words pixels code

a continuing journey of diverging interests

This website has a foot in two camps. The first is software and website design, which the site has been steeped in since I started it in 1999 as my freelancer's shop window. Following behind is a broadening range of interests that time gifts me the ability to pursue. These latter include books, art, buildings and our precious and precarious natural world. Photographs lend support where appropriate. This second batch of writing is becoming the site's principal preoccupation.

The site has broadened and gained bulk as this journey has runs its course and I am surprised by and grateful to those who have encountered my various posts and made contact. Those who know me as a coder know also that I have done time as an English teacher, a passion that predated all the hurly-burly of arrays and variables. I make no excuse for the circularity of things in now investing more time in natural than in machine languages. I recommend this progression to anyone who, like me, has designed and developed software systems.

The menus dotted about this ad-free site should light your path. A site map experimentally blurts everything out on a single page. An internal search engine is available to help you dig for detail. If you get lost, I hope that it will be in thought not in orientation.

(Any factual errors or typos are mine; all photographs are copyrighted to me, unless otherwise stated.)

Posts posted

October 8, 2020
Can a web page have too much white space?

Can a web page have too much white space? It's an innocent question and may even appear to be impertinent given how much white space is embraced, even revered, by web designers - myself included. White space is at the heart of the less is more...

June 20, 2020
Adding a scroll indicator

Scroll bars have been with us since the first GUI. They help us navigate content that is taller - or wider - than the window in which it is displayed. They come in various flavours, suitably modified as operating systems evolved, but invariably they consist of an...

May 8, 2020
Newtimber Hill and VE Day

The vault of heaven was almost discernible from under the skies above Newtimber Hill in Sussex yesterday. It is six weeks into a 'lockdown' trying to stem the advance of the coronavirus pandemic and it was our first venture by car anywhere in that time. Grief lies...

January 27, 2020
Pixel squeezing with JPEGmini

The smaller an image file size is, the better. Get that wrong and your page will load more slowly, your users will leave more quickly, your site SEO will suffer and the site's carbon footprint will tread more heavily. Anyone posting images to the web engages with...

January 2, 2020
Site migration with Backdrop CMS

With Backdrop CMS being a fork of Drupal, you could be forgiven for thinking that everything in Backdrop will be similar to everything in Drupal 7. It mostly...

November 24, 2019
BBC Sounds

Rants don't usually contain reasoned explanations. Although this may sound like one, it therefore isn't - as you will see. The BBC Sounds app (for Android) is so unfit for purpose that...

November 15, 2019
Bridget Riley at the Hayward Gallery

London's Tate Modern is home to some gorgeous Bridget Riley canvases, huge rectangles of rhombic mosaics, in shifting colour that one can stand in front of and lose oneself in. A fifteen minute stroll west along the embankment, the Hayward Gallery seems to have all...

September 13, 2019
Farewell Drupal 8. Hello Backdrop CMS

I have written before of my love affair with Drupal 7 and, separately, of my anxiety about Drupal 8. Drupal 7's abandon-ship, event-horizon end-of-life looms on...

August 30, 2018
Field can contain HTML

For those for whom web standards matter, the devil is always in the detail. The content-management system Drupal throws this at us by the bucket load. No doubt other CMSs do the same. Fortunately, Drupal (both versions 7 and 8) comes up with its own solution to the...

books reviewed

by Patrick White
July 29, 2020
The Vivisector by Patrick White

Patrick White's The Vivisector, the writer's longest novel, explores the nature of artistic creativity and the link between a painter's character and the work that it gives rise to. As with all White's novels, scenes from the author's own life serve as mini...

by Patrick White
June 2, 2020
The Solid Mandala by Patrick White

In a letter to the writer Ingmar Björkstén in early 1973, the Australian novelist Patrick White wrote that he felt very close to The Solid Mandala "because it conveys a certain nightmarish quality of life which I have experienced, though the incidents in...

by Patrick White
May 2, 2020
Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White

Compassion. Compassion towards the outsider, the foreigner, the misfit, the ugly, the plodder: this is the central theme of Patrick White's 1961 novel Riders in the Chariot. Read it for his view of Australian culture emerging from the Second World War; read...

by Patrick White
March 17, 2020
Voss by Patrick White

Towards the end of Patrick White's novel Voss, White observes for one of his characters that only "the supreme torturer would have tweaked the curtain of illusion" (and thus caused her to imagine her childhood garden to be reflected in the face of her...

