Prev: Blog January 2008 1 Year Ago: Blog February 2007 Next: Blog March 2008

Weds 27th February 2008

The Philosopher's Magazine %EXT% have this fun game called Battleground God %EXT%. I managed to survive unscathed and was even awarded the TPM medal of honour! smile


They also have a whole host of other games %EXT% which are a little out of the ordinary. Despite what TPM recommend, I'd play Battleground God before Do-It-Yourself Deity - it's more fun and intuitive!

Monday 18th February 2008

Robyn Hitchcock

I've been a fan of Robyn Hitchcock since I was about 17. The first song I heard was Uncorrected Personality Traits which I thought was very strange! I've got tonnes of his albums, and seen him play around a dozen times.

Tonight, he was playing tracks from I Often Dream of Trains which included that first track I ever heard! Mostly, this album is soft and melodic with some quite psychedelic guitar. One of the nice things about seeing Robyn live are the rather odd soliloquies he gives in-between songs. We also had Terry Edwards on various instruments including piano, and Tim Keegan on guitar. Tim played a solo set too which was very good and the perfect pairing to Robyn - they're both very practiced guitarists. For the encore, Morris Windsor appeared to play some percussion and do vocals - though he appeared a little uncomfortable.

Robyn Hitchcock

Tim Keegan

Sunday 17th February 2008

Tamworth Castle

I've never been to Tamworth before. It's a strange mix. There's a castle, and a cathedral dating back to around 1100. However, facing the cathedral is one of the worst examples of a squat, concrete, 1960s/70s shopping centre I've seen. Just what were they thinking!

The night had been very cold, and there was a frost on the ground, but the sky was very clear and the sun beat down to create very clear "frost shadows".

Frost Shadows

Here's a picture of the view from the castle - note the contrasts.


The displays in the castle were good - with various costumes etc to try on. There is quite a nice picture of me in the stocks, but maybe this isn't the best place to post it smile

However, I think my favourite things at the castle were the children's letters of thanks. Have a look at these two:

"Thank You - I licked the air raid siren" - Why didn't I think of doing that? It sounds like fun!!!

"Thank You - Be good though..." If you can't quite make it out on the photo, this one says Dear Staff, Thank you for letting us make our lucky charms. If you did something really wrong you would have your head chopped off. Thank you for letting us go. It reads like a bit of a veiled threat to me.

After the castle we had a pub lunch at a local hotel, followed by a very nice walk along the river.

Graffiti Bridge

Another Bridge

Saturday 16th February 2008


Kneehigh Theatre %EXT% are one of my favourite companies, and today I saw their performance of Rapunzel at Warwick Arts Centre.

Performed in the round, with some me the audience, including myself, luckily, seated on hay bales up close. Wonderful staging. The stage consisted of two interlocking circles of slated wood with space underneath for the company to whizz around while lying on little carts. This meant they could, for example, make a herb garden grow by poking plants through. The centre of the stage attached to ropes hanging from the ceiling allowing it to be lifted up as Rapunzel's tower. As always they had a live band, with a characteristicly recogniseable sound. No sound track cd was available, unlike at Cymbeline.

As this was a matinee performance, there were a lot of (generally quite young) children there and there were some quite gruesome bits - eyeballs being plucked out on the points of scisors; a finger being chopped off. Ow!

There were also lots of laughs and warm, funny sections. There was a live, cute, rabbit and a sheep attack! There was also a wild boar who poo'd on the stage! You had to be there really. smile

We also had a child friendly explanation of the concept me inflation and a more adult falling-in-love scene - Ping-a-ling! as the song went. Overall, a fantastic performance, which just confirmed my love of Kneehigh. If you get the chance to see them performing anything, go! You won't regret it smile

They do one big production each year, and this should come to the REP I hope - their Brief Encounter and Cymbeline were stunning!

