Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Graffiti, good or bad?
I was about to post
this story from BBC Lincolnshire with a comment to ask why they are stressing. This wall looks better with the graffiti than without it.

Then I followed
a supplementary link and found I was suddenly not so enamoured of the graffiti artists. Who would want to spoil cute trains like these?

So is graffiti a legitimate expression of identity, a way of marking one's existence just like blogging or autobiography, or wanton vandalism? If both, what is okay and what not? Why do we appreciate Banksy (and I do..) when others see that as part of the wanton vandalism end of the spectrum?

A while back I planned to do this post of the things on my toys wish list, and today, the last day of my holiday, seems a good time to cheer myself up with thoughts of toys to come. The thing is, which should I go for first?

This is my dream Magimix, the 5100. Around £179 from Amazon. I have brought the small one back to Lincoln and it would be great to have the big one in Bromsgrove for entertaining there.

Seeing Dr Joolz' s closeups has made me think maybe I should trade up in camera terms. I am really fond of my Fuji and it is very good but this looks even better. But is it too bulky for me to take out a lot? And should I look at other makes too or stay loyal to Fuji?

I used to have a Walkman, then a CD Walkman. Now I don' t have either.. my friend John has an iPod and it is really cute. But would I use it? And could I resist some of those cute accessories Victoria Carrington had on her blog recently?

I really need a decent sound system. Our living room is big, around 42 square metres, and needs a big sound to fill it. I have always wanted a Bang and Olufsen, and this one stores CDs on its hard drive. But it is very expensive. I could get something much cheaper. Would I love it as much as a B&O?

It is time to go big flat screen. We would love a 42 inch one and we have room for it here. But which one? and plasma or the other sort? and what would the neighbours say? (Actually we don't really have any..)

And, to counteract all the couch potato activity related to the above, I fancy a really good rowing machine- the Concept 2. There is room in the bedroom. But I can use one in the new sports centre here on campus, for a fraction of the price. Is it better to pay for us both to join the sports centre (only a small fitness suite but I could walk and cycle too) or to have a rowing machine to use at home whenever we want?

So many choices, so little money. What do I go for first? What would be on your list?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The finished cake
This is the last cake post. The wedding was yesterday and after a somewhat scary drive up there with a boot full of cake boxes we arrived safely, decorated the cake with its ribbons and physalis and then it got cut and eaten. People were very nice about it. Most plates I could see got emptied and apparently the serving staff were also eating the cake behind the scenes (spotted by the Motorcyclist). Anyway, see what you think:

From this second shot you can see that the brown ribbons matched the bride's dress. The cream was to match the bridesmaids. The whole event was a lot of fun and the happy couple seemed to be just that.

Normal life now resumes and I can attempt to think about higher matters, such as the approaching seminar on Digital Literacies, Creativity and Play (not necessarily in that order) next Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Random acts of kindness
Dr Joolz has pointed me to Mr Best's class rules which include random acts of kindness. I think this is a kind of movement out there but am too tired to Google it now. But we have been the recipients of some random acts recently. At least I think they count. First, we were out for a walk the other day and took a new path which led us to the middle of a housing estate. As we asked a guy how to get out of it and back to where we were going, it began to rain hard. He lent us (complete strangers) a big umbrella to get home. Then yesterday the Motorcyclist had a bit more bike trouble- this time not of the falling over kind but a lost oil plug leading inexorably to lost oil. While he was waiting for our friend to arrive a man and his granddaughter stopped to see if they could help. Not sure that one quite counts but the Motorcyclist was v impressed. So- like Dr Joolz asks, how random does it have to be? what counts? does thinking about doing something kind stop it being random?


Cake update
Today the cakes have gone from being just cakes to cakes with butter icing. Tomorrow the scary bit when I have to coat them in the white chocolate layer to make them beautiful. Today has had its scary moments too though as the cakes had to be handled a fair bit to join them together in pairs. Here are a few photos from along the way:

This is just some of the chocolate that has been involved.

