Friday, June 28, 2013

A826 progress w/c 24/06/13

On Saturday i attended the day school for my course, there is only one this year so this was probably the only opportunity to mean my tutor and fellow students. Some familiar faces from last year including in my tutor group which was good. The day school was useful and a lecture on mapping primary source material has given me the idea of mapping trade data to a street plan of Stratford, that could give me a better idea of economic development in the period.

This week has been one of hard yakka. I've gone through 40 years of newspaper archives in the British Library's 19th Century British Newspaper Collection (online i hasten to add!) I managed to find some useful snippets and information for my project. No show stoppers but some useful supplementary information and also some things to spark my thinking. Unfortunately the Stratford and Warwick titles of most interest are not in the collection though newspapers from Worcester and Oxford were, and had plenty of Stratford coverage plus some of the London publications.

I've now begun building a grid in TreeSheets of findings in my project to help me organise my thoughts. I also began BBIH searches (at long last) though nothing that useful has popped up yet. Another week of hard yakka awaits!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Midlands Rail Map

A few days ago i updated my Midlands Canals Tube Map, a map of the inland waterways in the Midlands done in a pseudo-London tube map style. While i had all the shapes and colours already worked out i decided to create another map. This one is of the railways in the Midlands, routes and destinations more or less easily available from Birmingham.

Its not finished yet, i have still to create the key and i might amend some of the details but i really like the way it looks. Some parts of the design admittedly like the font used is probably not to everyone's taste. Interestingly my map is more up to date than the official Midlands rail map which hasn't got the new Stratford Parkway station on it yet!
Erdington station, look for it on the map!

The bounty of nature

Now i am quite impressed with these. I just harvested 3 radishes and they are the biggest i've ever pulled out of the garden! Especially the white one, its huge! Several times bigger than ones i've pulled up in the past. My tomato plants in the porch also doubled in size over the weekend while i was in London, and we're talking 20-30cm growth here which is pretty impressive.

A weekend in London

I went down to London again at the weekend, the main purpose was to go to the day school for my A826 course, the only one on this course (there were 3 on the first part of the MA), i'll talk more about the day school in my next A826 progress report on Friday.

Apart from the day school i did not go many other places in London, we went to Parliament Square and the West End. At the former we saw a man "levitating" on the side of a bus. This turned out to be Dynamo. More excitingly for me i saw some of the New Routemasters.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A826 progress w/c 17/06/13

Another week of grind. I got my TMA back and have got official clearance to go ahead with my project on the tramways of Stratford. Which is just as well as i've been ploughing on with research this week. I've now completed one of my main secondary sources and a few more books and have now moved onto journals and papers.

Tomorrow is the day school for this course in London at the LSE. There i shall meet my tutor and fellow students. Next week will be another week of secondary source grind but then i really need to start hitting the archives.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


My latest model project, Project 047, has been completed already. It is a little SPAD XIII C-1 fighter from World War 1 and is probably the best model i have built so far. Usually i have a problem somewhere, something doesn't quite stick together right, or the painting has an error or i mess up one of the decals but not this time. Everything went perfectly... now i just have to make sure i never drop it!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New waterways map!

I've finally got around to transferring my Canal Tube Map into the right format for the graphics program i use nowadays (Photoshop) and while doing so i decided to update it a bit... and then a bit more and in the end quite a lot! So proudly presenting version 3.0 of what is now a Canal and Navigable River Map.

I first created the map a number of years ago, seeking to create a Birmingham Canal Navigations map in the style of the London Tube Map, over time the map has expanded to include canals like the Stratford-upon-Avon and navigable rivers in the West Midlands. The style has also deviated from the London tube map somewhat.

Version 3.0 has the following updates:
  • New font used for titles, no reason for changing really apart from the fact i really like the typewriter font now used! Its a digital version of the actual font of my Brother typewriter in fact.
  • Amends to a number of canals including Titford and W&E.
  • Rivers now more clearly shown
  • A few extra places shown
I hope you find it useful or at least mildly diverting... 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Roses are red...

Actually probably more pinky-red, the best ones are yellow. A few roses from my garden. I can't claim any credit for the rose bushes which predate me at the house but i guess i can claim credit for not killing them off. In other garden news i have spotted my first pea flower and have sown some herb seeds to create a little indoor herb garden.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Fort

Erdington has a new coffee outlet, a new Costa in the newly opened larger Next store at The Fort. This new cafe also affords visitors an excellent view of the carpark. Well i thought it was a nice view anyway.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Feeding the birds

I put up a bird feeder a couple of weeks ago though i did not expect much because of past miserable failures. However i noticed this week the seed in the feeder was definitely going down! Yesterday i saw for the first time a couple of finches tucking in. They come quite often, hopefully the cats won't get them!