Wednesday 13th February 2008

Los Campesinos

As both Ken %EXT% and Ben %EXT% have been recommending this band for an age, I thought I'd better check them out! The Academy (2) was packed with a mixed, but mainly quite young crowd.

Supporting were local band, Johnny Foreigner %EXT% (or "Hibbt Fireuber" as I just mistypoed into Google) who encouraged us to buy their t-shirts so they could "afford to get out of Birmingham" because they were sick of it! Hmmm... not the best way to seduce your crowd. And when one of the crowd did shout out that they fancied the lead singer, he made it quite clear he didn't appreciate that sort of comment from men smile I make them sound bad, but they weren't really. They could probably just benefit from being a bit more tolerant of their audience!

Musically, they were at their best for me with the lighter songs where they could make the best of the dual male-female vocals.

Los Campesinos also featured multiple vocals, and a multitude of instruments - including a glockenspiel and violin, making a mellower sound and causing some wild dancing and a lot of crowd surfing - with our surfers being passed across to a very resigned looking security guard.

Tuesday 12th February 2008

Darwin Day

Darwin Day celebrate's the birthday of Charles Darwin, and here in Birmingham it brought together a wide variety of speakers on topics ranging from "Global Warming - What Happened Last Time" (it took around 10,000 years to occur, lead to mass extinctions, and the planet took 100,000 years to return to the previous temperature - this time it's happening about 400 times more rapidly!), to the family history of Darwin's descendants. We also had parasitic plants, and the application of evolutionary psychology to crime! Melvin Bragg would be proud of us smile

What happened in the last 4.56 Billion Years...

The image above shows some major events in the history of the earth. Note where the dinosaurs appear (projected onto our speaker's left leg). They're pretty far to the right aren't they!

The event you can't really see at 1.7ish Billion years ago is "First Cells with Nucleus" - took a while!

Rafta Rafta

The Rep's main house is playing Rafta Rafta at the moment - a (mostly) comic story about a Bolton based Indian family. I loved it - great characters, and an amazing set - a open fronted terraced house, where selective lighting was used to draw yours attention to the room where the action was happening. Due to illness, the part of the father was played by a different actor than scheduled, but he was excellent - I couldn't believe they would have had someone else playing that part!

Monday 11th February 2008


I've only eaten at Lasan's once before, a couple of year back, and recall it being good. A post card which came with our bill quoted the Independent as putting it in the top 10 of British Indian restaurants. Without doing the survey work, I can't place it it the ranking, but the food was very good and quite a refreshing change from most "Indian" (i.e. balti) food in Brum.

As a starter I had very tasty little cakes made of spinach with a crispy outside, and for a main I went for stuffed marrow - very nicely presented in cleanly cut rings. Rasmalai with a pistachio ice-cream froth rounded it off.

Definitely one to visit again.

Sunday 10th February 2008

Chinese New Year

Actually, Chinese New Year was on Thursday, but as that wasn't a public holiday here in the UK, the Birmingham celebrations took place today. I caught the last hour or so of acrobatics, dance and dragons at the Arcadian Centre in China Town, and it was packed! So many people with camera and camera phones. The acts were good (and slightly bizarre), a contortionist who balanced multiple candelabra on her body, a troupe of young men in space-soldier costumes who did amazing leaps though small gaps, and the amazing Chinese mask magician! A special word has to be said for the compares, who gave us humorous intros in Cantonese, English and Mandarin. My Mandarin is a bit limited, so I didn't catch all that was said, but before the candelabra balancer came on, the Cantonese woman told us that there we could keep any items that fell into the audience!

Man with two heads balances benches

Finale Pyramid

Look out for that Lion!

Thursday 7th February 2008

More You Tube Election Statistics

Here's some some quite striking figures on the official You Tube "channels" for Clinton, and Obama. I threw in Barely Political too, as I know they've got some videos with high viewing figures.

obama_you_tube.png clinton_you_tube.png barely_political_you_tube.png
obama_most_viewed.png clinton_most_viewed.png barely_political_most_viewed.png

Interesting to compare the content of the 3 videos above too. Obama's is about policy, Barely Political is a catchy song, and Clinton's is an appeal for people to send in suggestions for a theme song!

