Edward Oliver Greer

Blog: Essays

Monday 20 June 2016

Essays, Scouting



Five years of service

This weekend was the Ruislip Eastcote Northwood family camp to celebrate 30 years of Beavers and 100 years of Cubs. I had a surprise though at the closing ceremony and was awarded my five year service award. It’s been an interested five years so I thought I’d examine it.

I’ve detailed before how I joined scouting aged 6 as a Beaver in 1999, but come 2011 I took the next step and took a warrant. Coming to the end of my time as an Explorer Scout, a few months before my 18th birthday I filled in the forms and sent them off. By already being a Young Leader it was inevitable that I was going to go on to become an adult leader. The appointment came through quicker than expected which is why I technically received my 5 years early. Although you only get a warrant from the age of 18, the membership database holds my start date as when my CRB check was applied for, four months before my birthday – they were slower in those days than the updated DBS checks we have now.

However, the first two years as a leader were rather intermittent. My birthday being July, I only ran a few meetings at the end of the summer term before heading off to uni in September. This limited what I could do so it was rare for me to don the uniform during my first two years, only really doing so for camps and large district events at weekends as well as a run of late summer meetings after the end of the term.

In a way, I fell out of Scouting a bit but my placement year allowed me to get back in to it. I returned to my family home to live and work and thus was able to run meetings again during the week. I remembered how much I actually enjoyed it, I was reinvigorated. I knew I couldn’t allow my final year to let me slip through the net once again so I had an idea.

I first met Soph at the end of our first year and we had begun our relationship at the start of our second, but because she wasn’t on a sandwich course like me, she stayed in Canterbury while I was working in London. It was this circumstance that led me to suggest she go and help with the local Beaver Colony (she is better with the youngest section whereas I prefer Scout section where you can do more adventurous activities). When I returned to Canterbury for my final year, and Soph stayed on for a Masters, I went along to Worthgate Scout Group and offered my services. This was what I needed to stay in the loop and it is something we need to encourage with all Young Leaders who may not take the warrant due to university.

It’s been a year since I graduated, and it has been a massive year for my Scouting life. I have been awarded the Queen’s Scout and taken up a new role as the District Youth Commissioner to ensure that the youth have a real say in how their Scouting life is shaped and run. I’ve finally got my hand on the adult training that really should have been done earlier and I am enjoying my larger voice in the wider Scouting community. I look forward to seeing what the next five years bring leading me to a 10 year service award, the one my father was awarded concurrently to me.


Wednesday 15 June 2016

Development, Essays


Design decisions

A few weeks ago, I was asked to explain some of my decisions and reasoning I used while rebuilding this website. I wrote quite a long document and have decided to reproduce an edited version for you here. My thanks go to Sheila Shu Cheung who worked with me as the designer on the project.

The 2016 redesign of eogreer.me aimed to fix some of the design faults with the previous version and to provide a fresh slate for this blog when I decided to relaunch it. Shu created some content wireframes as a starting point from which we worked together to create a draft design. The primary font and colours where to be kept as close as possible to the earlier site to ensure some consistency with printed work such as my business cards.

The blog design in particular evolved during the building phase. Initially articles would be limited to a few lines with a click through required to read the rest. It was deemed after discussion with various individuals that as content is rarely more than twice a week, articles should run full length on the main page with pagination after every 10. In doing so, I opted to contain each post in a box, with a small border-radius to make it more pleasing to the eye. The original design was just to have a horizontal rule, but with a lot of text this got lost and blurred the break between articles

When it came to writing the CSS, it was almost a given that I would use SASS, more specifically the SCSS markup that is closer to normal CSS by retaining the braces. I have used SASS on a vast majority of projects although the framework used to compile varied. This time I elected to use Compass again, simply for it’s ease. I broke the style sheet out into various sub sheets and compiled them together. To begin with a reset based on one by Eric Mayer that I keep at hand for all projects. A variables file contains the colour hex codes and baseline measurements for the grid. Typography was kept together, as were mixins. Each page as well as the header and the footer has it’s own file too with components that work across the site in a ‘generic’ file to avoid code duplication.

Responsive Grid
I knew that I wanted this version of the site to be responsive but as it was a very small site I didn’t want to import a massive grid system. Searching around the internet for ideas, I developed a small set of rules that give a limited amount of columns, but these were all that I needed. A media query collapses the columns into 1 when it hits the variable for max screen width that is declared globally so that other styles may alter on mobile too. The header file also includes the viewport meta tags to ensure that mobile ‘retina’ devices do not show desktop sizes.

