Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Bookmarking information

The Children's Illustrated Encyclopaedia
 of General Knowledge
When I was younger there was no Internet or World Wide Web and if I wanted find out about something I would "look up" the information in a book. As a child I had one small encyclopaedia of my own. This was called The Children's Illustrated Encyclopaedia of General Knowledge. and many years later I still have this book. It now sits on one of four bookcases in my study but I cannot remember when I last consulted this or any other encyclopaedia. Looking through this book today, I am actually surprised at how much general knowledge was fitted into a book of this size. It's interesting to see how facts have been divided into ten sections and what these "realms of knowledge" are. Some of the facts that were deemed useful for boys and girls then, such as historical dates and words that are often mis-spelt, are still relevant today but others, such as tables of Logarithms and Antilogarithms are definitely not! But no matter how many facts are within this book, it actually only contains a tiny amount of information on each subject. Today, we are able to access so much more and in such a short time, and that can be a huge problem. 

"O, put me in thy books"
Finding something useful in my old encyclopaedia was not too difficult, even though it did not have an index at the back. Using the Contents page and scanning down the entries arranged in alphabetical order within a section made researching something quite an easy task. In order to be able to get back to any useful information, it was an easy thing to place between the pages a piece of paper, a bus ticket or even a bookmark specially made for the job. In later years, as I needed to find and use more and more information, I would use multi coloured post-its in an effort to be able to re-find useful information. Nowadays, I rarely use a paper based book to research a topic. Paper, leather and metal bookmarks are used for holding my place in a novel and even this is getting to be a rare occurrence as most of my books are now eBooks stored on electronic devices.   

Working in education, I embraced the Internet with enthusiasm. It is so easy to research things via search engines; finding huge amounts of both useful and not so useful information along the way. All browsers have bookmarking tools that I happily made use of and over the years I have bookmarked a huge range of websites on several different browsers on several different PCs, laptops and tablets. I have so many bookmarks that it is no longer a quick task to find something again. Most times it easier and actually quicker to start a new search. Experimenting with various bookmarking apps made it even worse as I usually could not even remember which app I had used to bookmark a website never mind in what folder or section I had saved it.   

Since retiring, I no longer have the need to bookmark educational websites but I have found I still wish to bookmark sites to come back to them later. Most of these are linked to my hobbies, both old and new. Although I occasionally still use a browser's own bookmarking tool to save a link to a site, I now prefer to use the Pinterest app to save links to useful information and inspirational pages in a visually organised system 

Using Pinterest to search for and bookmark information  

Pinterest app icon
Several years ago I downloaded and experimented a little with the Pinterest app. At the time I preferred to use an app called Pearltrees as this then provided a mapping representation of bookmarks and I find it useful to be able to visualise how websites relate to others within topics. A year or so ago, having decided I wanted to improve my drawing and painting skills, I turned to the Internet for inspiration and advice. Using a browser and bookmarking interesting websites didn't work so well, for reasons mentioned earlier, but then I remembered that Pinterest not only saves links as images but the app also helps with searching for relevant pages and sites. I decided to give it another go.  
Example of  my opening screen
Each bookmark is stored on an electronic pinboard as a pin, which is a visual link with one of the images from off the linked page along with information about the person who has pinned the page and where they have pinned it. 

Once an account has been set up Pinterest opens with a scolling screen of suggested pins linked to personal interests. On this screenshot it is easy to see that I am following Age UK and that I have been showing an interest in crocheting, art and butterflies. 

To pin any of the suggestions on the scrolling screen, it is really easy: 
  • Click on the image to open it in a full screen and then 
  • Click on the "Pin it" icon. 
  • Choose a board to pin it to or start a new one. 

Pins related to Monet
What is really clever about Pinterest is that having clicked on a image, other related pins are suggested in a scrolling screen below the pin. In the example here, many pins related to Monet are suggested. This includes pins about Monet's paintings but has also brought up pages about other artists too. It is really easy and quick to find other interesting pages to pin (bookmark) and so quickly build up and collection of related pins. 

The app is very user friendly. By clicking on the options at the bottom of the screen it is possible to:

  • Access the Home screen 
  • Search for new pins
  • Access News, Notifications and Messages

Results of search on "painting" and "butterflies"
New boards can be added to an account at any time. Boards can either be public or private. Public boards can be seen by your followers and others finding you on Pinterest. I do have a few followers and follow a few too but, as I am collecting together interesting pages and websites mainly for myself, I have not extensively explored the facility to follow other people or individual boards. I am gradually building up my stock of pins on boards related to my current interests and it is great to be able to see what I have bookmarked just by glancing at the images. The only problem I seem to have had with using this app has been pinning something I notice as being interesting only to find I have pinned it previously! 

Some of my boards
My public page on Pinterest

Thursday, 12 May 2016


I am amazed at how many of our family and friends have celebrated birthdays in the last five/six weeks. I am even more amazed at how many of these have been significant ones this year. 

18th Birthday cakes

One of my grandsons celebrated his 18th birthday at the end of March and his mum, my extremely talented daughter, made him a great birthday cake which was a copy of his old Landrover. Although she has made many cakes over the years, including her own wedding cake, I don't think any of her previous ones have incorporated lights that switched on and off using a remote controller. Thanks to her clever husband, this one did!

18th Birthday Cake - Landrover

18th Birthday Cake - Dr Who's Tardis

Only a few days later, the duo then produced a Tardis cake for their niece's 18th birthday, where the light on the top of the police box also lit up.  

