UK Flag

About me

'Keep smiling ... it makes people wonder what you are up to ...'




Dance as if no one can see you
Sing as if no one can hear you
Love as if you have never been hurt
and Live as if Heaven is on Earth.




God give me the Strength to change what I can
The Grace to accept what I cannot change
And the Wisdom to know the difference




You can find out more about my professional background here ...

View Mark Plant's profile on LinkedIn

Origami

I am known by my friends as Origami Mark. This is on account of my name being Mark, and one of my main hobbies being Origami, which I have pursued since I was at primary school. I am a member of the British Origami Society . I enjoy attending the Spring and Autumn conventions, where I can catch up with emerging ideas, meet some superb folders, and just let the troubles of day-to-day existence drift away in a folding frenzy. As well as folding and improving other people's designs, I like to play around with the paper to see if I can produce something unique. I have created some designs myself, but have not had time to get them documented.

I have an extensive library of Origami books, and you can see a list of them under the Library tab above.

Recently I have started to take an interest in the theoretical side of Origami, and it turns out that quite a bit of work has been done to capture this art-form mathematically.

Five Interlocking Tetrahedra me On the right you will see a recent picture of me (October 2014), holding some of my models, taken by Amanda Eatwell, for a portfolio she is putting together of professionals with unusual out of work activities, into which category I fit, apparently. I am seen here admiring Gloria, a vulture that now sits on my monitor in the office.

Next to that an origami model called the FIT - Five Interlocking Tetrahedra - by Tom Hull, which I enjoy making. Click on the images to see them full-size.

If you would like to make a FIT, full instructions can be found here . Make sure you set aside plenty of time, because it's not easy.

I was asked to step in and put together the Model Collection for the BOS autumn 2005 convention held in Lancaster, after the guy who was going to do it stepped down due to illness. Wow ! What a responsiblility ! The Model Collection is the set of models contributed by members to be taught at the convention, and so is a very public document.

There's more Origami in the BOS Logo Origami section.

Autobiography

I was born in the hospital in Stamford, Lincolnshire on Saturday 3 December 1955, at just after 1:30 pm.

When I was born, my parents lived in a place called the Double Lodges just outside a village called Exton in Rutland. We lived in the lodge on the right hand side of the gates. It was apparently very cramped, and suffered from damp. There is a story that the stone deer mounted on the gateposts came down for a drink of water each night, but I never saw them do that. I don't in fact remember anything about that part of my life. My parents tell me the lodge was a rather damp, primitive place, but they needed a place of their own.

St Nicholas Primary School, Cottesmore

We moved to Cottesmore when I was about three years old. I started at the village school (St Nicholas C of E Primary School) when I was five years old. The original school building was very old, and at some stage I remember moving to the new one on the edge of the village. It stuck in my mind because for some reason we each had to carry our own chair from the old school to the new one. Never did find out why they couldn't be put on a lorry. The old school also boasted a very old walnut tree in the centre of the playground, and it was a great treat to be awarded a walnut as a merit prize.

At 11 years, I passed the 11+ examination, which meant the local authority would pay for me to go to Oakham School rather than the secondary modern school in Casterton.

At the time I was the captain of the Cottesmore school team of three competing in the Inter-Diocese Scripture Quiz, a competition held amongst many schools in the area. Each week, we would be drilled on our religious knowledge by the headmaster, and then tested against two other schools. Special permission had to be gained from Oakham for me to be at the final. We won the final because I got the tie-breaker question ("who was released so that Jesus could be crucified ?"), and I spelt the name correctly. Do you know the answer ? Click below to find out ....

Our prize was the choice of any book each off of a table of religious tomes. The losers got to choose from a much bigger selection of much more interesting titles. It was enough to put you off religion for life !

Oakham School

Oakham School was great, IMHO ! Others' opinions vary between 'pretty dire' to 'absolute hell'. The academic side of things was hard work, but there was plenty of time for other activities, and the school did loads of sport. I was a member of my house rugby team, I played Eton Fives, and also enjoyed throwing the javelin.

In the third year, we had to join the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). This provided basic military training, and I joined the Signals Section, where I qualified as a Signals Instructor.