Because the site is a WordPress template, the code is not as clean as I would have liked with many concessions having to be made. Using functions such as strip_tags on the navigation, for example, allowed me to clean things up. I favour the clean markup of <a> tags inside a
<nav>tag, where as WordPress nests <ul> tags inside both other <ul>s and <div>s.

Initially, I made the header of the site sticky with CSS and added JavaScript to trigger an animation to fade in my name on the homepage when scrolling down. I removed all this before launch to reduce differences in the behaviour between browsers.

Testing and feedback
When I reached a point where I was happy and I had tested on my devices, I launched the site and got some design and developer friends to make suggestions. Through this process I made some tweaks to the typography, in particular where different sizes of headings sit next to each other. Some copy was also changed to better reflect the new layout.

About a week after launching, I decided to add another page that I could use to easily show my progress completing certain walking routes as well as linking to the relevant blog posts about them. To do this, I decided to teach myself something new and build a WordPress widget to make updating the progress easy. As a visualisation I wanted to have a progress bar so opted to use the relatively new progress markup. Due to it being so new, I had to allow various fallbacks for older browsers and even modern ones that do not support it so well. Firefox for example does not have the ability to style the background whereas Webkit browsers have separate pseudo classes for the progress and the background. IE only supports progress from 10 upwards and even then only supports the ability to change the colour. For older browsers, I elected to include a textual representation underneath which also helped to clarify the bar for those which were able to see it. I wrote a blog post explaining more about these widgets when they launched.


Sunday 29 May 2016



The end? How to annoy a collector

Let it not be said that I have a collectors instinct. I collect all sorts of things – and it drives my family mad. One of my many collections is Starbucks mugs. More specifically the 2008 Global Icons series. Let me give you a brief history of the range and my collection before I get to the annoyance. For the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Starbucks wanted decided to create mugs for various Chinese city’s that visitors could pick up. This was not unprecedented as they had produced various designs of city, state and country mugs around the world for years, but this was something new. The design would a brown outline illustration of a local iconic building, person or animal with a coloured background and inside. It did not take long for the design to spread to the USA and Europe and today there are nearly 500 mugs in the range from all over the world.

2013 dealt a major blow to the hundreds of icon muggers. Starbucks replaced the 2008 range in the USA and Canada with a new series of slightly smaller, stylised and overly colourful mugs: the 2013 You Are Here series. Despite many petitions and signatories to keep the icon range alongside, they were gone for good. Around the same time, Starbucks Europe released a YAH for Amsterdam to test the market over here. After half a year, it was discontinued and no further mugs in the series were made for Europe. Icons had survived to live another day.

Fast forward to 2016, and Starbucks open a new store in Johannesburg, South Africa and the story gets interesting. The country mug was an Icon, the city mug was a You Are Here. Icon collectors begin to worry. Shortly after two Indonesian Icons get rereleased after a few years off the market. Icon muggers breath a sigh of relief, perhaps Johannesburg was just another Amsterdam trial? Then news hits, new You Are Here for London, Moscow, Berlin and Munich. This doesn’t look good for the Icons. In the last week, other cities in Europe have rolled out YAH mugs including Paris, Vienna and Copenhagen. Starbucks opened a new store in Nantes which is selling city and country mugs using the Johannesburg combination of YAH and Icon.

So where does this leave the Icons? We’ve had no official word from Starbucks on the issue but it looks like Icon city mugs are on the way out at least. Maybe the county ones will continue, I hope so. In Asia and Oceania, Icons are still the order of the day with no You Are Here’s in sight, but who can tell how long that will last.

International mugs

When I went out to China a few years ago, I picked up the Beijing mug – this was my trigger. Everywhere I have visited since I have picked up the icon mugs of the country and city as well as trading the British Icons to try and fill the backlog of places I visited before I started this collection. When we went to Budapest last month, Gary and Peter (my Hungarian friends and former colleagues who live there) were amazed that while looking at the sights with them, I slipped into a Starbucks to buy mugs. They don’t understand my collecting tendencies. Soph is travelling to France in a few weeks and I have given her a shopping list of my missing French Icons; they annoyingly released the Lille Icon only a few months after I was there. As such, I have a nice record of where I have travelled in the form of uniformly styled mugs. You Are Here’s threaten this. So let’s hope that if they do retire the city icons that they keep the country ones. The only issue now is do I collect the new mugs for places I’ve visited?


