Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back on track

After much planning and indecision as to what direction to take i am finally back in the model railways game.  Project Eskalon is my return to model railways after nearly 2 decades away from the scene and i chose to go for a HOe scale layout based on the Austrian mountain narrow gauge Zillertalbahn. Today i got my first train and a loop of track so i can do some experimentation and also have a play! A proper permanent layout will follow later in the year but for now...
As we now have something running i can also officially launch a blog which will accompany my new adventures in 1:87 scale.

Original instagram

You may have noticed that since i got an iPhone last Spring i have preferred to use Instagram photos for blog posts. This is because i think the format and size works well with the blog, and also looks fairly cool. Before the invention of instagram we had to do photos like that the old fashioned way of course with film cameras. I found a few old photos my Dad took in the early 70s when we lived in Crosby. These were his prized roses that he had to leave behind when we moved to Birmingham! To think that it requires a lot of computing power and software to produce such a photo now...

Friday, January 25, 2013


Vine is Twitter's new video creation and sharing tool and very nice it is too. You create a 6 second long video using your phone when it then posted to your twitter feed. At the moment its a bit gimmicky but i am sure that soon (if not already) someone has come up with something awesome. Here is my first attempt (which isn't that awesome but its a start right?)

Monday, January 21, 2013

How do you turn music into money?

How do you turn your music into money? Of course everyone does it for the sake of the music but that doesn't pay the gas bill. This interesting article shows how an independent artist (Zoe Keating a cellist) makes her money. Basically she makes most of it from iTunes with Bandcamp and Amazon also providing the bulk of her revenue. Streaming sites like Spotify only provide a small amount of income though as with anything the exact mix will depend on the artist and their genre.

The message surely has to be though that by cutting out the middle man (i.e. the major record labels) then artists can be best rewarded for their art. Thats what we indie kids have been saying all along...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

HOe the way?

After planning my future return to model railways i did at least explore the possibility of an OO scale layout as in the past i have found N scale too fiddly (i am not blessed with dexterity or small fingers) however in the space available an OO scale layout is not really feasible unless i settle on an end-to-end layout and to be honest i've found them a bit dull to operate in the past.

But then reading Continental Modeller i had a revelation, why not narrow gauge? In particular HOe which uses HO stock (which is only a little bit smaller than OO) but with N gauge track! Is this the best of both worlds? Maybe. It does mean having a continental based layout though and i am thinking on one based on the Austrian Zillertalbahn but thats fine as a continental layout has always been an ambition of mine. Liliput make some lovely stock such as D13.

More research is needed but i think we might just have found the winning formula.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A return to film (again)

Yesterday i received through the post via eBay a new old Kodak Pocket Instamatic camera. I did buy one before a couple of years earlier and took a few rolls (or cartridges) of 110 format photographs with it before i ended up dropping the camera! Actually i think the camera itself still works though the rangefinder did go a bit funny...

Anyway i shall try to not drop this other Instamatic (its a Model 91 which doesn't have a range finger anyway!) I've got quite a few unused 110 format films left to use (though all time expired) and have bought a couple of new films off the Lomo site so this year i plan to do quite a bit "retro" photography. I really like the feel of these old photos sometimes, even Instagram and the likes can't quite (re-)capture it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An introduction to Greek Theatre

This is an interesting little video i came across earlier via TES and the Open University explaining Ancient Greek theatre. I have a Diploma in Classical Studies from the OU, i did consider their Classical Studies MA as an alternative to the Local History one i am doing instead. One thing that put me off was the module on Greek theatre. To be honest i wonder if i made the right decision there...

Musical musings (2) : HMV

The collapse of HMV into administration unfortunately is not unexpected. The music and media retailer has been struggling for some time. The internet (and especially Amazon of course) will be blamed for their demise but i think its a lot more complicated than that. Supermarkets are never mentioned in the High Street's woes but they have expanded away from groceries over the last decade. All big supermarkets now sell CDs and DVDs as well as electrical goods. The Tesco near where i work sells TVs, cameras, Kindles and accessories. Each pound spent in a supermarket on a CD or a camera is a pound not spent in HMV or Jessops.

The internet is a big factor of course but HMV's mismanagement did not help. The stores should have moved away from trying to compete on the mass market years ago. They should have capitalised on the key place a store like HMV has in youth culture : a meeting place. When i was young places like HMV were frequently a place you met your friends outside (and usually went inside). HMV should have improved the in-store experience to make their stores a youth destination.

How about a cafe, sell comics, have some micro-units for funky local fashion designers, accessories? They also should have reduced their stock of chart music and improved their selection of more youth orientated genres like indie and urban. They also should have gone into downloads early. They could have had a key advantage in digital music. Imagine being able to go to a store and listen to a huge library of tracks and then pay and download the ones you liked to your mp3 player in-store?

Well its probably too late now. These things should have been done over 5 years ago. The company has been run down by mismanagement at the top. The previous CEO was at Comet and the current one was at Jessops before now. Makes you think doesn't it?

Musical musings (1) : 6 Music

I should love BBC 6 Music. The station caters to my age group, plays the indie music i listen to (and blog about) so it should be so locked on my radio that the tuning dial has gone stiff through lack of use. But unfortunately i find 6 Music unbearable. I've tried listening to it a number of times but manage at most 10 minutes before i have to turn it over to something like Capitol or Five Live.

