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Wednesday 30th May 2007


Today I rowed around the Birmingham canal system in an old fridge. Not my idea, but that of artist Marie Lorenz, who build a very sturdy and professional looking boat from objects fished out of the canal. It was a great mix of industrial architecture, secret places and wildlife - we saw moorhens, geese and ducks nesting and even a heron! However, in many places a thin skin of oil covered the water surface, which can't be good for the birds.

The trip was great fun, and we chatted about the canal and Marie's previous work in New York such as her "Tidal Taxi".

Concrete Building Reflected
Concrete Building Reflected

Oil on the water
Oil on the water


As part of the Fierce Festival , Jiva Parthipan staged a sideways reconstruction of his early life in Amsterdam in which he worked for six monotonous hours making banana milkshakes and straining them through a condom.


Tuesday 29th May 2007

Only A Phone Call Away

There's one Fierce event you can access at anytime, from anywhere in the world. Every day, you can eavesdrop on a different conversation on 0121-314-3330. Try it, you'll enjoy it.

Upcoming artists over the next few days include Brum's own Big Bren and New York's Nicole Blackman. You can see details of the programme here.

Magic War - Marisa Carnesky

I saw Marisa Carnesky's stunning Ghost Train at both Fierce 2005 and Glastonbury Festival, so I wasn't about to miss her Fierce performance this year.

In Magic War she plays Athena, Goddess of strategic war ("and sewing and handicrafts"), and mixes classic magic tricks and audience participation with commentary on war. It's a relatively short piece, about 45 minutes, and the end point of the performance left some of the audience waiting to see if the action had actually completed, which robbed Marisa of the depth of final applause she deserved. This minor point could be remedied by changes to lighting, sound or even stewarding. I was intrigued by the tale of Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin's visit to Algeria to "impress the natives" (my quotes) and the link between magic, science and war.

Find out about Fierce Festival events here.

Magical Tales

Searching for information on M.Houdin, led me to this interesting tomb on psychic and other magics by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky who founded the Theosophical Society.

Sunday 27th May 2007

And the winner is...

The "winner" of the Fierce Festival competition to see Your Name in Lights is Una White. You can read her story here .
Your Name in Lights - Una White

Friday 25th May 2007

Tory Island

Tory Island , also known as Toraigh Island and Oilean Thorai, is reached by a small ferry from either Bunbeg or Magheroarty.

Ferry to Tory Island:
Ferry to Tory Island

Map of Tory Island:
Map of Tory Island

Tory Island was a site used by Colm Cille (St Columba) and this strangely shaped cross dates from that time.

Ancient Tau Cross at Harbour:
Ancient Tau Cross at Harbour

This area was used as an altar in the past:
This area was used as an altar in the past

Round Tower:
Round Tower

The island is alive with birds and other wildlife can be spotted if you look carefully

Bay with stones ...
Bay with stones and ...
... and camouflaged seals:
... camouflaged seals
Seal on the rocks

Stone Road:
Stone Road

The shop on Tory Island:
The shop on Tory Island

The tree on Tory Island:
The tree on Tory Island

Thursday 24th May 2007

St Columba / Colm Cille Birthplace

Born in 521, St Columba's mother was fleeing when she paused here to give birth to him. Her blood fell to the earth nearby and turned the ground into "magic" white clay which keeps anyone who posesses some safe. The stone, with cup-marks of an unknown age still attracts tributes in the form of coins. The nearby Colmcille Heritage Centre has a good exhibition with a factual and mythological history of the saint, information on irish history and pre-history, and ancient artifacts including the stone head shown below.

St Columba's Birthplace - Cross and Stone:
St Columba's Birthplace - Cross and Stone

Coins on Stone at St Columba's Birthplace:
Coins on Stone at St Columba's Birthplace

Beads, hair bands and icons left at ruined abbey:
Beads, hair bands and icons left at ruined abbey

Coins left at ruined abbey:
Coins left at ruined abbey

Stone head on display at visitor centre:
Stone head on display at visitor centre

Wednesday 23rd May 2007

Maghera Strand

Waterfall on way to Maghera Strand:
Waterfall on way to Maghera Strand

Snails and Flowers:
Snails and Flowers

Mountains in the Sand - Complete with Contour Lines!:
Mountains in the Sand - Complete with Contour Lines!

