Sunday 30 June 2013

First Aberdeen Open Day

30 June 2013
More than 7,000 people paid a visit to First Aberdeen’s bus depot (Sunday 30 June) as the company opened its doors to the public. Passengers were able to see the company’s 23 brand new state of the art buses before they enter service for the first time on 1st July.


Racing Cars  



And, talking of those new buses ...

Aberdeen is one of the best locations in the world to see the Northern Lights. [or so First's press release opines, somewhat over-optimistically!]
From July 1 the Aberdeen public will be able to see The Northern Lights every eight minutes! [Press release again.]
First Aberdeen Welcomes 23 Brand New Buses into Fleet
New Buses to Serve Routes 17 & 18 from July 1
Routes to be Re-named “Northern Lights 17 & 18"

The aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621. Auroras seen near the magnetic pole may be high overhead, but from farther away, they illuminate the northern horizon as a greenish glow or sometimes a faint red, as if the Sun were rising from an unusual direction. Discrete aurorae often display magnetic field lines or curtain-like structures, and can change within seconds or glow unchanging for hours, most often in fluorescent green.

Appearance is rare in Aberdeen, but you can enjoy the shimmering version as part of the buses' livery!

 A blog extra 

Guest Blog : Sir David Attenborough (?)

fbb has been sent a transcript of an extract from a new wild-life programme which explores some of the rarer creatures that can be observed in various locations of "This Sceptred Isle". Although Sir David is not renowned for his interest in Public Transport, at least one of these extracts refers to a bus!

Herewith the extract from Sir David's script:-
Here on the East Devon Shoreline we are able to observe a whole range of shy and rare creatures as they interact with homo sapiens. First we spot floribundus consideratus snuffling around East Devon's flower beds. He feeds on small weeds leaving the floral displays to thrive.
You can just see his elongated proboscis which has evolved to spray essential nutrients on the growing plants.

But, on the opposite side of the road, we spot "nature red in tooth and claw" as the weedkillus terribilus go about their destructive task. Always hunting in pairs, these related creatures also spray; but a foul-smelling and toxic fluid which, very quickly, brings death to all green things. The blue sac contains their reserve of poison. The top picture shows one of these beasts just after its attack on a flower tub!
Note their bright plumage, a warning to any other creatures who might consider an attack; and a powerful protection against the flesh eating marigolds so prevalent in East Devon. You can also see their heavy skull protection, evolved, so expert Douglas Adams suggests, as a defence against falling bowls of petunias.

It is a thrill to observe creatures that have adapted so astoundingly to their relationship with we human beings. Here, for example, is the increasingly rare boggus hygienicus ...
... seen here crawling out of his protective shell and scuttling off to explore those essential but unmentionable places where we humans dispose of our personal waste products. Notice his shell's bright colours and phosphorescent dots saying to possible predators, "stay away, work in progress". Similar to the tick-birds that hitch a ride on elephants, the boggus survives on what we reject!

Another scavenger only occasionally filmed is womblus dewonius orientalus; shuffling round the esplanade and beach, collecting stuff.
Underground, overground, down by the sea
The Wombles of Seaton East Dev'n are we
Making good use of the things that we find
Things that the everyday folks leave behind

Our womblus is seen here punctiliously emptying shingle from a beer bottle; so that the clever little chap can recycle the glass.

Our final glimpse of wildlife in the very early hours is of the rarest of all creatures. In the last four weeks our team has only spotted two of these shy little fellows. He is, of course ...
 ... aurorus axvallus omnibus - creeping out of his night-time nest and enjoying his symbiotic relationship with the first bus to Axminster at 0650. This may well be the first time that this elusive but harmless life-form has ever been captured on camera, as he hitches a ride to his day-time hunting grounds.
Thank you Sir David for this insight into life at the margins of our fascinating shoreline fauna.

On a slightly more serious note, it is good to see the town of Seaton keeping itself clean and tidy for the summer visitors so essential to its economy. It is equally heartening to see that auntie Frances does, occasionally, bank a £3 fare on the first trip of the day. And talking of Axe Valley Travel, in addition to its four Merlins for schools duties, the company retains several of these ...
... as spares. Formerly with Stephensons of Essex ...
... this is a vehicle that is used when one of the Merlins is undergoing tinkering behind the closed doors of the Harbour Road depot. First registered in Carlisle in 1985/6, the vehicle, a Leyland Olympian, was with Cumberland Motor Services, later Stagecoach. [or so fbb thinks?]

Like Sir David's spoof natural history report, Olympians are now an increasingly rare breed.
Whilst the "Sir David" creatres were all snapped on one single day last week, fbb is pleased to report that floribundus consideratus and boggus hygienicus were out and about again, today, Sunday. fbb had a chat with the flower bed planting/weeding/watering man. He is contracted to Seaton Town Council and tends all the town's flower beds and tubs, working an early shift seven days a week. Give that man (and that Council) several good house points! Boggus is employed by East Devon Council
 Next Bus Blog : Monday 1st July 

Saturday 29 June 2013

Nimrod comes to Aberdeen?

