. Even though I own one of only two t-shirts made so far, and my mate Phil has the other.

Come on - be a 'bleeder:

09 May 2006

Yay! On sticks!!

Hurrah! Maltpress.co.uk is back up and running. My images are back on this blog, and it's running smoothly again.

All is good with the world.

More updates soon.

04 May 2006


Bonk seems to be my favourite word at the moment and I'm not sure why. Not in the naughtiness sense of the word, just as a word... it just makes me laugh. I'm going through something of a childish phase at the moment.

So I thought I'd tell a story of terrible physical injury today. I have to admit I actually have no recall of the events I'm about to explain - for reasons which I'm sure will be apparent - so I only have other people's word for this. And a whopping great dent in my forehead.

When I was about 4 and my brother about 6, we decided to cut down a tree. As you do. I'm not sure if it was inspired by the Monty Python lumberjack song, or a need for wanton destruction, or just boredom; as I said, memory eludes me for this escapade, so I can only guess at the motives.

We found dad's hatchet in the shed. It was a nasty little thing - sharp, curved blade on the front and spiky hooky bit a the back, something like an ice-pick but not sharp. Very solid, however.

Now, for some reason the logic of a 4 year old isn't all that. Being too small to heft the axe myself, I let my brother do it. I wasn't *that* stupid though - I did at least try to find the safest place to be. Using the popular theory of opposites, I figured the most dangerous place to be would be in front of my brother - and therefore the safest place to be would be behind him. Directly behind him.

He went for the first blow. He swung the hatchet back.


My parents came into the garden to find my lying on the grass, blood gushing from my forehead, an axe lying beside me, and a somewhat concerned brother standing by me.

I went to hospital but the queue was very long. By the time I was half way down it I'd stopped crying and the bleeding had stopped so we went home. To this day, if a queue's too long I'll just give up on something. Although that's a somewhat different story.

I had no permanent internal damage I know about; perhaps one day a brain scan will show otherwise (I'd love to see my brain). Scar-wise, I sadly don't have a big manly white line down my forehead like Harry Potter, but if you'd care to feel I do have something of a dent in my forehead. Go on, ladies, feel my head.

And what did my brother say when my parents came out to find me lying there? As he stood over my prone and bleeding body, the axe lying next to me on the grass, he looked up at my parents and uttered the immortal line "he did it to himself".

And they believed him for years until they worked out I couldn't even pick the axe up myself.

02 May 2006

Service update

Still no maltpress.co.uk or juicyfly.com sites at the moment, which is a shame because I've been working on a Cheesehelmet Nosebleed site. I'm planning to make them the biggest band that never was. It's a pointless little fun project I'm just playing with. Part of it is making t-shirts and things using Cafepress, which turns out to be easy to use, incredibly fun, and - because I'm not charging markup at the moment - cheap for people who buy my stuff. I ordered a t-shirt and badge from my own stuff and it worked out at about £15, including postage from the US. Hopefully it won't be too long before we get a UK based one as well.

I also used the Shell Livewire site the other week and got my free startup CD this weekend. It's very good, with a couple of basic ideas generation tools, plus some handy reading material (which will be helping me format my business plan properly over the coming weeks). Next week I'm seeing a financial advisor; I'm going to try to get an appointment with either my appointed Shell Livewire advisor or some other startup advisor soon as well. Then I need to find a solicitor and an accountant.

I'm getting worried about the amount of paperwork there's going to be. Sole trader or limited company? I can see the benefits of being Ltd, but there's all that accounting and stuff...

29 April 2006

Bang bang bang!

Metro rear wheel arch
Originally uploaded by Maltpress.
Hammer + Metro = bad. That's what I learnt today. Hardly rocket science, I know, but there you go... I was trying to clean up the rusty bits a little. Somewhat encouraced by the bit at the front which I though would be awful being OK, I went at the bad rear wheel arch and found this... it's more rust than metal, I have a feeling there's quite a bit of MIG wire in there, and there's certainly already some filler.

Metros do this, though. Rear wheel arches are the main weak spot.

Tomorrow dad will come round. We may hit it some more, swear a bit, and then try to fix it. Hopefully. If not I'm buying one of these.