I got involved with computers at school by accident when I was about 14 years old. A friend of mine a couple of years senior to me (Rudd, R) and I had agreed to catch the same bus home, but before we left Rudd, R wanted to go to the computer room. I didn't even know there was a computer room at the school !! This was the early 1970s, remember ! Anyway, we went there, and I was introduced to a teletype that could print 10 characters a second, and a modem the size of a large suitcase. And punched paper tape to store and input programs on. I was hooked when I was shown a program that could interact with me via the teletype. I ended up helping to run the place, and got certificates to prove it.

I was a prolific coder, writing loads of different computer programs using Basic, FORTRAN and Telcomp II. Telcomp II was briefly replaced with Telcomp III, but now seems to have completely disappeared off the face of the earth, but if you know different let me know. IT literacy in those days was, to say the least, low, so I spent quite a bit of time teaching others something that seemed to come quite naturally to me. The computer department was regarded as quite advanced. We even got into the local paper. And in a bizarre turn of fate, nearly got on the TV, in a series of science programmes being hosted by James Burke !

James Burke was making a new science programme, and came to the school to interview me about computers in education. This apparently still lies on the cutting room floor somewhere, but maybe someday ...

I could see many different applications of the computer in educatiopn, and it became a bit of an obsession - like a whole new unexplored part of my brain opened up. I loved writing games, but I also wrote physics simulations, business studies games, and maths programs too. In my sixth form, the school started admitting girls, and had great fun with my computer dating program.

On my introduction to computers, I went on to do much better academically than before. I achieved eleven O-levels and three A-levels, much to many peoples' surprise. I was awarded the 7th Form Mathematics Prize in my last year at the school.

Westfield College

The next step was to Westfield College (London University), now part of Queen Mary College, to gain a BSc 2(I) Joint Honours Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. I was awarded a Westfield College Association Book Prize for achievement in Computer Science and Mathematics.

Outside the lecture hall, I was captain and president of the Judo club, captain of the Tiddly-winks Team, member of the Mathematics Society, and honourary member of the Christian Community, mainly because I could look after myself and the other members, and I cooked a wicked Spag Bog for 40.

Most of the college Maths computer work was done using FORTRAN. In Computer Science I learned to use

  • Algol68,
  • LISP,
  • APL,
  • BCPL,
  • Simula,

    and a host of other languages that never really made it to the big time. We even wrote our own operating system, which my friend Linus went on to further develop, but we lost touch ... this was long, long before the internet.

    Work, work, work

    John Lewis Partnership

    Me at work After graduating, I spent twelve years with the John Lewis Partnership, a major UK retail organisation, in the Computer Planning Department. All my jobs since graduating have been in IT, either designing, building, installing, or selling computer systems of one sort of another. I started my working life being trained as a COBOL programmer, but very quickly got involved in system support work, which meant I had to work with assembler code. I joined the Teleprocessing team, and took over responsibility for the Partnership's online CICS systems.

    JLP had a pair of large centralised S/370 IBM mainframes, which ran all the batch work and some online work for the company, as well as providing a test environment for new developments. When I joined, they were running DOS/VS as the operating system on the mainframes. DOS was struggling to meet the needs of a growing company, and the decision was made to upgrade to MVS, using VM as a hypervisor. It was my job to convert the CICS systems and their associated batch jobs over to MVS, as well as provide technical support to the application development teams during the migration. Every piece of JCL we had was rewritten, and every program recompiled and tested. I wrote a number of VM utilities to help the process along, rather than do it all by hand.

    My main contribution to the Partnership was the CICS Batch Scheduler (CBS), a very complex system for passing data between the various machines on the Partnership network and the mainframe applications that needed to process that data. It involved an initial two year period of solid assembler programming just to build the basic system. This could talk to the IBM 3650 Store Controller System, which was installed in all the Partnership stores. Once I got that working, it meant that if the Partnership needed to add any new technology to the network, the central data transmission activity could be done using the same software. I went on to extend CBS so that it could handle IBM 8100, System/34 and System/36, IBM 3600, IBM 4600, the TraderNet EDI system, other mainframes, and Personal Computers. IBM's solution to this problem was to try to sell the Partnership separate pieces of discrete software for each different machine type. None of these were integrated, and would have been a nightmare to administer.

    CBS became my baby, and I looked after that system as well as fulfilling my other responsibilities until I left the company. This project exposed me to various departmental and retail systems, as well as the intricacies of IBM's System Network Architecture (SNA), and VTAM programming.

