March 2009 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

  1. January
  2. February
  3. March
  4. April
  5. May
  6. June
  7. July
  8. August
  9. September
  10. October
  11. November
  12. December

Cycling with Suspension (27th February 2009)

Zoe offered to sell me her bicycle so I took it for a test ride.


First thing I notice is that bicycle suspension definitely works. Roads which usually rattle me to pieces were merely bumpy. Bumpy roads are merely undulating.

What takes some getting used to is balancing on a machine which is flexing and shifting beneath you. In retrospec, it was much like riding a horse.

The balance problems were compounded by the saddle being far too low, the handlebars being a bit too high and the front wheel being warped. Hit a bump while signalling with one arm at the wrong part of my pedalling and very nearly fell off! Simply slowing to a stop had me wobbling over to the kerb like a total noob, too.

Replacing the saddle post with my custom one helped a lot. I could now balance and signal since more weight was being spread to my hands.


Large wheels in the derailleur were present in Warren’s racing bike and that seemed like a good idea. This machine had them as well. As these are the smallest wheels in the transmission they spin the most. Making them bigger reduces their rate of spin, this reduces the friction.

Eventful Cycling! (19th March 2009)

Riding up a steep, root-covered track as fast as I could in the Low 2 ratio of my 15-speed mountain bike. Was making great progress, quite impressed with myself. Then…suddenly grinding to a halt.

“What the hell?!”

The nut on the sprocket side of my mountain bike had come lose. The axle had then been pulled forwards on that side, causing the axle to turn at an angle. This wedged the front edge of the rear wheel against the frame.

In short, I was going nowhere.

At first I thought pushing the axle back into position would be enough to reset it. Sadly not; it immediately sprung back to the skewed angle.

Rear Axle

I could hear someone beating and grinding metal in the background. Pyestock was nearby, which is where my dad often does work. So I put 2 and 2 together and speculated that it might be him.

Luckily (and unusually, for me) I had taken my mobile phone. Called my dad and he answered. Explained the situation and we figured out I was near the part of the site he was working in. Heh, life is full of useful coincidences!

I ran over to the fence and he threw a couple of adjustable spanners over. “Don’t try to catch them!” he emplored. I picked them up from the dirt, ran back to my bike and had it ship-shape in a jiffy.

If anything, it was running even smoother than before! Perhaps it had been coming loose for a while?

Dad had suggested I take the spanners home with me, in case I needed them on the way. This turned out to be sage advice!

Front Mudguard

Approaching the Pondtail cross-roads from Kings Road, I have to make a right-hand turn to head for home. The junction has traffic lights but they don’t have a filter for traffic turning right.

So I was stopped in the middle of the junction, waiting for oncoming traffic to stop. It kept coming, only stopping as the lights changed in favour of Pondtail road, to my left. I was now holding up traffic, so I pushed hard on the pedal to get across and let other traffic on.

However, as my left foot was going down it must have caught my mudguard. This pushed the mudguard onto the wheel, folding it underneath itself and tangling it in the front forks. The bike stopped dead and I had to leap off to stop myself from falling!

At first I wasn’t sure what had happened, then I saw the end of the mudguard had snapped off. Realising that I’m now stood in the middle of a busy junction with a broken bike, I hurredly pick everything up and scamper to the pavement.

This caused me a mixture of embarrassment and anger. But the more pressing concern was to get home, so I leant it against a fence and tried to Robinson-Crusoe something together.

The spanners were adequate for removing the lower half of the snapped mudguard. The upper half was pretty secure, with its mounting point underneath where the forks join together. I tried removing the support braces but had neither a screwdriver nor anything which would suffice as one.

In the end, I bent the bracket around the remainder of the mudguard so the bracing would not drag on the ground. This was adequate to see me back home without further drama.


Dad arrived back a little later. Explained the Pondtail event to him and mum. They both saw the funny side, as did I by this time.

Showed the damage to dad and we debated more permanent ways of patching it up. By now it was distinctly cold outside, so I resolved to think about it another time. Parked the bike in the garage, went inside and made myself a nice, hot meal.

Fliss Reunion (15th March 2009)

While outside with the guinea pigs, I noticed what a glorious day it was. The air was full of birdsong, the guinea pigs were quietly mumbling and squeaking to each other and the sun was shining brightly. It reminded me of past Summers spent with Fliss.

Several times since I last saw her, I’d considered resuming contact. Calling, e-mailing or just riding over there out of the blue. Every time I had got distracted by some immediate task…or just chickened out.


Today felt different. Or, perhaps more accurately, I felt different. I missed her and conditions were perfect to go over there.

Who knows, maybe I’d sweep her off her feet! Like what happens in cliché’d TV shows and movies.


After procrastinating about what to take with me and oiling my bicycle’s bearings, I set off.

It was a long way but I remembered the route as if July 2007 were only yesterday. I made sure to take the last mile nice and slow, to avoid turning up flustered and sweaty.

Turning onto her road and I felt the familiar butterflies in my tummy. Slowed right down and got my faculties together…this was no big deal, just visiting an old friend.

The Door

Stood my bike up on the pavement and walked to the door. Knocked 3 times, as I had always done. Scrappy was soon barking so I said “Hello Scrappy! Remember me?” He began clawing at the carpet so I chuckled and spoke to him some more.

I soon heard Fliss say “Bed!” to Scrappy, since they don’t open the door while he’s near it. Took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and the door swung open.

There was Fliss. Just how I remembered her.


“Oh my god,” she commented, “it’s you.” “Yeah, hi…erm…it’s great to see you again,” was my reply. (Note to self: plan ahead what you’re going to say afor situations like this!)

I apologised for turning up “totally out of the blue.” “No, it’s fine,” she assured me. We were beaming at each other, so I moved forwards and hugged her. She hugged me back.