28 April 2006

Weekend, weekend, la la la.

It's nearly the weekend! Hurrah. Only not. Only maybe hurrah.

Weekends are a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I'm not at work; on the other, I get bored. So I'm trying to plan ahead and make sure I have lots to do. More so this weekend as my brother's away and I have the house to myself all weekend. Just me and the moggy. We'd have a party if I had any friends who'd come and he knew how to write the invites.

Plans for this weekend then:

- hit my car with hammers. That's right - it's MOT time for the Metro, and I have a feeling the rust is going to fail it. Again. And I don't want to spend weeks welding again. I think it's just cosmetic, but it does mean I need to knock out the rusty bits and fill it. It also means it's off the road for a couple of weeks and I'm cycling everywhere.
- business set-up stuff; I'm seeing a financial advisor next week, and this weekend I'll be working on getting my company registered and all that malarky.
- fun things. Er... um... Tracy might come over and watch a DVD tonight. Better still, she might bring Michael with her and I'll seem even more popular, although I won't get such a good reputation with the neighbours as I would if it was women visiting me alone. Other than that I'm open to ideas. There's a classic car show on Monday me and dad may go to. Look out for Flickr updates following that.

I'm going to wrestle the cat and get his collar on, too. Someone at work who appeared to be jingling just reminded me of that.

27 April 2006

We had books at school

And it never did me any harm

Actually, we had books at university too, and I much preferred doing research like that. Why should schools be internet connected anyway? The internet can be a reasonable research tool but it's only a small part of it. There's so much rubbish out there that I don't think kids should be using the 'net for research until they've been taught how to critically evaluate the information they're given. It's a complete minefield - even governments use the wrong information from dodgy internet sources (academic essay as justification to invade Iraq, anyone?).

Taking internet connections away from schools isn't censorship. It's teaching kids how to actually think for themselves, and saving them from a lifetime of crippled, RSI hands and chronic dry eyes.

26 April 2006

Blood and guts

It being the end of the day, I was reading some of the blogs I peruse and decided to have a flick through the Best of Scary Duck (Grauniad blog award winner) - and came across this story.

It's reminded me of a similar story once told by my a-level biology teacher.

Now, Cambridge is a lovely flat place and as such the cycling capital of the world. Our biology teacher cycled in every day; as did many teachers. He'd also nip out on his bike on errands.

That's set-up fact number one.

Biology is sometimes a book-taught subject but is best when it's a practical one. No, no, not like that. Honestly - minds in the gutter. I'm talking dissection, as demonstrated by That'll Teach 'Em (starring Jeannie, my mate Pete's ex).

That's set-up fact number two.

Now, let's combine them.

Disection of bits of cow works best when they're reasonably fresh, so the smell doesn't affect the delicate constitutions of the pupils. A deal had been struck with a local butcher; in return for getting rid of the bits he didn't want, we got fresh bits and pieces to chop up. The only problem was picking them up. The biology teacher offered his services one lunch time and set off to get some nice fresh guts for the afternoon's lesson.

The offal safely stowed in a plastic bag, which in turn was safely stowed on the panier rack on the back of his bike, off he set. What he didn't notice, however, was the bag slipping from the rack behind him and dangling ever closer to the back wheel of his bike.

One thing - as they inevitably do in a good anecdote - led to another and the bag got caught in the spokes. Not only did the bag rip open, but off came the teacher into the road, his bike landing on top of him. Injuries were negligible - a couple of bruises - but the offal was ruined. It had gone everywhere..

And that's where passers by found him - lying in the road, seemingly mortally wounded, covered in blood and entrails. There were screams. Oh god, were there screams. I think the therapists of Cambridge still get work from it.

24 April 2006

My dad, my rabbit, and my first girlfriend

I just have to tell this story. It's one of my favourite anecdotes.

There comes a time in a relationship when you have to meet the parents of your partner. Now, most people dread this time, but not me; I get on well with parents. To be honest, I often get on better with parents than I do their daughters (not like that, you filthy buggers). But there was a time when I'd never gone through that, and my dad had never met a girlfriend of mine.

So the day came that Dad invited my first girlfriend round for tea, and she nervously accepted. Once she'd arrived, the nerves dissipated; both my brother and dad are easy to get on with, and they soon all found the common ground of winding me up over which to bond.