Basalt(?) taking a right angle route through limestone(?) strata.:
Basalt(?) taking a right angle route through limestone(?) strata.

Tuesday 22nd May 2007

Lough Salt and Around

Stones on back road to Lough Salt:
Stones on back road to Lough Salt

Tumble-down Cottage:
Tumble-down Cottage

Nice view / Nasty View:
Nice view
Nasty View

Stones near Lough Salt with Erigall in background:
Stones near Lough Salt with Erigall in background

The Lough Salt Stones align with the dip on the horizon:
The Lough Salt Stones align with the dip on the horizon

The Great Arch, Fanad Peninsula

The Great Arch - Near Portsalon:
The Great Arch - Near Portsalon

Lichen, Sea Pink(?) and other Shore plants:
Lichen, Sea Pink(?) and other Shore plants

Monday 21st May 2007

Wave Worn Stone - Rathmullan
Wave Worn Stone

Sometimes a small difference in where you stand can make a big difference to your photos:

A better view Modified Sign

Sunday 20th May 2007


Gravestones by the sea - Donegal Friary:
Gravestones by the sea - Donegal Friary

Iron Gravestone - Donegal Friary:
Iron Gravestone - Donegal Friary

Rossnowlagh Beach

Sculpted Cliffs - Rossnowlagh Beach:
Sculpted Cliffs - Rossnowlagh Beach

Sky and Sea at Rossnowlagh, Donegal:
Sky and Sea in Donegal

Sky and Sea in Rossnowlagh, Donegal:
Sky and Sea in Donegal

Green Pavement - Rossnowlagh Beach:
Green Pavement - Rossnowlagh Beach

Friday 18th May 2007


Visited the standing stones and cup and ring marks at Drumtrodden near Stranrae in Scotland. Just as I was about to leave the stones, an excellent rainbow appeared.

Drumtroddan Spiral:
Drumtroddan Spiral

Drumtroddan Standing Stones:
Drumtroddan Standing Stones
Drumtroddan Standing Stones
Drumtroddan Standing Stones

Monday 7th May 2007

Bank Holiday Walk near Dorstone

Dorstone in over near Hay-on-Wye, quite a long way to go for a walk from Brum but a lovely area. The Pandy Inn in Dorstone provided us with good local food and real beer.

Arthur's Stone:
Arthur's Stone

Carvings on Church Doorway:
Carvings on Church Doorway

Pretty Church in Dorstone:
Pretty Church in Dorstone

Friday 4th May 2007

Drop Beats not Bombs

Excellent night to which I managed to get both free enty and free drinks through helping out on a Friends of the Earth Stall! (Thanks Becca)

It's ages since I'd heard Marc Reck DJ, and tonight he was accompanied by visuals from Leon with live back lit dance!

Drop Beats not Bombs - Marc Reck and Leon

Birmingham Council Elections 2007

The picture below shows the percentage of votes obtained by each party in each ward. A clear clustering of wards is visible, with the lower half of the diagram dominated by wards with a high Tory vote, the centre by Lib-Dem (mainly with Labour in second place) and the top by Labour wins. If you know the geography of Birmingham, you'll notice that some of the wards which vote similarly are close together (as we might expect), for example, note the four "Sutton..." wards listed at the bottom right.

Percentage of Votes at the Local Election

The data was drawn from the Birmingham City Council website, and is believed to be correct, but I have not gone through and hand-checked every result. You can download the election results data file (csv) if you'd like.

Party's Eye View

The diagram below has been adjusted to show more detail on the performance of individual parties. The colours indicate the best and worst performing wards for a party. For example, Harbourne and Bourneville are the wards in which the Green Party got their highest percentage, and are shown as green. However, these wards were actually won by the Conservative Party, where the yellow rectangles indicate they are in the middle of that party's list of wards by votes obtained.