70th birthday surprise

World Championship Snooker - Interviews in the Winter Gardens
Last week we helped one of our friends celebrate his 70th birthday. His surprise birthday present from his family was tickets to the World Snooker Championship, which is held at the Crucible here in Sheffield. Having dropped them off at the Crucible we returned home to closely scrutinise the coverage on the TV, hoping to see them in the audience. Amazingly we did manage to pick them out during the introduction to the evening session and as I had recorded it we were able to later replay it for them. Three generations experiencing 15 seconds (not minutes) of fame together!  By taking a photo of the screen I was really pleased to be able to provide them with a permanent record  of this they can look back on in the future. As I do not include photos of friends on this blog, I've had to settle for including a photo of Steve Davis and the TV crew that I managed to take that day in Sheffield Winter Gardens. 


So it's been a busy few weeks celebrating family and friends birthdays but amazingly there have also been three births too. Two girls and a boy have been born in the last month. It's such an exciting time for all the grandparents and it brings back happy memories of the arrival of our own grandchildren. It has been lovely to shop for baby clothes again but it does seem a little surreal though, to think that several of our close friends, who are our age, have been celebrating the birth of grandchildren whilst we have been celebrating two of our grandchildren becoming adults. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Reflections on writing a blog

It's about five months since I started this blog and having now written 10 posts it seems an appropriate time to take stock and consider how well things have gone and what I have learnt so far.


Designing and setting up the basic blog was not too problematic as Blogger provides templates and I had in the past set up a simple blog to record progress in an online course. I'm pleased with the design I have chosen and how the posts look against the background. 

Deciding on what extra facilities the blog should have, though, was hard and little has been accomplished other than to link to two other blogs. I knew I should be able to tag posts but it took me ages to find out how to do this and then I could not identify appropriate labels to use. I realised that this was probably something best left for a while and tackled after I had posted several posts. I am still getting to grips with this. 


Having set up the blog I set myself some basic rules to try to follow: 
  1. Post at least once each week.
  2. Posts should include photos and/or images.
  3. Do not include photos of my family or friends.
  4. Do not include anything that might infringe someone else's copyright. 

So far I have managed to adhere to rules 2, 3 and 4 but I have found it impossible to post something each week, especially in the first few months. Why not? I think there are various reasons for this. Initially I hadn't realised how long it would take me to write each post. Even when I knew what to write, formatting a page so that the images and text looked right was much more difficult than I anticipated. Although Blogger uses WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) type editing it doesn't always work. Often text and images fit well together on the editing page but on previewing the pages the images seem to move out of alignment, meaning extra time spent juggling with the screen elements and much moving backwards and forwards between the Edit and Preview views. I could have saved myself a great deal of time and effort if I'd been happy to have a simple format of alternate text and image rather than trying to embed the images alongside the related text. Although it does takes longer, though, I am happy that I chose to integrate the images in with the text and will continue to do so in future posts. 


I wanted my blog to look as attractive as possible and not just be pages of text so I had set myself the task of ensuring that each post contained photos or copyright free images. Knowing how long it takes to find appropriate creative commons images and having been bought a new camera, the obvious choice was to mainly use my own photos.  Although I do have thousands of photographs taken over the years, I hadn't realised how difficult and limiting rules 3 and 4 would be. An example of this is when I was trying to write a post and also design a page to record places I have visited. I started to write about a park I had spent many happy hours in as a child and which I had revisited shortly before starting my blog. However I realised I hadn't taken any photographs on my visit and I didn't have any idea about the copyright rules for including old photos that can be found on the web. Although I have completed a post, I still need to find or take some photos and the separate page is still at the construction stage! At other times, I would think of something interesting to write but then realise that I had no appropriate photos to include as the only photos I did have included family or friends.  

Formatting posts

In order to format the posts as I want I initially thought I had to write the posts on my laptop rather than on the Blogger app on my iPad. As the laptop is based upstairs in my study it takes much more effort to use it than the iPad. I have recently worked out that I can use the app to write draft text and upload photos to a post at any time and then do the editing on the laptop at a later time. This is beginning to speed up the time it takes me to put together a post as I can even be drafting a post whilst watching TV. 

So what I have learnt so far

  • To not beat up myself when it is a long time since the previous post. I need to remember I've been living life rather than writing about it. 
  • To make sure that I remember to take some photos that do not include family and friends when I'm out and about.
  • To spend time checking out other blogs to see what extra facilities are worthwhile including in mine.
  • To use the Blogger app to put together draft posts whenever I have anything interesting to say to speed up the process of writing a post and also to prevent me from forgetting what I wanted to say.
  • To remember to click on the Publish button when a post is completed, especially when going on holiday the next day!

Future plans

I am happy with how the blog's Home page is developing so will continue to post similar content. I would like to add more pages to this blog and be able to link from these to individual posts so it looks like I will be spending a fair bit of time in the near future learning how to do this and putting together the new pages. 

In November 2015, when I decided have a go at writing a blog, I wasn't sure that it would be something I would want to keep doing or that anyone would want to read what I had to say so I didn't tell anyone that I had started this blog. I have been pleasantly surprised to find, though, that people have found my blog. It is amazing to realise that strangers in several countries across the world have already been reading my posts. Perhaps it is now time to share that I have a blog with my family and friends.