by Patrick White
March 2, 2020
The Tree of Man by Patrick White

It was quite possibly the recent Australian bushfires that subconsciously put Patrick White's extraordinary fiction back onto my reading list. Those terrifyingly vivid tongues of fire and crisped lives were images I'd already encountered in his writing. Whatever the...

by Herman Melville
February 15, 2020
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

I have just been floored by Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. It is a novel wrought of elemental stuff with a style honed with so much more craft than ever I had expected. It's not a what-happens-next page-turner; that's already known. I felt that my progress...

by Ursula K. Le Guin
January 21, 2020
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin book jacket

Placing this book in the 'science-fiction' category probably deters many people from reading it. Yes, it's a story set on an imaginary world (the paired planet of Urras and its moon Anarres). Yes, there's something arguably scientific in the form of 'the Principle...

by Robert Macfarlane
January 19, 2020
Underland by Robert Macfarlane

I have previously written that I consider Robert Macfarlane to be "able to assess risk before exposing himself to it" but having now read his immensely impressive Underland, my fears for his...

by Samuel Beckett
November 1, 2019
Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett's ‘Trilogy’ is preceded by its reputation for being bleak, difficult and perhaps nihilistic. My advice is to set that aside and, to use T.S. Eliot's phrase, "suspend your disbelief". The cover of Vivian Mercier's Beckett / Beckett volume (OUP...

by James Joyce
August 26, 2019
James Joyce, Ulysses

Everything and everyone is in Joyce's Ulysses (even my very un-Irish surname, page 308), which is no suprise given that Joyce once confided that he had "put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what...

and places visited.

February 3, 2020
Ightham Mote

The name Ightham Mote - whose four-consonant apparent tongue-twister contributes to the surprisingly easy Item Mote - may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon words eyot and ham, meaning island home. True or not, this medieval Kentish...

November 25, 2019
The i360, Brighton

It has been difficult not to glimpse the Brighton i360's pencil-thin outline from the South Downs, showing it black against the sea below it or flashing sunlight off its aluminium and glass surfaces as the coast curves round from Worthing's staid and matronly...

November 9, 2019
Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln's majestic cathedral dominates the surrounding plain from its spectacular perch atop Lincoln Cliff. Its bulk - already planted 50 metres above the surrounding plain - soars skywards a further 83 metres. Seen in almost any weather, the cathedral exerts an...

November 8, 2019
Stokesay Castle

Climb to the top of Stokesay Castle's south tower and you are rewarded with a 360 degree prospect that could be one of the loveliest in all England, the gently rolling hills of Shropshire, Houseman's "blue remembered hills" with his spires and farms. From atop that...

November 3, 2019

Sezincote near Bourton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire, was an early 19th century attempt to replicate the architecture of the Mughal Emperor Akbar who ruled from 1556 to 1605 and was known for his conscious mingling of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles. His...

October 20, 2019
St Botolph's Church, Hardham

The white-washed St Botolph's Church in Hardham, West Sussex, was almost certainly built before the Conquest. It is dedicated to a Saxon saint (the 7th century fenland St Botolph) and has a traditional square east end, rather than a more Romanesque rounded end that...

October 10, 2019
Haddon Hall

When the rain of Derbyshire falls on the Peak District, the stones of Haddon Hall are scoured by it and progressively rounded. The castle's ancient sluice-ways run silver alongside the timeless footsteps of its occupants. Though each weigh little by...

September 8, 2019
St. Celynin‘s Church at Llangelynnin

Sloping down to the seashore and pointing towards distant Bardsey Island, which appears as a smudge of shadow shaped like a jockey's cap on the far horizon, is the medieval St. Celynin‘s Church at Llangelynnin, north of Towyn. The slope of the land shows...

May 24, 2019
Parham House

Some of this country's finest houses are perched on a hilltop, others tucked away in woodland, some dominate a landscape with imposing intent, others block uninvited entry with obvious fortification. Aside from a stone ha-ha to keep out curious deer, Parham House...

October 2, 2018
Uig Sands Chessmen, Isle of Lewis and the British Museum

The oldest rocks in Britain are found in the Outer Hebrides. These are twisted Lewisian gneisses which were formed up to 3,000 million years ago, two-thirds of the known age of our planet. Essentially, they are igneous rocks made from magma deep within the...