    At John Lewis, we were all encouraged to get a good understanding of business processes, the retail trade, and good shop-keeping. The Partnership is based on democratic principles, and I got elected onto the council that represents the workers in the company's central offices.

    Oracle Corporation UK Ltd

    After JLP, I worked for thirteen years for Oracle, a major software company. I was doing technical presales work in the Finance sector to start with. I then got kidnapped by aliens, ending up doing a four year stint on the Oracle support desk, as a Mainframe, Database and Tools specialist. That lead to me being invited to join Corporate Presales, a core team of technical experts who augmented the presales resources in the field with specialist support.

    During those days, I obviously learned the Oracle technology stack, and built a huge number of systems, including a number of websites, based on it. The job also involved learning a number of different operating systems, and during my time there, as well as continuing to use IBM mainframe operating systems, I learned VAX/VMS, GCOS7, WANG/VS, ICL VME, IBM OS400, various flavours of UNIX, LINUX, MAC/OS, and of course various flavours of Windows and PC UNIX. I also got involved with a number of different network protocols, most of which have now disappeared in favour of TCP/IP.

    I was the webmaster of the Oracle UK Presales website, which was a very valuable resource to the presales community. Most of the website content was dynamically generated from content in the database, and so I taught myself HTML, Javascript, and the PL/SQL Web Toolkit. This was before the days of the Oracle Application Server, and all the code was hand-crafted.

    I taught myself Object-Oriented programming, mainly using Java. Check out the Games Section for some of the stuff I have done with Java.

    Capgemini

    I spent the next four years working for Capgemini, a large IT Consultancy, where I was a senior Oracle specialist (Applications Architect) in the Technology Services Oracle Solution Center, based in London. My job was to lead in the technical design, development and deployment of business solutions based on Oracle technology, and this can range from high-level strategy studies to bespoke coding of solutions. I have also been involved in recruiting new people, training, and mentoring, so it's not all technology oriented.

    Rule Financial

    Capgemini and I parted Company at the end of May 2006. After taking a glorious summer off, I started looking for my next role in September, landing a position of Senior Consultant with a small but very successful specialist privately owned City based consultancy called Rule Financial. They specialise in solving business and technical problems for City clients in the finance sector. That lasted just over four years, and I left at the end of February 2011 to join ...

    Transport for London

    Here I am one of four Senior Solution Architects in the TfL Information Management (IM) Department. I am responsible for providing Solution Architect resources to projects in the London Underground protfolios. To do this I have a combination of Permanent, Contract and Consultancy resources to call upon.

    The department can have as many as 160 projects in-flight at any one time, and so Solution Architect resource has to be shared across these activities.

    Other Interests

    My other interests include Go (a Japanese board game), watercolour painting, drawing, films, photography, DIY, real ale, reading, and keeping in touch with my friends around the world, for which the internet is a great boom. How did we manage without it ?

    I am on Yahoo Chat quite often, where my handle is Origami Mark

    I enjoy playing around with technology generally.

    I have added a secure area to the site using PHP and MySQL, so that I can manage the dynamic content without having to use the rather crude tools provided by my ISP. In fact several other pages on this site are now generated dynamically from content in the database, including the menu at the top of the screen, the Java page, the Links page, the Origami pages, and so on.

    Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) have caught my eye recently. Quite a few websites I have seen use them to great advantage, and so I have decided to give them a try. By concentrating all the formatting rules into a common .css file it is possible to control the look and feel of the whole site from one place, which makes maintenance and experimentation much easier. Style-sheet rules permit many more effects than are available with HTML without having to resort to JavaScript or Java. Take a look at the Feedback page to see how an HTML form can be changed, for example.

    But guess what ... different browsers support different levels of CSS ! This means that if you implement every whistle and bell available in the specification, the browser used by most of your users will not render the page in a very nice way. I found out the hard way that Internet Exploder (IE) isn't very strict at all about enforcing the specification, whereas Firefox is. As a result, my pages with full CSS looked lovely in IE, but crap under Firefox. The lovely thing about standards is there are so many to choose from !


    Feedback

    If there is anything you would particularly like to see here, feel free to let me know via the feedback page.

    This site © 2017 Mark Plant