Wednesday 6th February 2008

Anonymous Action

The weird anti-scientology hacker action group, Anonymous, are at it again...

They started with an excellent manifesto %EXT% (You Tube), which is both strange and engaging, like an artist's manifesto, but like something from Sci-Fi too. They've previously organised cyber-attacks on the scientology web-servers (Scientology often tries to suppress other websites who criticise them), and are planning a series of real life protests against the "church" of scientology - here's their (rather odd) set of rules for protesting %EXT% (You Tube).

There's a big Scientology centre in Birmingham, just off New St, opposite Chez Jule I think. You can see the people with clip boards hanging out on New St almost every day. There was a small anti-Scientology protest there a few years back, and they had some great leaflets explaining more about the amount of cash and time you'd need to invest in order to move up the levels of this "mystery religion", getting revelations at each stage, until you find out that the reason problems exist is because you are inhabited by the spirits of long dead aliens! %EXT% (South Park clip on You Tube).

And yes, really is, "what Scientologists actually believe %EXT%"

Maybe there'll be more protests in Brum in response to this. That would be fun!

Monday 4th February 2008

Kate Goes... and does a Radio 1 Session

Ace Moseley band Kate Goes... did a Radio 1 "Maida Vale Session" with Huw Stephens recently. It was broadcast last Weds and you can hear it here (It will probably disappear on Weds). They are about 1 Hour, 12 Mins into the show. You'll hear great versions of Happy Dancing, Walk in the Park (or is it called "flob"?), Kung Foo Movie, Heartbeat and the Kate Goes... on a Lifesaving Course theme tune.

There's also videos of the session %EXT% to check out where you can see their costumes smile

Sunday 3rd February 2008


I ran across this trailer for Wargames %EXT% on You Tube today. It reminded me what a good film it was. I think I'll try get hold of a copy.

When I was a kid I won a modem in a competition (run by British Telecom - Boy! Did they make their money back), so I used to have a modem back when no-one knew what they were. I had access to Prestel (which was very like teletext, but you could send emails and there were lots more pages), and bulletin boards which you had to phone up. Those were the days...

The Youth/Internet Vote in US Presidential Elections

BBC News has an article about a "Youth Forum" debate for presidential candidates %EXT%. I've been look in a little at how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton compare online - though it's difficult to compensate for Hillary Clinton's previous stint as first lady.

For instance:
Search Results for ... "Barack Obama" (Obama) "Hillary Clinton" (Clinton -Bill -William) Notes
Flickr 25k (43k) 13k (73k) Full names not in quotes due to tag system
You Tube 29k (71k) 33k (65k)  
Google 4.1M (15M) 10M (3.5M)  

Interestingly the google search for clinton -bill -william mainly turns up places called Clinton.

Search Trends show Obama ahead:
Google Searches for Obama and Clinton (6 months)

Google Searches for Obama and Clinton (Jan 2008)

But the nail in the coffin for the Clinton re-election campaign has to be Obama Girl %EXT% (YouTube)! She's "Got a Crush on Obama" and her Super Obama Girl video %EXT% is currently riding high in the You Tube Charts.

Saturday 2nd February 2008

The Wonder of the Internet

It's Saturday morning, I could be listening to Radio 4 or reading a Saturday paper, instead, due to the marvel of the internet, I'm listening to a podcast of the "Best Japanese Albums of 2007" %EXT% courtesy of Japanator Radio %EXT% and browsing colour photos %EXT% of the Voynich Manuscript which probably dates back to the 14th or 15th Century.

The great thing about podcasts and internet radio is that you can skip the bits you don't like - e.g. the noise-metal!

