Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Wear your tie neatly if you want to get on...

A picture from nearly 11 years ago, taken in Bath. This shows 12 of the 13 members of UKOLN (UK Office for Library Networking) at the time. I was the Information Officer, my first office job. Note the four shifty-looking blokes in the middle of the back row, all trying to out-cool each other and all failing badly.

 UKOLN in spring of 1997

Rachel - far right, back row - left UKOLN today. That leaves 4 people in the picture (Michael, back row left and Ruth, Ali and Rosemary in the three to the left, front row), still at UKOLN, plus one more who wasn't in the picture: Ann Chapman. She writes:
"...I'm actually the longest serving member of UKOLN staff, having started work with the unit in 1987 (then CBM) when the staff was much smaller - Philip Bryant, Lorcan Dempsey, Steve Prowse, and Jo Lye."
In an odd coincidence, out of the eight who have left since that picture was taken, all except one have Facebook profiles - only Hazel, back row left but one not having one. And of the five who are left, non are (unless disguised) on Facebook.

I have a vague recollection of the event where this picture took place. It was at a hotel near the centre of Bath, as part of a restructuring or team building exercise (I lived about 5 minutes walk away). The ducks were not that interested in eating crumbs thrown at them, and had even less interest at the odd whole scone lobbed their way.

Where are they now? Mostly, still in the UK. About half are still in that area; one is in Southampton; another in Manchester; I'm in the Outer Hebrides. Lorcan ended up being the furthest moved and having the largest career rise, now being the Vice President of OCLC in the US. Looking at the picture, the reason why is finally clear - he was the only male staff member who could neatly wear a tie. That's where the rest of us went wrong...

Monday, 30 October 2006

Solas (or Sollas)

This is about 10 miles from here on North Uist, and I'm usually there once a week to do a shop at the Co-op (door to door cheap bus service). There's not many houses there, and when I'm waiting outside the shop for the return bus, there are some good views of rolling fields and distant beaches.

Here's four pictures of some of the beaches there from a recent trip by Flickr user radarsmum67:


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Saturday, 28 October 2006

Winter arrives...

...rain every day for the last few days now heralds the beginning of winter. Here's the Lewis forecast:


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Ah well. That superb long run of weather, stretching pretty much from May through to mid-October, looks like it's at an end.

In addition, tomorrow night the clocks go back. This'll bring on the shock of it being dark by dinner time, and for many people dark at breakfast as well. Spare a thought for the schoolkids on the island who have the hour-long trip down to the big school in Benbecula every day; for a few months of the year, they leave before sunrise and return after sunset.

On the plus side; no need to water the vegetable patches for the forseeable future. And the other big plus is when the skies are clear, there's lots of opportunity for star gazing (I make a point of looking for the International Space Station every few weeks) and looking at the northern lights.

Monday, 23 October 2006

Late season beaches

Another batch of Outer Hebrides beach pictures on Flickr, these courtesy of Heldhelm. I suspect that some, if not all, of these are taken in the area around Northton on Harris (the third and fourth ones definitely are, as there is a very distinctive band of rock on the distant hill). Can anyone confirm?


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Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Loch life

As opposed to pond life, I presume:


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That picture is from the blog Isles Pictures. It's one of a number of blogs on the BBC island blogging service; unlike most of the other blogs, it is mainly pictures as opposed to witterings. It's an excellent collection of pictures of outdoor life in the Outer Hebrides. Here's another from the collection:


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Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Games in education: two new reports

Part of what I do for a living is look at the use of digital games in formal, curriculum-based education. This week has been a good one in this particular niche area of applied research, with the publication of two reports:

1. Unlimited learning: computer and video games in the learning landscape (1.2Mb PDF). ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association), in association with the Department for Education and Skills’ personalised content team have produced a good overview of the area with some nice examples and bang up-to-date information on games.

2. Teaching with games (downloadable report and surveys). FutureLab have been working on a one-year project, supported by Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Take-Two and ISFE, where several COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) games are used in  classroom conditions to see how useful and relevant they are in a real learning environment.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

"Does it always rain in the Outer Hebrides?"

No. And we have the data to kill off that particularly stupid myth.

Over the last 5 months, the number of days where there has been measurable rain has remained remarkably constant:

  • May 06:  21

  • June 06:  20

  • July 06:  21

  • August 06:  21

  • September 06:  21


So there you go. There is measurable rain (more than .2mm) every 2 days out of 3. By day, we mean a 24 hour period. So the number of daytimes where it rains is less than 2 out of 3, due to nighttime rain.

Also, when it does rain, there often isn't a lot. 0.2mm is hardly noticeable - when forecasters say "An inch of rain fell...", that's about 125 times as much as 0.2mm. Out of those five months, three had 9 days with more than 2mm, one had 7 days and one had 15. Only one day in the last five months has produced more than 20mm of rain.

This data is from Andrew Ross's weather station just down the road from here on Berneray. His weather data is also automatically pumped through to a display on the weather underground service. Further weather information pertaining to Berneray is available on the Isle of Berneray community website.

[AET] The irony is that the Outer Hebrides has the reputation of being the place in the UK with the extreme weather. But it's not. During the baking heatwaves of this summer on the mainland, when temperatures got up to 36C, it reached a comfortable mid-20's here. And when snow falls heavily elsewhere in the UK, here it (somewhat disappointingly) never lasts, due to the mild air off the atlantic.

So, extreme weather - no. That's what the mainland is for. And when the southern half of the UK has been turned into an unbearable sub-Saraha desert (otherwise known as "July"), we'll be out on the lawn, drinking G&Ts on a pleasantly warm afternoon. Cheers!