A826 progress w/c 10/06/13

Onto the grind then, i spent some time this week on some of my secondary sources. I note all my references in a notebook which isn't very hi-tech i know. I do put the books into EndNote though hopefully for use when i begin writing something. I watched a tutorial of that program this week to remind myself how it works... though i might need to watch it again later!

I also gave the program TreeSheets a try, this is an organiser that allows you to make notes in a structured manner on-screen. It looks promising to try and make sense of all the facts i am uncovering.

The problem i got at the moment is that i am not 100% convinced my project is going in the correct direction. I am supposed to be examining whether the tramway had an effect on Stratford's economy, it could be though there isn't much evidence of that while i am finding plenty on the river and canal...

Monday, June 10, 2013


After the Olympics last year i resolved to continue to watch live sport, i watched some badminton earlier in the year and today moved onto the big brother racquet sport tennis. I went to the WTA event in Birmingham (Aegon Classic) which is one of the various grass court warm up events for Wimbledon.

I had a great day, i'm a big fan of tennis especially the WTA tour and also i find the mechanics of live sport events fascinating. You can see the photos i took here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Typhoon nearly done

The latest model project, my Eurofighter Typhoon, is now fast approaching completion. Painting is now done (or pretty much so anyway), just decals and varnishing to go!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A826 progress w/c 03/06/13

A fairly busy week in the life of this masters project. I completed the first TMA and submitted it, now this TMA does not count towards any marks but it is a refined (or is supposed to be anyway) dissertation proposal and a study timetable. The latter is fairly loose, i have only broken things down by month. I don't know if the OU expect me to break it down any finer, to be honest i wouldn't want to. I don't work that well to tight schedules!

The project is now firmly tramway focussed and i bought an interesting book, Bertram Baxter's "Stone blocks and iron rails" which is a bit of a classic text as far as horse-drawn tramways are concerned. For the next few weeks i intend to concentrate on secondary sources and then move into some archive work next month.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A tale of 3 aqueducts

The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal has 3 lovely cast iron aqueducts. I have visited the Edstone and Wootton Wawen ones before but today hiked up from Wootton Wawen the 3 miles along the towpath to the third, the Yarningale Aqueduct. On a beautiful sunny day there is, in my opinion, no better place to be than in South Warwickshire!

This was the second time i have been to Wootton Wawen and its fast becoming one of my favourite places. It is definitely high up on my list of places i would love to live when or if i can ever escape the big city. You can see the photos i took here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Say hello to our earliest ancestor?

Fifty five million years ago in the palaeocene there lived a small mammal (which is now called Archicebus achilles) in what is now China. It may be this is the earliest known primate and thus the common ancestor to monkeys, apes and us!

Archicebus was rather small, being only 7cm long, and lived alongside tropical lake shores eating insects. The fossils of Archicebus show features now known in tarsiers, early primates which now live in South East Asia. Other features are common in other primate groups.

Near complete skeletons of Archicebus are known which is greatly aiding analysis. Archicebus lived about 7 million years earlier than the previous earliest known primates. Archicebus may also show the divergence point between tarsiers and modern monkeys and apes, a key point in human evolution.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


My latest model project is Project #046 a Eurofighter Typhoon. Its looking good and now in the painting stage.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Garden progress report

Into June, the Summer proper. The garden should be blooming then eh? Well not quite but things are progressing nicely in some areas. My peas seem to be doing well, one has tripled in size since being transplanted outside a couple of weeks ago already! My nasturtiums (if that is the correct name, the spelling seems to vary a lot) are also doing well. I have them growing in all of my chimney pots and also have a "crop" (if you can refer to flowers like that) in the raised bed.

Radishes are also doing well, in fact i ate my first one grown in the garden yesterday. It was only a small radish but chopped up mixed well with some coleslaw. To try and encourage more birds into the garden i have just put up a bird seed thing. My plan is that seed eating birds may also attract insect eaters too and they can hoover up all the slugs!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why did the Neanderthals die out?

Why did the Neanderthal variety of human die out? Its a mystery that will be discussed this week at a conference in London at which the results of a 5 year research programme will also be revealed. One major finding will be that modern humans arrived much earlier in Europe than previously thought (around 45000 years ago) and that Neanderthals died out earlier than thought too, within a few thousand years of the arrival of modern humans.

New techniques are said to be able to radiocarbon date fairly recent finds much more accurately. Thanks to these new techniques it is now thought that Neanderthals were largely died out by 39000 years ago, 10000 years earlier than thought.

The speed of their disappearance and the absence of any detected natural disaster (a major volcanic eruption in Europe occurred too late to have an effect) indicates that the arrival of modern man might be largely to blame. The Neanderthals were probably unable to compete with modern humans who, although not as strong, possessed superior social networks and connections and numbers, the Neanderthals remaining in small isolated groups.

The Neanderthals may have died out but some interbreeding took place, Neanderthal DNA lives on in European and Asian genes.