How to Neaten Up Images with Vector Magic

Every tried resizing an image for printing and got this?
1_original_bitmap.png 2_zoomed_in.png 2b_section_of_resized_original.png
The Original Bitmap from
Birmingham Friends of the Earth's
new website %EXT%
A close up of the original What happens if you resize the original.
It looks funny. Funny peculiar.
Odd. Not nice. frown, sad smile

VectorMagic %EXT%is a great service from Stanford University. It takes a bit-map image (e.g. a photo or logo in .jpg, .png or .gif format) and converts it into a "vector" image. Basically it spots the lines and shapes in the original and converts them from a pattern of dots into the actual shapes. So if your image has a circular pattern of dots, it works out it's meant to be a circle and stores it as such.

Why is this useful? Well, it's great for allowing you to re-size images. If all you've got is a small .GIF file version of a logo, you can (i) upload it into Vector Magic and then (ii) download a .SVG version which you can re-scale to any size - without getting a blocky image. What you get out is actually better than what you put in, breaking the old computer rule of GIGO (Garbage-In, Garbage Out) using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

You can just download the smoothed and processed image as a .PNG file (the modern equivalent of a GIF) in which case you'll have cleaned it up but not re-sized it, or you can download it as an infinitely scalable vector graphic in .SVG or .EPS format. This is very handy if you want to print something much bigger than your original image. E.g. You want to take a logo from your website and print it in a magazine or onto a banner.

Once you've got your .SVG file, you'll want to be able to re-size it, and this is where I got stuck... I tried lots of programs and combinations of programs and special image converter etc. but to no avail. I then downloaded the GIMP Graphics Editor %EXT%. Here it's dead simple. When you (iii) open a .SVG file in Gimp, the first thing it asks you is how big you want to render it in pixels. (iv) Enter the size (click on the "chain" icon to keep the width/height ratio the same), then (v) save it as a PNG or BMP or GIF or whatever, and job done!

Close up of the logo after resizing
using Vector Magic and Gimp.
Smooth eh! smile

Click to see full logo resized using Vector Magic and GIMP

The process above (and saving the examples) took me 10 minutes, and I just chose the default options in both Vector Magic and Gimp - easy!

Incidently, for simple graphics editing on windows I recommend Paint.Net %EXT% which is easy to use and looks much more like a standard windows program than Gimp. For image viewing (e.g. flicking through photos) I always use Irfanview %EXT% - it's fast to load and use, it works well and it's not over complicated.

You can also use Vector Magic to clean up and smooth photos and I think you get some quite nice effects.

Prev: Blog January 2008 1 Year Ago: Blog February 2007 Next: Blog March 2008
Contact me: Website (at) Andy, try use a subject which will get through my Spam Filter! I've been having spam filter problems, so if you haven't had a response, I'm really sorry, please try again!

See Also: Web Changes for other recent updates, All Blog Pages for previous blogs. You might also want to read other Birmingham Bloggers