The first mention of Nimrod is in the Book of Genesis He is described as the son of Cush, grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah; and as "a mighty one on the earth" and "a mighty hunter before God". This is repeated in the First Book of Chronicles, and the "Land of Nimrod" used as a synonym for Assyria or Mesopotamia, is mentioned in the Book of Micah. In Hebrew and Christian tradition, Nimrod is traditionally considered the leader of those who built the Tower of Babel, though the Bible never actually states this.

Perhaps not him? But one of these ...?
Certainly First's news headline was eye-catching and slighlty baffling.
Nimrod to land at King Street Depot?
And King Street depot?

1861 : Plans to build a depot for the Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders, a volunteer regiment, were announced. 
1914: The Barracks were purchased from the Army for £2360 2s 2d in April 1914 by Aberdeen Corporation Tramways.

1932: A large extension of the King Street site was carried out to enable both trams and buses to be repaired at one site.
1989: An employee and management buy out meant Grampian Regional Transport (which would soon become FirstGroup), became the first privately owned bus company in Scotland.

2007: FirstGroup announced that the King Street site would be redeveloped to incorporate its global headquarters and depot for its Aberdeen based bus operations.

2010: HRH The Princess Royal, officially opens FirstGroup’s new headquarters and bus depot. 
And the new depot is big and super and splendid ...
... but hardly big enough to land a Nimrod.

The now withdrawn surveillance planes are based on the deHavilland Comet and are, to use a technical term, big. As long as four double deck buses parked end to and with a wingspan nearly as huge, the plane stands as high as two deckers piled on top if one another. Here are the basic stats:-

Length: 126 ft 9 in
Wingspan: 114 ft 10 in
Height: 31 ft

So not at all easy to get one to land!

Of course, the journalists' oft-used "friend" is that question mark at the end of the headline. In fact it's not a whole Nimrod that has arrived but a fairly large chunk thereof.
Stan Barber, Chief Executive of Morayvia, the company that is progressing an interactive aerospace project in Moray and owners of the Nimrod, said: "The Nimrod is a fantastic attraction and will I'm sure prove very popular with visitors to First Aberdeen on Sunday. We are very pleased to be supporting First Aberdeen's Open Day." 

And here it is again with a dutifully posed First bus (dutifully showing "First" on its destination screen) to make the point.
So the truth behind the headline is revealed. It is all part of a Community Kneesup which take place tomorrow, Sunday 30th June.

"The plane is the talk of the depot and no doubt the talk of thousands of motorists and passers-by as it made its way through Aberdeen It's not often that you see a plane being transported through the streets of Aberdeen; the Open Day promises to be a fantastic occasion for all the family," said First Aberdeen Director, Joe Mackie, who this year celebrates his 50th year with the company.
Joe Mackie with kilt in official First Bus tartan

So, if you happen to be in the Aberdeen area tomorrow, trot along and enjoy all the fun and games.

A range of more than 50 attractions have been confirmed, including:

· The Nimrod Chunk
· Vintage Buses, including a 1930s Albion
· A 1903 Fire Engine
· A display of classic Lotus cars
· A visit from the Morris Minor Club
· Miniature Railway
· Trips through the First Aberdeen bus wash
· Lathallan Pipe Band

· Bon Accord Silver Band

· And a range of stalls including
     Macmillan Cancer Support
     Scottish Fire Brigade

Well done, First, for a truly spiffing and imaginative day. A bit too far to go from Seaton, sadly.

 Next Bus Blog : Sunday 30th June 

Friday 28 June 2013

What a Wonderful Web-site? [3]

Am I Going Dotty?

Bur first, we can find Nettlestone. It's on the network map.
Why not make the map "clickable", then an innocent touist might be able to find the service they needed. Click on the "8" and up comes the timetable; surely easier that lots of interminable clicking and scrolling. See "What a Wonderful Web-site? [1]" (read again).

The conclusion is that the web site is designed to impress web site designers rather than deliver the important core information sought by the user. But, assuming you are looking at the wider delights of Southern Vectis, what else can you enjoy?
There is a section for the two open top routes ...
... the semi-open topper ...
... and the "round half the island" tour.
Of course, thanks to a "clarification of policy", none of these is available free to old codgers, despite the fact that all of them provide the only public transport link to some parts of the Island. Indeed in peak summer the new-look coaster ...
will offer a two hour frequency throughout the main part of the day. And fbb thinks he observed an on-line panel saying that it takes bikes, but he couldn't find it again!
Whilst it's good to see a better service along the Island's spectacular Southern Coast ...
... it is disappointing for Island Tourism (ultimately the Council's responsibility) to exclude free travel for a large percentage of visitors. How many simply miss out because they are unwilling to pay even the half price (£5) oap day ticket? But it does have a good map ...
...with a full-size downloadable version available (here)

But the Coaster page, as with many other pages, is spoiled by the "dottiness".
This system of "moving" dots tell us (except that it is not explained anywhere) that we will experience a scrolling series of pictures and text. Maybe fbb's reaction time is slowing in his dotage, but there never seems to be enough time to read each chunk before the software moves on. Even if you click on a dot to see a missed picture, it doesn't stay there; it disappears equally fast.

