Sagrada Familia

Last year we went to Barcelona and visited the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s amazing, unfinished cathedral. The organ was beautiful but it was difficult to get a picture of, until I realised the Reflection — this weeks PhotoFriday theme — of the stained glass window worked pretty well. (Don’t tell anyone, but my wife zoomed in closer and got a better image that I did.)

Please also vote for my entry in last weeks challenge, “My obsession.” I’m entry number 56.

Failure is an option

My first project out of university was a disaster.

The client was unhappy, technically it was a mess, no one knew what it was supposed to do despite the volume of requirements and functional specification documents and the quality of what was there was terrible. People were working hard but it wasn’t really going anywhere.

All of this, I should note, was happening before I joined. I didn’t realise how bad it really was at the time. The Real World was so different and new from university that I was blinded the problems and just did what I thought was best.

Of course, despite the title of the piece, this isn’t a good option. But that’s not to say that no good came out of the whole process.

Six months, maybe a year, into my time on the project somebody realised that something needed to change. They replaced the project manager with one known inside the company as a “trouble shooter.” And it’s no exaggeration to say that within a few months the project as a whole had been turned around. Indeed, the relationship with the client changed so much we won new business. And a senior manager, after a few drinks, happily sang the praises of this new manager. With the old manager pretty much any discussion by the client would be unquotable on a family website.

The details of what happened are too numerous and it happened far too long ago for me to remember them all anyway. Instead, what I take away from this is (at least) two things.

Firstly, even when things are badly wrong it is possible to turn them around. It can take effort and time that you maybe unwilling or unable to invest, but deliberate change is always possible; just waiting for a miracle or someone to stop paying the invoices is not productive.

Secondly, it has made me try to keep my eyes open, to try to understand what’s going on on the whole project rather than just in my little corner. On that first project, there were talented people doing good work but it wasn’t coordinated and it wasn’t being prioritised correctly. On other projects you see a few bad eggs who (deliberately or not) manage to sour the whole team. And on others there is so much bureaucracy, so much overhead that good people can’t do good work because of all the meetings and paperwork.

Of course, as a small cog in a big machine it is often not possible to actually fix these problems, but an awareness of what’s going on can make it easier to anticipate problems and try to work around the worst aspects. You alone may not be able to make the project a success but you can at least complete your tasks as well as possible.


I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking. In about 2005 I bought an iSight, Apple’s relatively short-lived external webcam. It was a beautiful device. Sleek, easy to use and functional.

At least, I think it was functional.

For a device that cost me well over £100 I didn’t really think it through. No one else I knew at the time had a Mac with iChat. Or a webcam.

Before I finally gave in and sold it on eBay I did use it a few times with my then girlfriend (now wife). And it was really nice; like the future. Having grown up with old, slow computers the idea of playing video on them is still slightly magical to me. To have a computer simultaneously record, compress, transmit, receive, decode and display high resolution videos still strikes me as pretty amazing.

Even now, web chatting once a week, I think it’s neat. My son, before he was two, thought nothing of having long, detailed “conversations” with his grandparents. What’s high-tech to me is entirely normal to him.

And all this leads me to my latest technology purchase: a webcam. I got it for two reasons: firstly, I’ve been using my laptop with the lid closed a lot, which means I can’t use its builtin webcam. The second reason: it only cost £5.

I’ve probably already used it more than I ever used the iSight.

Is it as pretty as the iSight? Is it as well made? No and no. But it’s amazing what £5 can get you these days. I added the following as a review:

Considering the cost it’s remarkably well put together, comes with a decent length USB cable, has a flexible stand and works straight out of the box. The LEDs are a bit of a gimmick and the picture quality is a little muddy compared with the built-in camera on my MacBook, but it’s totally usable and easily forgiven given the price.

Webcams have moved from an expensive toy that I wanted to like but couldn’t actually use to a practically disposable tool — I’m sure there are drinks in your favourite coffee chain that cost more — that I use almost daily in less than ten years. I don’t mind being a foolish early adopter if it helps get genuinely useful technology into the hands of more people. If only all my other toys prove to be quite to useful.

Two Years

What a difference two years makes. Just a little over twenty-four months ago we were awaiting the arrival of our son. To commemorate the occasion we went to the park and took a few pictures. The bump, after all, would be short lived.


Since then we’ve spent a lot of time in the playground where these pictures were taken.


Last week we did the same thing, now that we’re expecting our daughter in a few weeks. Other than the obvious difference — we had a two year old in tow this time — we had a very different time of year and a change of location — Cannizaro House.


With six weeks to go, the bump is quite possibly as big as it was at the end of the last pregnancy. This is unfortunate as last time there was no need to run after a very energetic toddler…


Make that an energetic, wilful and opinionated toddler. This picture is after chasing him around a flower garden for five minutes!


Still, he stays still for a while when something piques his interest. And, in this respect, you can’t get better than a really good stick.


With him suitably distracted, we managed to take a few more pictures. It was a nice, bright February day. The light was great.


And we had a lot of fun taking them. Hopefully it will be good to look back at them in a few years time.

Landscape 2014

Pink Granite walk between between Perros-Guirec and Ploumanac'h

While a landscape is more typically about land, I didn’t really visit anywhere very far inland in the last year, hence this image of a walk between Perros-Guirec and Ploumanac’h in France as my entry in this weeks PhotoFriday challenge, “Landscape 2014.” In any case, the landscape here is influenced by the nearby sea so I don’t think I’m too far from the mark!

Please also vote for my entry in last weeks challenge, “Twilight.” I’m entry number 98.

Photography, opinions and other random ramblings by Stephen Darlington