This baffles me of course and i really wish it wasn't true but it is. I am wondering if its due to expectations. I expect to like the music on 6 Music whereas if i listen to the likes of Capitol i don't really expect to like the music and i treat it as aural wallpaper. So if i hear a song on 6 Music i don't like then i am disappointed (and to be honest a lot of indie is crap anyway especially the more mainstream stuff). Maybe i am just too weird and/or elitist and shun the company of my peers, yes that's probably it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A lightish dusting

Heavy snow is forecast for the North and a light dusting for the South according to the headlines in the newspapers, here in the Midlands it appears to have been a dusting from someone with a slightly shaky hand.  Its our first snow of the Winter around here (some other parts of the country did have some before Christmas) and hopefully the last! I can't stand snow, even when i was a kid i wasn't that impressed especially when a snowman collapsed on top of me once burying me in snow!

Friday, January 11, 2013

In between modules

A825 is completed and now i am waiting for my module result. Assuming i pass then A826 begins in May and then i will write the dissertation i proposed in A825.

What to do in between modules is the question. I will hopefully find out if i have passed A825 in March so any serious work into my dissertation will wait until then, it could be also that even if i pass there may be changes i need to make to my dissertation proposal so its probably best not to delve too deeply into it until then.

Starting next month i will start reading some of the secondary sources i identified which will be of use. They are mostly general to the topic so will remain relevant even if there need to be changes. If i don't end up having to do the dissertation after all well... the sources are pretty interesting to read anyway!

As well as this i also need to get my research methods sorted out, i relied on various notebooks in A825 which worked reasonably well though sometimes i had problems working out my references. I think i will invest in EndNote for A826. I might buy it soon anyway so i can be up to speed in how it works before i get into any serious research.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tour of the ISS

This fascinating video by Astronaut Sunita Williams is a tour of the International Space Station she made late last year prior to returning to Earth. The ISS is bigger than you might imagine and seems fun to fly around in zero gravity and i'm glad to see the various parts do seem to follow national stereotypes, the Russian toilet paper is coarse for example! I bought a book on the construction of the ISS a few days ago and i recommend it.

A825... done!

Another OU course comes to an end, A825's final research essay and dissertation proposal was mailed off on Monday (unlike the TMAs it has to be printed off in triplicate, old skool style) and has now been received. I won't know until sometime in March if i have passed the course or not but assuming i have then the course is done (i'm not actually sure what you have to do if you do fail, resubmit next year?)

A826 will begin in May and will complete my Masters and could be my final Open University course (though i could do some language courses afterwards). Until then i plan to chill out a bit but start some general reading for my dissertation in February.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tube 150

Happy 150th birthday to the London Underground. On 9th January 1863 the first Metropolitan Line train pulled out of Paddington station for a journey to Farringdon (though the first revenue earning service was not until the 10th i believe). The Guardian have a nice gallery of historic photographs you can also see my photos at the LT museum taken a few days ago here.

I've had a fascination with the underground for a long time, as a child i became so obsessed with the map (even though at the time i hadn't been on the tube) that i recreated it on a big sheet of paper and a load of felt tip pens! My Nan took me to London as a child and there i experienced the tube for the first time (probably the Northern Line from Euston). It was exciting to a kid like me who only knew provincial buses. Many people moan about the tube (and of course in rush hour it isn't fun) but its so much better than public transport in the rest of the country believe me...

Nowadays i visit London a lot and the tube is very familiar to me, i even carry my Oystercard in my wallet all the time (as i just know i'll forget where i put it if i took it out) but i still have the same sense of wonder... just maybe not while standing in a packed carriage on the Jubilee Line.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Nostalgia is what it used to be

My dissertation proposal and research essay are completed, its all printed out and is ready to post. I'm not sure how good they are but hopefully good enough. Unfortunately i've reached the stage where i've worked so long on it that i now hate what i've written! Once i've posted the work later today i can then relax and await my result. Part 2 of the MA doesn't start until May (of course i have to pass part 1 first) but i will start my reading before that. I'll give myself the rest of January off at least then maybe start on some of my secondary sources in February.

CITV's retro weekend was great, i managed to catch quite a few programmes. Some i remember quite well and others were much vaguer (and they were all great too). Rosie and Jim fell into the latter category but as it was a programme about 2 rag dolls on the canal boat then of course i loved it! I even recognised part of the canal they were travelling on even though the area (around Brindley Place) has changed so much since the late 80s/early 90s. As for Rosie and Jim i did spot where they live these days last year, they are in Stratford now.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Children's TV... for adults

CITV's old skool weekend where they will show old children's TV shows for the enjoyment of nostalgic adults sounds very interesting to me, hopefully i will able to catch a few shows (i did tend to watch the BBC more though).

I wonder why no one has ever started a channel dedicated to this kind of nostalgia. We have umpteen shows dedicated to detective and police series but why not one dedicated to old children's TV. If you took shows from all channels and from a wide time period (70s to 90s) you could have a very varied and enjoyable schedule. But then again maybe this would require a bit of imagination and its easier to just dump 10  episodes of Criminal Minds on a channel back to back (Sky Living *cough*).

Talking of children's TV i seem to recall a TV play in the late 80s (or early 90s) that was about a girl trying to get into the modelling business. I think her friend was played by Kathy Burke though a look at imdb doesn't seem to show up any possible shows. So maybe i have just imagined it...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

London Transport Museum

I ended 2012 as i began it, in London and exploring the city's unique transport heritage. On 31/12/11 i visited Little Venice for the first time, this time i went to London Transport's Museum in Covent Garden. I have been here once before but that was before a refurbishment so it was nice to see how had changed. The exhibits are good though to be honest the lighting and density of the exhibits is not conducive to excellent photography (especially not on my tired old compact camera) but some of the photos were not bad. Later on i also saw one of the new Routemasters which look very interesting indeed.