Party's Eye View of Election Results

Reproduction Rights

You're welcome to reproduce this image as long as it remains completely unchanged. This includes reproducing the title and url "" at the top of the picture. I'd be grateful if you would provide a like to that URL and email me to let me know if you've reproduced it or found the diagram useful. Thanks, Andy

More work like this.

I'm now freelance doing data mining and data visualisation, so if you'd like help understanding your data, or if you've some suggestions for other data to visualise, contact me at andy(at)

You can see some other examples of my work

Thursday 3rd May 2007

Making Money Because of Open Source

Open Advantage promote the business benefits of Open Source in the region, and today I attended their Making Money Because Of Open Source seminar. Eliot Smith presented an overview of Open Source Software (OSS) covering history, politics, applications and, most importantly given the title of the seminar, business models which use OSS. This was followed by presentation on the legal aspects by Richard Nicholas of Browne Jacobson which attracted quite a number of questions from the audience.

This was the first Open Advantage event I'd attended and I was very impressed by the quality of presentation, and how knowledgeable the presenters were.

Sound, Pictures and Computer Improvised Jazz

Tim Blackwell works on computer improvised music by transforming sounds into pictures and then back again. Today he was speaking about his method based on particle swarm, and gave a live performance and demonstration. Basically, what happens is that the sound the computer hears appears on screen as a textile like pattern, and a swarm of points fly over it and try to pick out the most "interesting" sections. These are then replayed as a kind of echo. Maybe a picture would help:

Tim Blackwell and Computer, Improvising:
Tim Blackwell and Computer, Improvising

Woven sound and particle swarm:
Woven sound and particle swarm

Weds 2nd May 2007

Plane vs Train - CO2 Calculator

Virgin trains now have a handy calculator which tells you the CO2 output for making your journey by train vs by plane or car. For Birmingham to Edinburgh the figures are 35Kg of CO2 for the train, compared to 53Kg for car and 60Kg by plane, and apparently you can get a single fare from 17quid! Plus no faffing about getting to and from the airport, checking in early etc.

Bento Box Frenzy!

Whilst looking for instructions on freezing Onigiri , I ran across this website with lots of bento style lunchbox ideas.

Vivid Opening - Runners, 3D Pictures and Living Landscapes

Vivid's latest interdisciplinary projects are on show. Ian Upton's 3D pictures of Birmingham University taken using a laser scanner designed for mapping archaeological sites. I'm in there somewhere but it's harder to spot yourself than you might imagine! I particularly like the one which looks like a collection of statuary.

Ravi Deepres and Michael Clifford presented a film about runners, viewed from running machines. This was quite fun, and very engaging. Once you'd got onto the machine (and signed a disclaimer), the film really came alive. I particularly liked the sections where "I" was running through a wood, filmed from the runner's perspective.

Anna Rutter's "Living Landscapes" look initially like slide projections of quiet English country scenes, but after a moment subtle movements reveal that they are actually extremely still and slowly changing videos. Bright and peacful, they draw you in.

Tuesday 1st May 2007

A Crude Awakening

This film is all about Peak Oil and the Hubbert Peak, the idea being that we will reach a point where the demand for oil outstrips production, and that oil production continues to fall. The film is worth seeing, although sometimes it seems to jump to new topics rather suddenly, and it is a little one sided.

Afterwards I spoke about the film and it's relationship to climate change and took a few questions. We're stuffed if we rely on running out of oil to prevent climate change, as we'd still end up with too much CO2 in the atmosphere, and higher oil prices encourage the use of more carbon rich fuels such as coal. Nuclear is no solution as there isn't enough fuel for the whole world to have reactors, and to be honest, politically, there's no way many countries will be allowed to have nuclear power. So for a global problem, it isn't a global solution. The main route to reducing carbon emissions seems to be to use less energy, and there is a great deal that can easily be done on this front.

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