All the old stories came out over tea. One of the favourites - and one for another time - was my brother hitting me in the head with an axe. Oh how we laughed at my potential brain damage. This got us on the subject of scars, which inevitably led to the story about my rabbit.

Basically, I had a pet rabbit which one day went utterly mental and bit me, hard, on the end of my finger. It went all nasty and I have a scar to this day - some 20 years later. Now, the details are lost in the mists of time; my brother insists I must have been poking it, while I insist it had gone insane in some way. This theory was backed up by the fact that during the night of the incident, the rabbit managed to escape the run to go to live in the woods.

It was at this point in the story that my dad interjected. "You don't still believe that, do you?"

Well, of course we do. That's what you told us.

"Actually," explained dad - and please bear in mind at this point he's sitting right next to my first ever girlfriend, who's still a little nervous - "I was so upset the rabbit had hurt you that badly I went out that night, wrung its neck, and buried it in the garden".

There was a clatter of dropped cutlery at this point.

Now - brushing aside the possible cruelty aspect here (if it was a dog, they'd have put it down) - what was most shocking was that my dad was sitting next to my first love, basically saying to her "this is what happens if you hurt my son". It was both incredibly reassuring - my dad cares for me enough to kill to protect me - and yet incredibly scary. My dad cares for me enough to kill to protect me.

We had to quickly check the fate of some other pets - we've been assured that the dog really, really did go to live on a farm. All gerbils died of natural causes, and having received nothing more than a nasty suck from our goldfish, I wasn't worried about them.

Still, we did see Dad in a new light - as some kind of bizarre fen-based Mafia enforcer. Rather than "sleeping with the fishes", his enemies "went to live in the woods".

All my exes are still fine, although I can't be sure if future breakups will coincide with a new patio at Dad's house. You just don't mess with Don Maltpress's sons.

22 April 2006

Random Owl

Random Owl
Originally uploaded by Maltpress.
I went into Cambridge today for a wander around and to enjoy the sunshine while I worked on an idea I have (more details to come soon). While I was there a local falconry centre or something was out in force with owls - just standing around letting people take photos with them. This is the best photo I got - I'm pretty sure it's a long-eared owl.

I'm glad I wasn't wearing my hat made of mice. They'd have gone straight for me.

21 April 2006

This weekend...

I have no plans, but I know I need to make some otherwise I'll get bored again.

So, by Monday, expect one or more of the following:

  • CheeseHelmet NoseBleed's very own website
  • More CheeseHelmet NoseBleed merchandise with a new slogan
  • A post on here telling the story of my dad, my rabbit, and my first girlfriend.
    And that should do me for the weekend once sleeping is factored into the equation.

  • 20 April 2006

    What a dissapointing Guardian day

    Nothing really to bore you with today. So instead I'll promote my band, CheeseHelmet NoseBleed.

    Currently we have only one member - me - one song, no talent, but enthusiasm in bags. I'm hoping that will make up for our other shortcomings, but even I struggle to be enthusiastic enough to make up for not having a drummer.

    The one thing we do have, however, is merchandise, and an ever growing amount of it. At the moment there's a couple of t-shirts, but soon there will be mugs, more shirts, undergarments and... er... I don't know.

    It's my first attempt at using CafePress.com, the online store which lets you add your own logos to things. It's a great idea, beautifully executed (until I came along), Webby Award winner, and incredibly easy to use.

    Buy my pants here

    19 April 2006

    While I work on something good...

    Have this. Cats in helmets - hurrah.

    Unleash the hamster!

    This news story is brilliant (I can't get it to work on Firefox, though). Someone's invented a computer game which allows you to track the movements of a hamster as it chases food - and to control that food as if it's your game character. The article explains it a lot better than I can.

    I'm not sure why you actually need the computer - surely the same effect could be achieved with a somewhat cheaper (and technologically more stable) bit of string with a hamster snack on the end? Thinking about it, very few of the hamsters I've known (a story for another time, I'm sure) would be that arsed chasing food around.