Sunday 1 May 2016

Essays, Scouting


Hanging Scarves – part II

Continuing my exploration of my collection of Scout scarves I have collected over the years, we rejoin in 2011.

13. Gillwell 24 with friendship knot
On my third visit to Gilwell 24, they had changed their scarf styles. Gone were the reflective trims and choice of colours in favour of black with red printing. I don’t know if the colour changes every year like the T-Shirts now, I had just turned 18 so it was my final year attending. Incidentally, we arrived in a stretched Hummer as the minibuses were all in use. Seeing the faces of fellow campers when we arrived was very amusing!

14. 6th Northwood (adult) with iScout tangle
My original adult sized scarf for my group. I display this with a tangle I wore while in the Queens Honour Guard at the cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday 2015 although it wasn’t this scarf. I had replaced my adult scarf earlier that year as the colour had faded noticeably.

15. Brownsea Island with Brownsea Island woggle
I’ve been to Brownsea many times, most recently kayaking across from the main land last summer, so this scarf is the one that is potentially out of sequence as I can’t remember when it was acquired. I do recall, though, that my parents brought it back for me after they visited on one occasion.

16. Chilly Goat Challenge with Scout leather woggle
The Chilly Goat Challenge is my districts annual winter camp for the Scout section. On you first attendance, it is usual that you get a scarf. Most years a blanket badge is produced alongside it so that you still get a memento if you already have the scarf – so far all of these were designed by me. I was rather late to the Chilly Goat party, not having attended as a Scout and was always caught up in the January exam season while I was an Explorer. This scarf is worn with you group scarf for the event only.

17. 2012 Olympics with friendship knot
A strange scarf in that I have no idea why they felt they needed to produce it. Inspired by 2012 it reads, but there were no requirements to ‘earn’ the scarf. You just bought it.

18. REN Network with loose Friendship knot
By 2014 I’d officially been a Scout Network member for several years, but it wasn’t until around this time that we formally ran a district one due to a lack of people around my age. Therefore I was invested very late and, due to university, after most people three years my junior. The investiture was memorable however as it took place in the departure lounge at Heathrow on our way to Kandersteg. I was invested with a woggle but as it is usually worn with my 6h Northwood scarf, I use a friendship knot so the group can come through the Network.

19. RENtenary with Scout leather woggle.
2014 was the centenary of Scouting in Ruislip Eastcote Northwood and we organised loads of events to celebrate, the main one being a district expedition to Kandersteg. This is our expedition scarf (the concept is explained in the notes to scarf 9) with the badge on the back a larger version of the centrepiece of the occasional badge for the year that I had designed.

20. Kanderteg (2014) with WOSM woggle
As mentioned earlier, Kandersteg produces a different scarf design every year nowadays and this was their 2014 design I picked up on the RENtenary expedition.

21. Messengers of Peace
I also picked up another WOSM scarf in their chosen white this time branded with their “messengers of peace” campaign – the idea being that scouts unite the world and bring peace to it. Again, I have never bought the matching woggle for this scarf.

22. Worthgate Scout Group with Worthgate woggle
During my final year at university, I decided to do more local scouting as opposed to the desk based approach I had taken in my first two years. For this I helped a Beaver Colony in Canterbury where my girlfriend had already begun as a leader – after I had pushed her into Scouting. Incidentally, she is now Assistant Beaver Scout Leader at the 6th Northwood.

23. REN with leaders leather woggle
This year I took another role in Scouting and added another scarf to the collection. I am now the District Youth Commissioner for Ruislip Eastcote Northwood, a new position in which I encourage our district to become more youth lead with the young people influencing their own Scouting journey – mine has certainly been a vast, interesting route and long may it continue.


Wednesday 27 April 2016

Essays, Scouting


Hanging Scarves – part I

Last week I decided to do something strange. I have a large amount of Scout scarves accumulated over seventeen years in Scouting and I wanted to display them. At a loss for what to write about this week, I’m going to talk you through them; where they came from and their significance to me.

Scarves 1-4

1. Beavers (6th Northwood) with plastic Beaver maroon woggle
I was invested into Scouting on 5th October 1999. At that time every beaver in the country wore the same colour scarf. Turquoise – which is why the modern beaver uniform is that colour – with an awful grey tracksuit uniform. My group badge on the back was the only difference from other groups.

