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Annie's Farmhouse, near Florence, where we stayed with our extended family many moons ago
(from my web site - click the image to visit)

This is a kind of picture-postcard to tell you that my web site has had to be moved to a new place.

The home page is now here, and the old web site will be deleted in a few days' time.



The garden of our wonderful Airbnb place where we stayed in Sintra (click the image for more info)

People interested in my web site may like to know that I have added a new page on Portugal for armchair travelers (or people who might be thinking of going there).

Portugal is a relatively recent discovery for my family, and it didn't take long to fall in love with the country and with its very friendly people. The cost of living is low, and the Portuguese really care about their environment, with almost 100% of their energy needs coming from renewables.

If you have never been to Portugal... then I highly recommend it!


If you're interested in environment issues, you may like to know that I have just updated the Environment & Technology section of my web site, which tries to provide useful information and links about a wide variety of environmental solutions and issues.

The issues now include, of course, an anti-science, anti-environment President of the USA. However, as you will discover if you visit my web site, there are still very positive things happening both in the USA and elsewhere.

Although the section is quite large, you will hopefully find that it is easy to navigate. I have tried to make it rich in high quality links (many of which have also been updated), so that what you see on the pages are just the tips of many interesting icebergs, so to speak.

If you visit it and really like it, then please share it anywhere you think it would help the environment - thank you!

I am sure that the section could be further improved. Any suggestions would be really welcome.


If you're interested in environment issues, you may like to know that I have just released a major update to the Environment & Technology section of my web site, which tries to provide useful information and links about a wide variety of environmental solutions and issues.

Although the section is quite large, you will hopefully find that it is easy to navigate. I have tried to make it rich in high quality links (many of which have also been updated), so that what you see on the pages are just the tips of many interesting icebergs, so to speak.

If you visit it and really like it, then please share it anywhere you think it would help the environment - thank you!

I am sure that the section could be further improved. Any suggestions would be really welcome.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year, wherever you are on the planet!


If you're interested in environment issues, you may like to know that I have just updated the Environment & Technology section of my web site, which tries to provide useful information and links about a wide variety of environmental issues.

The updated parts include a new section on Solar Roadways and a major update to Hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles, as well as a really interesting development in the area of Biofuels.

Although the section is quite large, you will hopefully find that it is easy to navigate. I have tried to make it rich in high quality links (many of which have also been updated), so that what you see on the pages are just the tips of many interesting icebergs, so to speak.

If you visit it and really like it, then please share it anywhere you think it would help the environment - thank you!

I am sure that the section could be further improved. Any suggestions would be really welcome.


A sunny smile can make your day...

This is one of my favourite pictures of Debbie Harry (the source for which you will find here).

It features on my page called The Bright Side, which is a kind of antidote to a world which (according to the media) is full of people who hate each other, politicians with unforgivable human weaknesses, scandalous celebrities, crooked and/or environment-destroying companies, and all kinds of drop-outs and weirdos.

For a distinctly nicer view of life, check out my web page, or try this selection from my Categorian blog.






Two of my screenshots from the computer game Syberia

I am no expert on computer games - I don't get much time to play them.

I do, however, enjoy really good adventure games that involve problem solving rather than shooting. The best of these games seem to me to be amazing works of art and technology. Developing these games must be not unlike working on a movie blockbuster such as The Lord of the Rings.

Syberia, created by the Belgian comic artist and video game developer Benoît Sokal, is (as of January 2012) the highest-ranked game in the GamingExcellence adventure game ratings, and having played it over the last month or two I am not at all surprised.

If you are interested, I have reviewed this and some other excellent adventure games here on my web site.




This is my Kindle (the new cheaper, lightweight version), which I got for Christmas. It was the best kind of Christmas present, one that goes on giving pleasure almost indefinitely.

The photograph shows one of the randomly-selected graphic screensavers, and was taken when illuminated by our super-bright Klarstein sunlight therapy lamp (there you go, two recommendations for the price of one!).

The pages displayed on the new Kindle really are as clear as print on a paper page (even clearer, IMO). As with a real book, the brighter the light, the easier it is to read.

Like many people I wanted it for travelling and holidays, but I use it much more than I expected.

There is much more to this great device than meets the eye, including the 36,000+ free ebooks available from Project Gutenberg.

I have written some notes about it on my Books page, including a few hints and tips if you are thinking of buying one. If you are interested, click the image above or go here.


Some useful stuff on HTML, web/HTML editors and web site building here.

(Original post: August 7th, 2011)

I have just updated my Italy web page, which has information and/or links about our favourite places there (which include the Italian Lakes, Tuscany and Umbria).


This guide started out as a set of structured notes and links to help me to learn Photoshop (and that's what it still is).

When I realised that it would be useful for other people, I decided that it was worth the effort to turn it into the much more comprehensive guide that it is now.

My aim is to help you through the "Boot Camp" stage of learning Photoshop, and a bit further. If you are new to Photoshop, or if (like me) you use some of Photoshop's features but would like to explore more of its power, then this guide is for you.

What is the "Boot Camp" stage? Well, for me it was the effort needed to learn about selections and masks, channels, levels, curves, layers, colour spaces, paint tools and blend modes, and how all these things relate to each other. It seemed that I needed to know a lot about each of them (except maybe blend modes) before I could "get" what Photoshop was about.

My experience is with Photoshop 7. Most of the information in this guide will also be useful with other versions of Photoshop, and may help with features of other programs such as Paint Shop Pro or the excellent freeware GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program).