Cakes in various stages of baking

The baked cakes ready for their butter icing

Butter icing on

The inside of the test cake - halfway eaten

Monday, August 22, 2005

Scary day
Today I am making a wedding cake for my friend Catherine. This is for her wedding this coming Saturday and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It is a chocolate cake with white chocolate icing so has to be done at the last moment. We (Catherine is coming to help) have to make three tiers plus an extra large one so there will be enough for everyone. I decided to do a practice cake this weekend and half the first one didn't cook long enough (tasted fine) so I had to make three halves.. then the icing does not do what it says in the recipe and would not roll out, so I am v scared. Can I make this work? will it look well to the jaybad or just plain bad.. please think of me! (The good news is that the failed practice half made a great pudding yesterday disguised with some brandy and fruit and tasted bostin. So it will taste okay but what about the photographs?)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I have given in and bought a card reader so I can transfer some of my photos now rather than wait. Just a few to whet your appetites for the delights to follow:

This is the nice pig picture I mentioned on Dr Joolz's blog recently. Mother and piglets live at the Black Country Museum.

The next picture is from Coalbrookdale, the Museum of Iron. I love the way the guy is casually having his morning cigarette as he makes his cuppa from the built-in boiler..

And the next shot is what we call in the Black Country bostin fittle, about to be enjoyed by The Motorcyclist - faggots, chips and peas, complete with extra gravy on his chips. That's all for now- or tarar a bit, as we say round here..

Thursday, August 18, 2005


A sad and serious post
Unusually for me a more serious post. This week a 90-year-old man called Brother Roger, who led the Taize community in Burgundy, was stabbed to death by a woman during the evening prayer service in front of around 2,500 young people. (That's him in white in the picture.) Brother Roger founded the Taize community which has been bringing together young people from many countries and faith backgrounds for over forty years to encourage mutual understanding and respect. I have been there several times and it is a profoundly moving experience. I have had text and email mesasges from friends who have been there with me or who know of the community and we are all shocked and sad, not for Roger but to think that anyone could do such a thing. The response from the community is typical of the message they try to spread. It may seem naive to some of you but it shows how hard it is to understand such violence in such a place.

And Another Day Out!
This time we went to Ironbridge in Coalbrookdale which is a World Heritage Site and again it was dead good, well to the jay bad and bostin. Photos will follow when I get my camera lead..
and again I was struck by the digital divide as the lovely volunteer guide ( retired gent) tried to explain iron smelting to the kids there by talking about how you blow on a fire to light it and how you skim jam when you make it. Blank looks from all kids, knowing nods from adults. But all the children in the museum were as you would expect confidently tackling the computer quizzes about pollution etc. (Didn't take pics of this as when I was taking a picture on Tuesday (of the ceiling actually) this woman was stressing in case any of her group of chidlren were in my shot.. 'just let me move my children first'.. )

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Digital natives all at sea
Being in the Black Country Museum I noticed that everyone my age and older was going, 'Oh, we had one of those'.. for instance the dollies and mangles in the washhouses. The sweetshop had the right sweets too. Even where we didn't remember exactly- like the earth closets and the pigs in the pig sties- we knew about them. (In fact I do remember that the cottages near our house in the village in Norfolk where I grew up did have earth closets and a night soil lorry even in the late 1960s.) The kids there, though, looked completely bemused.

This reminded me that a few weeks back in North Wales we overheard some teenagers speculating about what would happen when the queen died- 'so do they have to collect in all the moneywith her head on and melt it down then?'. The students I was with thought this was funny but even they are too young to remember pre-decimal coins, even as substitute 10p and 5p pieces, as an everyday experience.

Is this a role reversal situation- so Prensky's digital natives are going to feel much more at sea in such museums than we digital immigrants? is there a clear dividing point where the change has happened? or has the sun got to me? And does it matter?