Why do we have to suffer this? Why not shown thumbnails of the key features and allow the user to chose what he or she may wish to read about.

The same high-speed graphics system is used to "enhance" information for each ordinary bus route. Very helpful for those skilled in "speed ... oh, it's gone!

 Next Bus Blog : Saturday 29th June 

Thursday 27 June 2013

What a Wonderful Web-site? [2]

fbb is so very, very sorry! Yet again the bumptious fat bus bloke has upset someone. This time it has happened almost by accident. A sin of omission, not a sin of commission!
fbb has donned sackcloth and cast fistfuls of ashes on his repentantly shaven head. He has just gone too far this time.

For the record, blog readers may wish to know of the chubby one's sins; so that they can avoid contact with such a caddish blog writer.
fbb has not booked a ticket with "Southern" for months and months. Pause for readers to recover from the shock ...
He hardly dare tell the weeping folk at their HQ desks that it is possible, just possible, that fbb will never buy a Southern railway ticket again - ever. Southern don't run many trains to Axminster.

No doubt their wellness officers will be able to offer suitable counselling and long term therapy.
Back to the new Vectis web site ...

Hold on, I'm going dotty!

Hold on, It's gone! An eager fbb was excitedly poised to continue his review of the new Southern Vectis web site. See "What a Wonderful Web-site? [1]" (read again). But there it was, gone - back to the old, unrefreshed, boring, old fashioned site.
fbb can't see much wrong with it, actually. It's still too fussy but a little easier to use that the apparently abandoned "improved" version.

Presumably the bosses at the Vectis were less than happy with what their contractors had delivered and decided to cut and run. Time will tell whether the new will return, and in what form.

So fbb can't really write episode number 2. But, undaunted, he can lapse into a bit of techno-babble, hopefully easy enough for less knowledgeable readers to cope with?

Question : How do you make a web site?

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the main system for creating web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser (i.e. Google). HTML elements form the building blocks of all websites.

Still befuddled? In very simple terms, you type the words you wish to appear on screen and "mark up" your text with codes in triangular brackets. So,
makes the text "bold",
starts a new paragraph and
creates a little hole to display some sort of "image" like a map or a picture. Here endeth the lesson!

HTML allows images and objects to be embedded and can be used to create interactive forms. It provides a means to create structured documents by denoting structural semantics for text such as headings, paragraphs, lists, links, quotes and other items.

And it was reasonably simple, simple enough for even an old crusty like fbb to understand. Here's a bit of HTML from a simple web site. It tells the confuser to display the route numbers on the left of the screen shot above. It also allows the user to click his mouse pointer on the appropriate number and thus display the timetable.
click on the image if you are keen enough to read it!

Whilst it may seem like gibberish to many readers, please be assured it is quite simple to understand and very simple to edit. And it does what it says on the tin.
A further simple bit of code allow you to choose which day-set (Monday to Friday, Saturday, Sunday) you need and other "buttons" lead to a simple route diagram ...
... and back to the network map. For those dedicated to compulsive webbing,  it is  clunky, old fashioned, tired and dated; and causes sniggers of derision if not outbursts of uncontrollable hilarity. But it works, it is cheap and can be created without recourse to a higher degree in thermonuclear information technology. Above all, it delivers the information quickly and efficiently.

And that is why Tim Berners-Lee developed the whole concept of the internet.

On the other hand, this ...
... delivers just a tiny, tiny part of the Southern Vectis page illustrated above. There are huge amounts of it. The program code just goes on and on - and even on! You can see such code by keying the "CTRL" and "u" as you look at any web page. Its complexity is truly awe-inspiring and rather frightening.  And it is expensive to create!

And there is another problem with trendy "modern" web sites. A lot of the "stuff" they get you to look at is formatted in your own home confuser. That means the way it looks on your screen depends on how your confuser is set up and the clever thingies you are using. The more complicated the code, the more likely it is that bits of it won't work as you would like them to.

This is particularly true for those of us who don't submit willingly to the world domination of Microslop and Windslow.
So, if you want it all to look whizzo, twiddly and "trendy", you have to spend loadsa money on upgrading your computer, buying the latest version of Windslow (which probably doesn't work as well as the older versions) and contributing mightily to the mega-profits of the software companies.
All totally innecessary.

And after writing all the above, a quick check on-line and the newer web site has returned in all its glory but with no obvious changes. But still with even more complex code than the version it replaced!

Somewhere in the bowels of the code, fbb found this:-

Even the program designers were/are struggling with their twiddles.

So tomorrow, back on schedule and a look at the rest of the new Southern Vectis site and a repeat of today's opening tag "Hold on, I'm going dotty!"

And a sort of P.S.: some will be screaming that you need special technology to make a web site work on mobile phones; essential these days. Essential? Maybe so, maybe no; but the clunky, old fashioned, tired and dated Havant site quoted above works adequately on fbb's clunky, old fashioned, tired and dated phoneA clunky, old fashioned, tired and dated fbb has just tried it.

 Next Bus Blog : Friday 28th June