2. 6th Northwood (youth) with plastic red woggle
I moved up to Cubs in 2001. This was the year that the modernisation changes started with new uniforms that year and new badges introduced in 2003. As such, my cub uniform has a mixture of 70s/90s triangle badges and the current round design. The scarf however has been the 6th Northwood group scarf colour since 1932. Indeed I still wear 6N gold to this day. This was my youth scarf that I wore until around 2009 when it was looking a bit short on me and I switched to using an adult sized scarf (number 14).

3. 2007 Join In Centenary with original friendship knot tied in 2007
2007 was the year I moved from Scouts to Explorers and was also, and more importantly, the centenary of Scouting. To celebrate The Scout Association created these colourful scarves for which four badges could be earned to make up a diamond on the back if you completed certain tasks or attended certain events. Join in centenary was a troop night programme with activities designed to look back and forward into Scouting past and future. The Scouting Sunrise was to be on parade at sunrise on 1st April, the day 100 years earlier that Baden-Powell had gathered his first Scouts on Brownsea Island for their first morning on the first camp. Centenary Camps was to attend a camp that celebrated the milestone. Ours was organised at district level. Bring a friend is rather self explanatory, though I can’t remember who I introduced into Scouting that year…

4. 21st World Scout Jamboree with 2007 One World, One Promise woggle
The World Scout Jamboree for 2007 brought Scouts from around the world back to Britain to celebrate the 100 years. My parents, brother and I visited Hylands Park, Essex, for a day meeting people from around the world, trading badges and trying out activities. The scarf also doubles as a map of the campsite when unrolled.

Scarves 5-8

5. Poindextor ESU also with 2007 One World, One Promise woggle
September 2007, I left 6th Northwood to join the Poindextor Explorer Scout Unit. Although I turned to 6N a week later as a Young Leader to support the new leadership team in the Troop. As such, I nearly always wore this scarf and my 6N scarf together. Poindextor still does not have a badge for the back of the scarf although I did begin a design for one while in the Unit. Coincidentally, a production error a couple of years later meant that the yellow trim on this scarf became the same gold as my 6N scarf for newer members. By the time I left the unit I wouldn’t have been wearing the 2007 woggle but I decided to display the scarf with the original design.

6. Gilwell 24 with Gilwell 24 woggle
Gilwell 24 is an annual event for Explorers where the aim is to stay awake for 24 hours by doing loads of activities. This was my first of three visits to the event and I purchased a black scarf and woggle as a keepsake. Many other colours were produced at the time, all with a reflective trim which proved useful during the dark hours of the night. For those that keep track of the events via the T-Shirt colour (it changes every year), this was the red year. This was also the year that Bear Grylls took over as Chief Scout from Peter Duncan, the handover forming the bulk of the opening ceremony for this event. A humorous scarf depicting ‘Bare’ Grylls was produced but swiftly withdrawn after a complaint though not before I had purchased one for my father.

7. 1st Harefield with Scout leather woggle
The less said about this one, the better. I briefly helped an ex-girlfriend of mine with her Beaver Colony at the GLMW Beaver Bonanza. 6th Northwood were also present so i found myself torn between the two despite wearing this scarf for the day.

8. Gilwell 24 with Gilwell 24 woggle
In 2010 I attended Gilwell 24 for the second time. I decided to buy a different coloured scarf to record the different event and opted for white this time. I never did like the bright pink or highlighter yellow!

Scarves 9-12

9. GLMW Kandersteg Expedition 2010 with Scout leather woggle
2010 marked my first visit to the Kandersteg International Scout Centre in Switzerland as part of an expedition organised by the Greater London Middlesex West county. When travelling abroad, it is traditional to wear a scarf to signify which country you are from rather than your group and this is the international scarf designed for this trip.

10. Cow print with friendship knot
As part of the opening ceremony for the Kandersteg expedition, everyone was given a cow print scarf and tasked with getting people to sign it from all over the world. I signed the point. Coincidently, I went on to complete my Queen’s Scout expedition with one person who signed it, though I did not realise until studying the scarf long after that event.

11. Kandersteg with kandersteg woggle
As with the Gilwell 24 scarves, I decided to buy another scarf to show I’d been to the centre. Recently Kandersteg has varied the colour each year as a collectors piece, but I don’t believe this was standard practice until after I purchased this one in 2010.

12. WOSM
I bought this at the same time as the Knadersteg scarf, but I don’t know why. It is the scarf of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement and is a ridiculous colour – white will never stay white on camp! I’ve always meant to buy the matching woggle from the online shop but have never got around to it.

This has become rather long. I’ll tell you about the rest later.