October 2011 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

Halloween in the Peak District (30rd October 2011)

Fiona and I were driven by Sarah to meet Cathy and Ian, with their baby Caitlyn.


  1. Cycled back from work
  2. Packed bag
  3. Fiona made jacket potatos with corned beef and melted cheese, plus a pot of beans on the side
  4. We took the Tube then changed for a train to Radlett (Fiona’s hometown)
  5. Sarah was waiting at Radlett station for us, having driven up from Whitstable
  6. Stopped at a services for some coffee and a rest break
  7. Arrived at the house somewhen around 11pm


  1. Woke up at 11am, long after everyone else
  2. Headed into Leek, the local town.
  3. Bought lunch at Deli – soup which we ate outside.
  4. Looked in various trinket shops.
  5. Bought cake from Thorntons for trip to Hampshire.
  6. Tea at Tea and Times (we think that was the name) – a teashop/clock repairers. Had scones and hot chocolate.
  7. Wandered to car via small shopping arcade that had an owl sanctuary demonstration with various owls on display. Probably the same ones that we saw at sanctuary on last visit.
  8. Returned to house and carved pumpkins - bat & owl.
  9. Got dressed in Vampire costumes. Sarah was a ghost maid, Cathy a witch, Iain a Devil and Caitlin a vampire baby. Bib said “Beware I’m Teething”.
  10. Drove down road to Froghall on Churnet Valley railway and boarded a diesel train.
  11. It took us through Cheddleton and then a tunnel, suddenly turning the lights off!
  12. Lots of passengers were dressed in Halloween costumes including the guards.
  13. Train returned to Cheddleton where we dismebarked and got some food – ate a pie and a glass of red wine in carriage on train.
  14. Watched a band on other side of platform playing old rock and roll covers and had a boogie.
  15. A steam train picked us up after 45 mins of this and we found our own compartment.
  16. Spooky soundtrack over tannoy and Halloween characters parading up and down trying to scare us, including a particularly authentic-looking Hellraiser.
  17. When we arrived at back at station there was entertainment, including a Halloween disco with actors and a fairground. We sat in a cafe and had some more food and drink and decided to head back.
  18. Watched most of the Halloween edition of Strictly Come Dancing


  1. Woke up at 11am, long after everyone else (again!)
  2. Fiona brought me cheese on toast, which I ate in bed
  3. Sarah drove us to a pub for lunch with Ian and Cathy
  4. I ordered the pork in cider sauce with new potatos
  5. Caitlyn realised that objects under a napkin still existed and could be revealed by removing the napkin
  6. This turned out to be something like a casserole, the sauce was so thick and tasty!

Shopping from Morrisons (23rd October 2011)

On this sunny and mild afternoon I successfully carried out a shopping trip. Total price was £24 which is around what I normally spend.

Items Purchased


Carrier Bag

Accessible Websites are Cheaper than Buildings (22nd October 2011)

(In response to UK case on interpretation of “reasonable adjustments” on Accessify Forum.)

What amazes me is that the accessibility of a physical premises easily costs 5- or 6-figure amounts to sort out. Multiply that by the number of premises. Yet the same companies penny-pinch to the extreme with their websites. It makes no business sense…do they spend solely because of the more visible legal threat?

Websites are amazing. Accessible websites are amazing for everyone. It is as much of a legal requirement to make reasonable adjustments to a website as it is to a building. And yet doing so for a website is much cheaper and benefits far more customers. UK business, please, put the money where it can do the most good: websites.

Economy of Scale

Throughout my career, websites have piffling budgets compared to buildings. Even though they they service hundreds of times more customers. And each transaction is tens of times more comfortable. What’s more, the margins are bigger due to the way websites scale up from a small team of experts to a humongous audience of customers.

What is wrong with UK business? Why do they still neglect the medium which offers the biggest ‘bang per buck’?

Skinflint Website Commissioners

Most clients simply won’t spend £100k on a website. Even when they service millions of customers. That budget is less than 50% of what they’d spend renovating a single building. A building to service mere hundreds of customers. It’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s simple arithmetic.

They money is being spent on the wrong channels, with web accessibility continuing to lose out. The level of independence it offers continues to be scuppered by the culture of stinginess from those who commission websites.

The ROI from accessible websites is already well-known and well-proven throughout our industry. UK business is still living in the 1900’s, as if The Internet Revolution never happened.

With that said, there are plenty of big-budget websites with lousy accessibility. Even now, with an inordinate body of advice and guidelines exists for free showing how to get it right. BSI PAS 78 helps commissioners separate the wheat from the chaff.


Good websites can service more customers than buildings. They do it cheaper and with larger margins for the business. They offer a lower carbon cost, zero travel cost, and greater accessibility available for every customer in the comfort of their own home, any time of day or night, all year round.