    This reminds me of a story about some friends of my dad. They went out and spent an inordinate amount of money on a hamster, cage, food, toys and gnawy things one day and went home excited to have a new cute little pet to play with. When they got home the cat - as they do - sat and watched haughtily as they filled the cage with sawdust, attached the bottle and wheel, and generally fussed about. When all that was set up they wanted to give the little fella - who'd been crammed in a little box to bring him home - the chance to stretch his legs and take those first steps into a bigger world. So they put him in one of those plastic balls to roll around the living room carpet.

    Off he went. Bang - straight into the wall - the ball split open and they watched in horror as the cat went from nonchalantly watching to pouncing on the poor creature and eating it.

    And that's how the friends of my dad owned a hamster for less than an hour. One day I'll tell you about the time my dad killed my pet rabbit.

    Hamsters are fun, of course, to just watch stuffing things in their faces. An ex of mine used to find it hilarious - sadly far less so when I did it and got gravy everywhere. Still, the hamster had the advantage of being incredibly cute and furry - maybe that's where I was falling short.

    At least I didn't poo on the kitchen table though.

    18 April 2006

    I'm an opinion former and trend-setter, apparently

    Rather than a dull rambling geek, which is what I *thought* I was. It's quite reassuring. And means I can justify blogging at work while I wait for the kettle to boil and things - "honest, I'm on the bleeding edge and shaping trends with my opinionated spoutings on web content".

    I'm not sure all bloggers can be counted like this, of course. I've had about 700 visitors in the past six months; I'm not really shaping that many opinions. It's the minority of "name" bloggers who have interesting, witty content - blogs like Random acts of Reality and Scary Duck, as well as the interesting corporate blogs like Microsoft's developer blogs and Google's developer blogs who have the real opinions. I'm largely just talking to an empty room at the moment because I don't have much to say.

    Still, it does back up earlier claims of mine that corporate blogs are the way forward. A tech company without a blog is missing out; when a large proportion of your audience is a blog-savvy, always internet connected generation who care about how the product they buy has been designed for them, the best way to do that is to track the development of that product and (at least outwardly appear to) gather feedback.

    Anyway, I'm back at work and so now I have no excuse to be bored. I will still achieve it however.

    16 April 2006

    I'm still bored.

    This has got to be a bad thing, right? That I can't seem to survive a weekend off without descending into mind-numbing boredom? I'd like to think that's because I have a massive mental capacity which, in the absence of a multitude of incredibly stimulating problems, rapidly gets a bit mardy and punishes me. But it's not; it's mostly laziness. I could tidy my room, do yet more ironing, write an article, build a website, write a business plan, or any number of things. But I figure this is my time off and I should do something fun. What that is escapes me at the moment.

    I'm still drooling over Apple products at the moment. Perhaps if my five or more readers (OK, so that's a bit optimistic) could write to them and tell them how JuicyFly's reccomendation has made them want to buy one too, then they'll send me one. Or at least a £5 voucher for one. If I had a voucher I had to use up, that would be justification enough to buy one.

    Please, please, give me something to do.... I don't want to iron any more. It's lost the joy it once had.

    15 April 2006

    Bank holidays = bad thing

    I'm bored. Utterly, utterly bored. And that's dangerous. Because this keeps calling to me. No way I need one, or can afford one, but mmmm. Shiny. Pros: I could test websites on a Mac and surf the internet watching TV. And it's pretty. Cons: I don't need one, can't afford one, and I have better things to do than watch Beauty and the Geek while blogging. Which, of course, I am in no way doing right at this moment. No way. God forbid.

    Yesterday I played with the car (the Metro) to fix a couple of little electrical problems. I'm not sure *how* I fixed it, because I have no idea what was actually wrong - although at one point there was a smell of burning. Which is probably not a good thing. Anyway, all seems to be working fine now, no funny smells (except me, of course). Then I went to the pub, had fun, went to the Kam Bar, was very dissapointed by the choice of music, then went to bed.

    And that's all I can think to do all weekend except ironing and cleaning. Bugger.

    13 April 2006

    Some damn clever stuff

    30 boxes online calendar and Google's calendar (which was launched very recently) are a couple of web apps I'd not seen before but which are damn clever. I'll have a proper play with them when I'm not at work and having my lunch break, which I am now. Honest.