We have had a Day Out today at the Black Country Living Museum and I have taken some great photos. But I have left the USB lead that links my camera to my PC in Lincoln so I can't post the pics yet! Which is a shame as it was bostin (Black Country for well to the jay bad). Meanwhile you can see what we saw on their interactive map . I can't see any sound links on their site which is a real shame as the people who work there all sound just right. I got called bab in the cafe- which is not in this case short for Barbara but is like duck or love etc elsewhere.. and I found out that 'stint' as a measure of time is a word they used in the Black Country mines for the amount of coal someone could cut in their shift.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Writing progress
Well, I have ploughed on and even though today I have had to do other things I have at least got a revised draft. It has lots of gaps and bits that look like this: (ADD REF HERE) and it is already about 2,000 words too long but I am much happier with this version and think that one more day tomorrow should see something I might be happy to share.

I had forgotten how many tactics I can come up with for wandering around and wasting time while writing, and how hard it is to just face up to it and get on. I had no distractions at all to speak of yesterday but managed to invent several.

Simply Clare was a real star, coming up with a reference by return email to Marc Prensky's site where I found several immediately useful articles and several others interesting enough for me to pretend I needed to read them then and there. Simply Clare's blog also provided usefully distracting entertainment, not least from this site which I found by following this one of her links. I had no idea woggles came in so many colours..

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Be afraid, be very afraid..
There are still bears out there. Make sure you don't stand on any cracks when you are in the Alps.. or at least have a supply of cream buns to hand.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Magic Monday
Have had a great day. One of the reasons I was p***ed off at ending up on the tarmac on Saturday was that I bruised my right hand and arm, and was worried that this week- which I have carefully saved to do some writing- would be screwed up if I couldn't type. A mixture of Nurofen and alcohol has mended the hand, work is so quiet that I hardly saw a soul all day and I managed a whole day of really happy work.

A great morning reading stuff I have wanted to look at more closely for weeks such as James Gee's book on video games and Jackie Marsh's book on poular culture, media and digital literacies, finding relevant bits for the paper I am revising and using lots of those great sticky Post-It tab things, then some really useful stuff on Mizuko Ito's website and at NESTA Futurelabs, and a lovely draft article that Simply Clare sent me after UKLA.

I even managed to get a draft started. Which is quite a relief because at one point today I thought that I was using all the reading as displacement activity and might not make myself start writing. After weeks of wanting to get to this paper and having to do other stuff it is quite scary finally having the space to write and then always such a relief when I find I am getting excited by the topic again. Watch this space this week to see if Magic Monday is followed by Thoughtful Tuesday and Writing Wednesday etc.

An interesting weekend..

We were going to go out on these this Sunday:

But on Saturday we went out on this:

which used to be my favourite of our motorbikes, having a great sound and being quite easy for the pillion to get on even in leather trousers that used to fit better before this bear ate so many cream buns. But while we were out the clutch went wrong and despite The Motorcyclist's best efforts the bike went over at a junction and we both fell off. Several bruises later (no real harm done) we decided we didn't want to cycle on Sunday after all. I am assured that had we gone out on what The Motorcyclist calls our hangar queen:

it would not have happened. But the Moto Guzzi- as everyone else would call this bike ( a California T3 if you want to get detailed, like they used to ride on CHIPS) is very hard to climb on if you have short legs and aforementioned too-tight leathers.. Lesson to self- either eat less or buy larger leathers.

So instead on Sunday we went walking and saw some very typical Lincolnshire skies: Then had a pub roast dinner which will do nothing for the aforementioned leather trouser crisis..

Friday, August 05, 2005

More rabbits
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Watership Down.. another moment from the archive from Steve Wright. Must stop looking now!

PS One of my friends at college was at that time married to one of the backing singers (the fat one) on Kung Fu Fighting.

Don't go near the water..
I heard this being discussed on Steve Wright this afternoon. If you have pet rabbits then do not watch alone..