Websites are amazing. Accessible websites are amazing for everyone. UK business, please, put the money where it can do the most good: websites built by experts. (Such as myself!)

FAIL: Playstation 2 with High Definition (20th October 2011)

Thought this was possible by using a Component lead and playing Gran Turismo 4. First stumbling point is you have to change the system configuration defaults. Then you change some of the Options in Gran Turismo.

That greatly reduced fuzziness and interference. The menu screens look delicious! But the actual 1080i capabilities of the game were removed from the PAL edition. c{X¬[

System Configuration Defaults

As clumsily described by this How to Output Component on a Playstation 2 Tutorial on YouTube. I used the standard Composite lead to set the right output mode. This default seems wrong for nearly all home electronics – and for the Dell U2410 I run my PS2 through.

Whiloe I was there I changed something about the TV Size to Full. This seems to have made menus a lot sharper and use a better aspect ratio.

Make sure you don’t have a game in the machine. It will always start the game instead of going to the system screen, otherwise.

This alone has greatly improved improved the picture quality! The rendering of text is amazing. I can also see minor divisions in scales (such as the refueling meter) which were never visible before.

Options in Gran Turismo 4

Strangely, the ones I saw in a YouTube video to select different video formats are not available. At least, I haven’t found where they are.

The in-game pause menu has a Screen option and I used that to set Brightness to +5 and Contrast to -5. (Fiona’s Freeview box has a Component output, although not HD it’s the best output it has. Swapping the cables will be enough of a chore without changing the Brightness and Contrast every time!)

Texture Smoothing

From the homepage of the PS2 system menu, you can press Triangle to get the Version information. From here, you can selection Driver Version and press Triangle again to get a couple of hardware options.

For the past couple of days I’ve had Texture Smoothing set to Smooth. Not sure it’s made much difference.

Haircut 13, Family Meals & Steam Rally (9th October 2011)

The complete list of all entries for my blog is missing a few haircut events, so I’m estimating this is the 13th. Spent the latter half of Saturday and most of Sunday in Fleet with the family. Dad and I watch the F1 from Suzuka, then went to a steam rally on Sunday.

Haircut 13

Realised I was going to be half an hour late, so called Dad. He told me Mum had already rescheduled it for 5pm. We arrived near 4:30pm.

Family Meals

Our tradition of take-away kebabs was observed on Saturday evening. We got take-away pizzaon Sunday. (It later seemed that one of these didn’t quite agree with me, which is very unusual.)

Steam Rally

It was the end-of-season steam-up at Derick Marder’s yard, near Andover. Upon arrival I started recalling distant memories of being there before, when it was very hot. (Probably an Easter at least 10 years ago.)

There were about 5 big steam rollers and 1 steam lorry. A small armada of ride-on steam models spluttered and hissed through the event, too!

E-mail Itinerary

All times are approximate!

Stuff from London to Fleet

During Visit, Saturday

  1. 1pm depart from London
  2. 4pm haircut
  3. Afternoon cycle along towpath to help build our appetites?
  4. Anti-squeak training for old brakes?
  5. ~6pm family dinner
  6. Doctor Who or other sit-down entertainment?

During Visit, Sunday

  1. 6am F1 from Suzuka (or record and watch later)
  2. 10am steam event
  3. ~1pm family lunch
  4. ~4pm depart for London
  5. ~6pm arrive in London

Stuff from Fleet to London

  1. 1× Cycling bottle
  2. 1× Cycling helment
  3. 2× Base layer, trousers
  4. #× Tomatos and ½ Cucumber

Converted to Cycling to Work (9th October 2011)

Since Friday 23rd September 2011 I have been a cyclist commuter, travelling 3.5–3.9 miles each way. Initially the door-to-door journey time was similar to that of the Tube. With practice, the set-up and set-down rituals at either end are now taken just a couple of minutes. Cycling in London is great!

The most fun journeys have been with Fiona, including a memorable nocturnal ride back from the Thames Festival earlier in September 2011.

The quite old £110 road racer bicycle I have has proven far faster than my old mountain bike in Fleet. When it comes to tarmac, 10mph is maintainable on the mountain bike.

That feels like dawdling on the racer, with 15mph being maintainable when I push hard, 18mph can be maintained and tailwinds made 20mph+ possible.

In less than half an hour, I get to whizz past all the cars and arrive ten minutes before the equivalent Tube journey.

Aside from the speed, it’s a much more active way to get around. Waiting for buses couldn’t be more passive. Riding a Tube is not far removed from being in a scrum. In a suit. In a sauna.

Locking your bicycle is essential, ideally storing inside a building. Basic oiling, adjusting of cables and tyres at the right pressure make the same machine twice as easy to propel. Twice as easy to enjoy.