Extreme Land Rovers

A survey of some of the most extreme types of Land Rover to come out of Birmingham.



To accompany my JURN search tool I’ve made a quick way to search across all the world’s repositories. Repositories are the special Web servers that universities, museums and archives etc, use to house all their digital goodies — such as online collections, full-text papers and book chapters, and similar Open Access treats. The new search tool GRAFT is in a rough sort of beta testing. It works as a searchable sub-set of Google, so to find full-text you can simple add filetype:pdf to your search terms. The search modifier intitle:keyword is also somewhat useful, though keep in mind that the Googlebot still hasn’t mastered the art of picking out an an article title and having it form the wording of a clickable Web link. Warning: it’s BIG, and so you need to be a specific as possiblein your search.

L.S. Lowry and Arthur Berry: observers of urban life

The major show L.S. Lowry and Arthur Berry: observers of urban life premieres at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, until 10th January 2015 (£5).



Edward Robert Hughes

Enchanted Dreams: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of Edward Robert Hughes is a major show in Birmingham city centre’s Gas Hall, from 17th October 2015 (£7).

hughes_hollow_c1895Picture: Edward Robert Hughes, “Oh, what’s that in the hollow, so pale, I quake to follow?”.

Fifty-three Stages of the Eastern Sea Road

The prints of Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stages of the Tōkaidō [Eastern Sea Road]” (1832, pub. 1833) are on show in Wolverhampton until 21st November 2015.



Workshop Birmingham

Workshop Birmingham wants to “create substantial new facilities” for contemporary arts / crafts production in Birmingham.

Latte artist-of-the-day, delivered by robots

It seems that the robot coffee-froth-art baristas are on their way, though not quite yet in kitchens on the High St. Once the bots are proven in the chain coffee shops and have a central database of latte art designs to choose from, could chains then have a curated “artist of the day”? With the artist’s various designs having a tiny www.coff.ee/6573 URL integrated into them? If the customer likes the art, simply typing the URL into their device would transfer 50 cents to the artist’s PayPal account. If they don’t want to donate, they just sip it down. Alternatively, grumpy art-hating curmudgeons could pay a little extra to get a normal plain old-fashioned coffee.


Drone Races

The new, underground sport of first-person drone racing. Don’t forget to take the air-sickness tablets, guys…


The insect hotel of Uttoxeter

A super new ‘insect hotel’ is due to open very soon at Uttoxeter in North Staffordshire. A very nice bit of garden/architectural/eco design.


Manchester accent map

Greater Manchester accent map. Interesting, but possibly somewhat of a summer silly season item — the sample size is 62 ‘non-experts’, the map looks like something made by undergraduates for a student magazine, and the local press’s description of the methodology seems suspiciously vague…

“Participants were given a blank map of the area of Greater Manchester within the M60 and asked to write words they associated with accents in different places. … Dr Erin Carrie and Dr Rob Drummond asked ‘non-experts’ to identify accents and dialects on a map and give their opinions about their speakers. Participants were asked to draw borders to show areas they though people spoke differently and provide words to describe voices.”

I can’t find any press release, conference paper or research article for this, either.


Evil in the Shining Light

This looks like a possibly interesting art show: Evil in the Shining Light: art inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien


It follows the excellent Walsall Art Gallery show on Tolkien and the Black Country which happened last summer.

Professor of Photographic History

Nice job in Leicester in the East Midlands, Professor of Photographic History at De Montfort University.

Endon Wildlife

Endon Wildlife is a blog in the Staffordshire Moorlands of North Staffordshire, which is doing outstanding local on-the-ground research work on subtle eco-degredation and mis-management of the landscape.

Google StreetView: Mongolia

Google StreetView, Mongolia. Off-road trails, too.

“Last fall we strapped a Street View camera onto a four-wheel drive pickup truck to begin capturing 360-imagery from rugged Mongolian roads. Since then we’ve also gone off-road to capture images of the country’s most beautiful places with Ariuntuul, our Mongolian Trekker operator, who carried the 18-kg Street View Trekker [camera] into the wild expanses of Mongolia’s diverse countryside.”


MagFest 2015

Magfest : international magazine festival, 18th September 2015. Sadly it’s way up in Edinburgh, but nice to know that such a thing exists in the UK and is ongoing. We’re unlikely to lure it to the Midlands, though, as it seems to be a very Scottish thing. It started in 2012 to help boost Scottish magazine publishing out of the recession, skipped a year in 2013 when it reverted to being just an evening awards ceremony, then happened again in 2014 focussing on innovations in delivery and business models. Here’s the “redefining magazines” panel from 2014.

Google Digital Garage

Birmingham’s new central Library has announced that a temporary Google Digital Garage will be opening there on 27th June. Running through to the end of 2015, it will offer help to local small business to get online. Google’s pledge is to help 200,000 British businesses with their digital skills by 2016.

Arcadia Britannica

Henry Bourne’s fine new photo-book Arcadia Britannica: A Modern British Folklore Portrait. He’s certainly jiggled a whit and plucked the lucky feather, in his pursuit of modern English folklore celebrants and their costumes.


Mortar-Boards in Massive Mortifying Mangling Death Rain!

“Throwing of caps is not to be permitted, due to health and safety” pronounced the organizers at this year’s Birmingham University degree graduation ceremony. Gosh, how have students managed to avoid being hit by falling mortar-boards during the last five centuries or so? A topic there for a research PhD, perhaps? Though not at Birmingham University.

Budget speech

Highlights of this afternoon’s Budget speech in Parliament, the measures likely to affect smaller creative businesses and the self-employed:

* “across England, [we are] launching a new round of Enterprise Zones for smaller towns”

* “The new National Living Wage will be compulsory. Working people aged 25 and over will receive it. It will start next April, at the rate of £7.20”.

* “From 2016 our new Employment Allowance [for small firms], will now be increased by 50% to £3,000. That means a firm will be able to employ four people full time on the new National Living Wage and pay no national insurance at all.”

* “Many small and medium sized businesses have benefitted from our enhanced Annual Investment Allowance. This [capital] Allowance [will now increase to] £200,000 [per year]; this year and every year.”

* “I am raising the tax-free personal allowance to £11,000 next year. That’s £11,000 you can earn before paying any income tax at all”

* “to ensure university is affordable to all students from all backgrounds, we’ll increase the [annual] maintenance loan available to £8,200” […] “we’ll consult on freezing the loan repayment threshold for five years – and we’ll link the student fee cap to [the rate of] inflation for those institutions that can show they offer high-quality teaching.”

* “We are going to introduce an apprenticeship levy on all large firms. [But] Firms that offer [youth] apprenticeships can get more back than they put in. Britain’s great businesses training up the next generation. 3 million more apprenticeships…”

That last one is especially good news for the Stoke-on-Trent pottery industry, I’d say.

The Register on Win 10

The Register‘s tester minions pronounce on using Windows 10 for everyday work use…

Every time I’ve looked at Windows 10, it hasn’t been long before I’ve run away screaming. As recently as May the ISO was nowhere near ready for prime time. Testing Windows 10 seemed to me like volunteering to be an unpaid drug trial guinea pig – it would be painful and could potentially give you horrible side effects, and you wouldn’t even have an envelope of cash at the end to show for it. … While working with Windows 10, I found it hard to believe that this is a product three weeks from release.”

So very glad that I’ve uninstalled the Windows Update for KB3035583 Windows update, which was the 600kb of unwanted nag-ware that would have tried to auto-install Windows 10.