(Original post: May 18th, 2011)



These are some scenes from the wonderful animation The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet, featured on my Movies page, which has just had a second major update. Since the previous update on April 11th it has approximately doubled in size, with many more sections and updates to existing sections.

If you like movies (and the flavour of my pages here), and/or you are interested in the technology of movie-making, then I hope that you will find it an interesting and useful resource.


(Original post: September 25th, 2010)

This comes from a new post on my other blog.

Click the image for some of my thoughts on humanism, and why I think that this stuff really matters.


(Original post: September 1st, 2010)

I have updated my Environment & Technology web page again, with new sections on microgeneration, recycling and green jobs, as well as a few other things.

Visitors to the page will discover that it is more about solutions and good things happening than about problems (although it doesn't ignore the problems). If you are interested in investing in green technology and other green developments, which is a smart thing to be doing right now, you will find a lot of ideas to follow up.

Although the page is quite large, you will hopefully find that it is easy to navigate. I have tried to make the page rich in high quality links, so that what you see on the page are just the tips of many interesting icebergs, so to speak.

If you visit it and really like the page, then please share it anywhere you think it would help the environment - thank you!

I am sure that the page could be further improved. Any suggestions would be really welcome.






Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

- Max Ehrmann


Thanks for the picture (author unknown) and for the prose poem (a long-time favourite in our family) to my SU friends Mark (FredZepp) and Janine Flynn, who have sadly left SU (probably for better things) and who so far haven't left a trail...

Max Ehrmann, it surprised me to find out, was an attorney from Indiana. More about him here.

If you like this poem, do check out the poetry site on which it appears. It offers "a range of spiritual and illuminating poetry from a diverse range of cultural and poetic traditions", and there is some wonderful stuff there.

This poem features on my web page that I call The Bright Side.



This image of the complete Mandelbrot Set was created by Wolfgang Beyer with the program Ultra Fractal 3 - click the picture for higher resolution pictures and further details.

Did you ever wonder what is really behind this wonderful image?

If so, here is a thought experiment. It's tedious, but it leads somewhere truly wonderful. All you need (in your imagination) is an ordinary pencil, some coloured pencils, a pin, a very large piece of paper, something to draw a circle with, and something to measure with.

Go carefully now...

Draw a circle on the paper, large but leaving plenty of room outside it. Mark a light pencil dot anywhere inside the circle. Make a pin hole at the same place as the pencil dot.

Now make a second pin hole. You work out where to place it using a particular, very simple formula, based on where the pencil dot is and where the previous pin hole was (the same position, in this case). More about the actual formula later.

Keep doing this, placing more pin holes, whose positions are each calculated from where the original pencil dot is and where the previous pin hole was.

After a while, one of two things will happen. Either it will become obvious that all the pin holes are falling inside the circle, or one of the pin holes will fall outside the circle and thereafter all later pin holes will head right off the paper.

If the first thing happens, go back to the pencil dot and mark it in deep black. If the second thing happens, mark the pencil dot in some colour, the colour depending on how many pin holes it took to go off the paper.

Now start all over again with another pencil dot placed somewhere else, more pin holes, then colouring the pencil dot as before.

If you did all of this again and again until all your coloured pencil dots joined up, and your paper was big enough (of course your patience would run out and you would use a computer instead), you would see something like the image at the top of this post.

If you expand the view of the "valley" between the biggest blob and the next-biggest blob, you would see this:


By the time you have zoomed in another seven times you would see this in a tiny part of the original image:


And you can go on and on, deeper and deeper, uncovering still more wonders. I understand that some people, watching the computer program revealing the details, enter a kind of altered state of mind, and it isn't hard to see why.

When I struggled to find out what Mandelbrot's simple repeated formula actually meant and how it behaved, and where that wonderful complexity was coming from, there seemed to be two kinds of explanation. One kind was full of fearsome looking mathematical equations. The other kind avoided the maths but missed out on what was really happening.

So I tried to find a simple way of explaining it (for my own benefit) which didn't ignore the maths, but which didn't need someone to be a mathematician in order to understand it.

I don't know if I succeeded, but my best shot at it (should you be interested) is here.

You might have fun reading it - I had fun writing it, anyway!




This rather beautiful image is free desktop wallpaper available from The Light Works.

I used this image to illustrate one of the pages in the Mind Stretchers section of my web site, and I am posting it here because of this very nice message sent to me by my friend ajihad (Vasav):

"Loved to read every single tiny bit on your page. Especially your thought experiment to explain the Analemma and the unique manner in which you have explained complex numbers. Since nobody taught me how to understand the Mandelbrot set I was working pretty much on my own but throughout my search I didn't find any article such as yours which tries to explain it in layman terms. I am going to add a link to your page, for my readers who wish to know more. You have done some amazing work."

Thanks, Vasav!




This is a picture that I took of Rievaulx Terrace, Yorkshire, England, on a not-too crowded day in June 2001. A long way down the steep bank to the right, people are admiring the Abbey, but a quiet walk and a picnic up here is hard to beat!

The picture comes from a section of my family web site which is a record of places where we have enjoyed life, and which other people might enjoy also. At present these places are in England, Italy, Corsica and Florida.

In the Italy section of these pages you will find a description of a magical week that we spent on the shores of Lake Maggiore - made magical because of the community of people there. If you like this description then you are definitely my kind of person, but rest assured that the converse is not true!