We stored my bicycle in their hallway and Fliss headed upstairs. “You’ll never guess who it is!” Fliss excitedly announced to her mum (Sue). I went up and re-introduced myself. “Oh, hello Ben!” Sue exclaimed.

I had worried it might be weird to just show up like this. They both assured me I was very welcome. Apparently they had been watching Lost. Fliss mentioned that she’d been thinking about me recently, as had I about her. This prompted Sue to joke about us having a psychic link.


We talked about what we’d been up to since last time. Fliss went to sort out a few things so I showed Sue the photos I’d put on this blog. Fliss came in and out, commenting on a snowy hill we had ridden over while it wasn’t snowy.

Fliss thinks it’s funny how differently a familiar place looks when covered with snow. I agree.

Eventually Fliss asked me “Do you want to go to the park?” “Yeah, for sure” was my immediate reply. Sue apologised for monopolising me, saying she could talk all day given half a chance!

Chilly Swings

Some kids were playing in the cul-de-sac Fliss lives on. We chatted as we strolled to the local park, which is only a couple of minutes’ walk away.

We went straight to the swings and admired the beautiful day. It felt like a dream, except I was awake and it was really happening. I explained how the day had reminded me of the time we spent together. I assured her “I’m not being corny, that’s really what happened.” She smiled, looked a little shy, and said “That’s so sweet.”

She turned round to face me and we chatted about nerdish, geekdom and how it’s becoming more mainstream. She doesn’t watch much TV so I explained how shows like The Big Bang Theory and The IT Crowd confirm her impression.

After several minutes we slowed down and I pulled the swings nearer each other and gave her a little cuddle, re-affirming how glad I was to have taken the chance of dropping by.

The breeze was stiffening and the Sun was gradually lowering, making us rather chilly. So we headed back to the house.

Fliss on Facebook

We went to Fliss’s room. The bottom of my combat trousers had got incredibly oily during the long ride from Fleet to Farnborough. “You should get some of those metal clip things,” Fliss advised. I agreed: “Yeah, I think so to!”

I loafed on the floor and Fliss told me about her job at a stationer’s. “Oh, I can show you my Facebook.” she announced, fetching her laptop from under the bed.

We went through all the photos, with her setting the scene and giving me the backstory on each one. As well as introducing the various workmates and friends she has made.


The conversation started to wind down, so we updated our contact details for each other and we drew the reunion to and end. She accompanied me downstairs and we cuddled once more as I left. “Text me when you get home, so I know you’re safe,” she requested.

Elatedly and slowly I rode back to the main road. Partly to adjust to the cooling temperature but mostly to bask in the uplifting emotions coursing through me.

When I eventually got home, I duely texted Fliss. We’ve arranged to meet again on Sunday 22nd March 2009.

Zoe’s Birthday Bash (8th March 2009)

On the night of 6th March 2009 I was:

My sleep cycle is now knocked for six but I feel more human and less mechanical.

8th Blood Donation (6th March 2009)

Forgot to blog this at the time, but I gave blood today.

Had a trainee nurse remove my needle. Apparently I was her 13th and hardly even noticed her do it! A small, deft motion and it was out. Completely painless and without alarm.

A pleasent contrast to my 7th blood donation, where it proved a touch trickier to extract.

ARIA in Static HTML (4th March 2009)

(A brief rant about Implementing ARIA on Accessify Forum. I reckon ARIA adds nothing useful to static HTML and its syntax makes it inefficient.)

Let me start by coining a term:

Using role attributes in addition to (or, worse, instead of) adequate semantic markup and usable design.


[…] contentinfo as a role on a <div> containing normal footer info […].

Bruce Lawson

Its position at the end of the document coupled with the type of content makes clear it’s a footer. Especially so in the “normal” cases!

How would adding role="contentinfo" help users? It’s defined as:

Metadata that applies to the parent document.

Footers mostly contain the same information across the whole site, so they don’t apply solely to the parent document. They also include stuff which is not metadata, such as a links to a contact form or a Top of Page link.

In any case, contentinfo is too vague to add anything useful to well-made website footers.


[…] marking a nav list as role="navigation", for example.

Bruce Lawson

A list of links all pointing within the current domain is pretty obviously a navigation list. Preceding it with a heading saying Site Menu (or similar) would make its purpose clearer still.

ARIA defines role="navigation" as:

A collection of navigational elements (usually links) for navigating the document or related documents.

Any list of links already has those semantics!

So it seems role="navigation" also adds nothing to well-made websites. The same can be said for <nav> in HTML5, too.

Money for Nothing

I wanted to do a thorough review and simplification of ARIA but never found funding to go ahead with it. The multi-million-euro projects to fund accessibility work I’ve asked won’t cover what I do, either.

As was the case with my my HTML5 research, a year and a half of which was without funding. Yet there’s plenty of useful work to be done and plenty of money sloshing around. What’s up with that?

What I Want

My hope was for the following to become more apparent as ARIA gained more attention:

Either none of that has happened or the spec has been insufficiently ambitious in solving them.

Looking Forwards

Bring on the rolea! It goes well with the newfound popularity of putting class on everything (classitis).

ARIA examples frequently use <div> for everything (divitis), too. Even calling it “best practice”. Especially fun when they forget alt on interactive images. You must be blind to miss that! (Basing the graphical toolbar on a client-side image map would make sense.)

There’s also plainly invalid markup in examples from articles about ARIA. You can find that kinda thing anyplace, for sure. ARIA gets so much knight-in-shining-armour coverage that I’d every example to be exemplary. Yet it seems the opposite is nearer the truth.

ARIA is the perfect way for standardistas to write markup as inefficient, illogical and illconceived as the mainstream. (See also: Super-fine Markup Semantics.)