Can't spell, but impressive vocabulary.. ?
This bit of graffiti is on a sign on the outskirts of Lincoln. It's been there some time, which is why it has faded a bit (took me a while to get back with a camera) so no doubt even Crispin has seen it by now.. The author's English teacher would no doubt be proud.. and the use of = presumably means the author was listening in maths too. Who says our education system isn't working?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Kitchen knives and gladioli
While I was taking pictures of the tortilla press I also took one of my knife strip to show Dr Joolz.

Also some gladioli I have in my kitchen right now because I like them.

Tortilla making
A tortilla press like this is used to make Mexican corn tortillas. You make the dough with special corn flour called masa harina (I get mine in Sainsbury's) and then shape the dough into balls. Each little ball has to be flattened in the press. I use plastic bags to stop the dough sticking. I have done several pictures so you can see how it opens and then closes- the lever presses down to flatten the dough. It is fiddly but very satisfying and the corn tortillas are much nicer than the ones you can buy ready-made over here. If you look very closely you may be able to see that it says Hecho Mexico as that is where we bought it.

Play and risk
Today's Guardian also has an article by Tim Gill about playgrounds and risk. this made me think again about the debate on Dr Joolz (Thursday 28th July, 'Bad Mother?') about web access and parenting. If the web is a site for digital play, how do we allow risk but also protect children? Like Tim Gill I remember some pretty cool play spaces from my childhood but also remember falling out of a tree and knocking myself out. It didn't stop my parents letting me go out and I learnt how to get out of a tree safely as a result but how big a risk can we take?

The etiquette of blogging
In today's Guardian there is an interesting reflection by Sarfraz Manzoor about the blogging explosion here which asks about the public/private dimension of blogging:
"So if there are going to be blog diaries I think we need a new etiquette: is it, for instance, appropriate to read someone's blog if you suspect that you are being mentioned? My friend has told me that she has written about me, but to read the blog would, I feel, be violating something private. Am I being too 20th century? Bloggers, over to you."

As a new blogger I am still trying to decide who I tell about my blog and what I write about. Who do I think my audience is? And what makes some bloggers keep going while others stop? is it about having an audience that responds?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Must have these in my office..
Inspired by
Dr Joolz and her kitchen inventory I rushed off home and got my camera and did the same for my office.

This is my faithful Denby mug, or actually one of a series as several have been broken. And even better I hardly ever have to fill it myself.

Because I am a first class bear I have two phones. Or rather I inherited them.. in actual fact I hardly ever use them and tomorrow I will have one new phone instead as we are upgrading our phones this week.

For days when I am being sensible I have a sensible set of gadgets...

And for other days I have my shark stapler and my Acapulco pen holder with little wind surfers in it to play with.

And to remind me about children I have these paintings and the owl.

I think every academic is supposed to have sherry in their room. I do like sherry but I hardly ever get to drink it at work. I like to know it is there for a crisis.

The glass jar has healthy nuts and raisins to stop me eating chocolate. It doesn't work.. and the little tin is some very smart mints we got from the Blackwell stall at UKLA. It makes a great clicking sound when you open and shut it.

If someone very well dressed comes to see me they can hang their coat on this very old coat hanger - if you look closely you can see it has an old London phone number from before STD.

This alien holds useful things for me like my name badge.

And I have two umbrellas, one in case the other one gets left in the house by mistake.

Which of these would you want? What is essential in your office world?

Monday, August 01, 2005


Visiting and visited
I realised today that over the past two weeks I have either had visitors staying or been visiting someone. Tonight is the first night to myself since Monday 18th July and it is great! Mind you our visitors have also been great and we have been cultural with them We went to
this in this amazing setting and it didn't rain, and we went to Lincoln Cathedral to the flower festival too. If I had been really organised I would have my own photos of the frankly strange exhibits and although there are some on the cathedral website they are in Adobe Acrobat and won' t let me paste them here. So instead here are some lovely flowers someone gave me a while back.

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