Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting Down and Dirty in the Garden

A couple of years back, whilst working for a different company in Muscat, Jacob spent a couple of hours with me in the office. It couldn’t have been that exciting for him and he amused himself hunting for errant paper clips and elastic bands, but he loved it none the less and has reminisced about it on numerous occasions since then.
I’m not sure where the whole bringing your children to work tradition has come from, I think it is big in the States with formal days set aside, but I’m not so sure about the UK and Europe.
My father was self employed and mainly worked from home, but occasionally he would have jobs to do at an old Victorian(?) factory in London and, occasionally I got to go with him (before the days of health and safety).
I have vivid memories of the place throughout my childhood, all happy, although the last, after it had been shut down was tempered with sadness, the end of an era.

Well Jacob had been asking to come with me to work for a while now, but being site based there were obvious safety restrictions. I broached the idea of a family day with the company, and we received the green light.
So the much anticipated day arrived with our respective families turning up and being ushered into the visitors centre. A quick visit to daddy’s desk, just to check for itinerant paper clips and elastic bands before an introduction to the Oman Botanic Garden from Sarah, the head of education for the Garden.

From there we had a walk around of the Nursery facilities, where the 1200 species of native plants of Oman are being cultivated for the Garden. Oscar, was of course into everything and frequently disappeared off into the undergrowth. Most of my time was therefore spent corralling him and making sure he didn’t kill any plants or hurt himself whilst swing off parts of the greenhouses.
Due to a slight confusion over a loo break we discovered the site tour bus had left without us, so we jumped into our 4wd and headed into the garden for a private and exclusive tour with commentary supplied by little old me.

Oscar was of course besotted with all the excavators, dump trucks and payloaders, whilst Jacob wanted to know what exactly was being built where and, what it would be used for.
He certainly enjoyed himself and is in Sarah’s good books for wanting to bring his classmates for a visit.

So a big thank you goes out to all involved for hopefully making it a day to remember, hopefully Jacob’s childhood memories will be just as good as mine.

But what’s all this about a Botanic Garden??? I have no idea how many people know of its existence or the scale of the project. It is not as if it is a secret but when I first heard about it, I thought “a garden, big deal”, it wasn’t until I travelled around the project that I realized how big a deal it really is.

The OBG is a project of his Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, as a showcase for the diverse Omani flora, of which there are one thousand two hundred species, and eighty of which are found no where else in the world!
The site is four hundred and twenty hectares in size and we are busy recreating the different environments found in Oman, from the heights of Jebal Akdar to the deserts of the empty quarter and the lush greenery of Dhofar.
Some of these environments such as the Dhofar region will be housed in Biomes, buildings that allow us to recreate seasons throughout the year that are ideal for the regional plants. Imagine being able to see the effects of the Kareef in Muscat!

One snippet of useless information is that the site, near Al Khoud, was the first place in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula where dinosaur bones were discovered!

Currently construction is underway on the visitors centre, research centre, educational facilities and heritage village. The heritage village will be a showcase for traditional Omani arts and crafts showing how plants have been an important part of Omani life and how they have influenced the world.

We have a couple of years left before the Garden is finished, but you can keep up to date with the news letter. Recently the OBG team have been out planting the first of the habitats, the Northern Gravel Desert, and different groups, such as the Womens Guild of Oman, and American Womens Group etc, have visits to see how the work is progressing.
When it is finally finished, it will be a very special place in a very special country.

One last thing, I should point out how the OBG has changed my life……

Yes, I finally did some gardening at home. You really didn’t need to see that did you.

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

Seem like we might be in for stormy weather!

Must mean there's an Irish woman arriving.
Looking forward to seeing you Jo!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

iPad Killer


Those of you that know me will have by now understood that I am a bit of a techie, quite happy to take things apart, understand how they work and fix them if they are broken.
Well I have always had an interest in the replacement of paper printed media since I got the chance to play around with e-ink some eight or nine years ago. So I was happy to see that the inventors had been turning it into a commercial product, the latest offering being under the guise of the Que from Plastic Logic.

Pretty darn good, sunlight readable, very low power consumption, ultra portable and capable of storing thousands of documents. My only criticism is that even after all this time, the promise of a colour version has still not materialized. IMHO a colour e-reader (preferably but not necessarily, capable of video support) could be the catalyst for society to move away from printed media in the same way (Dare I say it) that the printing press brought literature to the masses.
A sad day in many ways, but an exciting one none the less.

So when Apple announced that it was launching the iPad, I thought, “Could this be it????”
Sadly the answer was a resounding “No!”
For all it’s bells and whistle, the apps, the cool functions and the hype, it had a flaw, a fundamental one at that……,the power hungry, sunlight Unreadable and eye straining lcd screen.

Thanks, but no thanks Apple, I’ll stick with the Macbook Air and printed books (Which I absolutely and always will Love).

But all this flurry of activity with tablet computers and e-readers left me wondering, “Who would solve the big problem by finding a replacement for the LCD screen for mobile devices (The iPad isn’t alone, just try using Google Nexus One in the sunlight (Sorry for your loss Sythe) or any other smart phone for that matter).

Well it might be here sooner rather than later, thanks to some Dutch guys and a company called Liquavista, who have taken a century old principle called electro wetting and reinvented it for the digital generation.
Essentially, it involves coloured oils that react to a small electrical charge, set out in individual pixels very much like the existing lcd screen technology. More importantly though, (Drum roll please!) it harnesses rather than fights sunlight. External light passes through the oil and is then reflected back at the person reading the screen (in low light it utilizes a traditional backlight), the brighter the sunlight, the more vivid the screen becomes. Voila!
And if that wasn’t enough, a key benefit over competing technologies such as mirasol, is that because it is so similar to lcd in manufacture, existing lcd factories would only need to be adapted (instead of being built from scratch) in order to start manufacturing the displays!

Could this be the perfect sunlight readable display for our mobile gadgets? Liquavista hope to have them in devices and on sale by mid 2011, and are already working with Liquid Plastic to produce a colour e-reader.

I just wonder how long it will take the likes of Apple (or one of their competitors) to finally dump the lcd screen and have an iPad worthy of the Apple name.

For all of you nay sayers out there, just take a look at what Sports Illustrated dreamt up for the iPad and tell me, can your book or magazine do this????

Monday, April 05, 2010

Learning to Fly

Not a lot to report this week. Biscuit has a sore leg, Oscar’s swimming has come on leaps and bounds and Becky had the boys to herself for most of the weekend whilst I was off camping and driving through another part of the Wahiba Desert. Bit of a long trip this time as you can see from the map.

I thought I would share this little video I made of one member of our camping party, though I should point out that the flight wasn’t intentional. Enjoy :o)