This is my blogchalk: United Kingdom, West Midlands, Birmingham, Moseley
Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
1_original_bitmap.pngpng 1_original_bitmap.png manage 4 K 02 Feb 2008 - 14:50 Unknown User Step 1 - Original Bitmap from website
2_zoomed_in.pngpng 2_zoomed_in.png manage 1014 bytes 02 Feb 2008 - 14:50 Unknown User Step 2 - A close up of the original
2b_section_of_resized_original.pngpng 2b_section_of_resized_original.png manage 9 K 02 Feb 2008 - 14:52 Unknown User Step 2 - What happens if you resize the original
4_resized_vector_version.pngpng 4_resized_vector_version.png manage 23 K 02 Feb 2008 - 14:52 Unknown User Step 4 - Full Logo resized using Vector Magic and GIMP
5_zoomed_resized_vector_version.pngpng 5_zoomed_resized_vector_version.png manage 3 K 02 Feb 2008 - 14:53 Unknown User Step 5 - Close up of the resized logo - Smooth eh!
another_bridge.jpgjpg another_bridge.jpg manage 31 K 23 Feb 2008 - 11:46 Unknown User Another Bridge
barely_political_most_viewed.pngpng barely_political_most_viewed.png manage 25 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:33 Unknown User Barely Political - Most Viewed Video
barely_political_you_tube.pngpng barely_political_you_tube.png manage 20 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:17 Unknown User Barely Political - You Tube Channel Stats
barely_political_you_tube2.pngpng barely_political_you_tube2.png manage 24 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:28 Unknown User Barely Political - You Tube Channel Stats
clinton_most_viewed.pngpng clinton_most_viewed.png manage 22 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:32 Unknown User Clinton - Most Viewed Video
clinton_you_tube.pngpng clinton_you_tube.png manage 24 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:17 Unknown User Clinton - You Tube Channel Stats
clinton_you_tube2.pngpng clinton_you_tube2.png manage 23 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:27 Unknown User Clinton - You Tube Channel Stats
darwin_day2.jpgjpg darwin_day2.jpg manage 37 K 15 Feb 2008 - 22:34 Unknown User What happened in the last 4.56 Billion Years...
finale.jpgjpg finale.jpg manage 34 K 15 Feb 2008 - 22:10 Unknown User Finale Pyramid
frost_shadows.jpgjpg frost_shadows.jpg manage 33 K 23 Feb 2008 - 11:40 Unknown User Frost Shadows
god_medal1.jpgjpg god_medal1.jpg manage 18 K 27 Feb 2008 - 12:02 Unknown User The Philosopher's Magazine Medal of Honour
grafitti_bridge.jpgjpg grafitti_bridge.jpg manage 29 K 23 Feb 2008 - 11:45 Unknown User Graffiti Bridge
lion_and_crowd.jpgjpg lion_and_crowd.jpg manage 47 K 15 Feb 2008 - 22:10 Unknown User Look out for that Lion!
man_with_two_heads_balances_benches.jpgjpg man_with_two_heads_balances_benches.jpg manage 37 K 15 Feb 2008 - 22:10 Unknown User Man with two heads balances benches
obama_clinton_trends.pngpng obama_clinton_trends.png manage 15 K 03 Feb 2008 - 17:03 Unknown User Google Searches for Obama and Clinton (6 months)
obama_clinton_trends_jan2008.pngpng obama_clinton_trends_jan2008.png manage 22 K 03 Feb 2008 - 17:03 Unknown User Google Searches for Obama and Clinton (Jan 2008)
obama_most_viewed.pngpng obama_most_viewed.png manage 22 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:32 Unknown User Obama - Most Viewed Video
obama_you_tube.pngpng obama_you_tube.png manage 27 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:16 Unknown User Obama - You Tube Channel Stats
obama_you_tube2.pngpng obama_you_tube2.png manage 29 K 07 Feb 2008 - 23:27 Unknown User Obama - You Tube Channel Stats
robyn_hitchcock.jpgjpg robyn_hitchcock.jpg manage 29 K 23 Feb 2008 - 12:30 Unknown User Robyn Hitchcock
thank_you_letter.jpgjpg thank_you_letter.jpg manage 38 K 23 Feb 2008 - 11:42 Unknown User Thank You - I licked the air raid siren
thank_you_letter2.jpgjpg thank_you_letter2.jpg manage 31 K 23 Feb 2008 - 11:42 Unknown User Thank You - Be good though...
tim_keegan.jpgjpg tim_keegan.jpg manage 21 K 23 Feb 2008 - 12:30 Unknown User Tim Keegan
view_from_castle1.jpgjpg view_from_castle1.jpg manage 36 K 23 Feb 2008 - 11:40 Unknown User View from the Castle(1)
view_from_castle2.jpgjpg view_from_castle2.jpg manage 39 K 23 Feb 2008 - 11:40 Unknown User View from the Castle(2)
Topic revision: r11 - 27 Feb 2008, andyp
This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding Foswiki? Send feedback