Monthly Archives: September 2006

Demolition: What Happened Next

Regular readers and the occasional random visitor sent here by Google might recall me talking about the Channel 4 programme Demolition last year. This evening there was a follow-up, looking at the progress, or lack thereof, in doing something about the most hated buildings in Britain. The show focussed on two singularly naff structures.

One is a disused supermarket in the Yorkshire town of Holmfirth[1], a building that would look moderately nasty anywhere, but in its picturesque surroundings where most buildings are made from traditional local stone, its brick structure looks hideously out of place. The owner has plans to improve it, and work is going on inside, but the outside is as bad as ever.

The other is the almost definitively ugly Cumbernauld Town Centre, a classic example of bad 1960s architecture. Suggestions have been made which would greatly improve the area, and local people seem quite keen, but the council seem keener on having more superstores built.

So, the programme makers have taken the original plan for an “X-List” further. A formal process has been worked out, under which anyone could recommend a building for fast-track demolition or remodelling. Strict criteria would apply, and decisions would be made by suitably qualified people.

The proposal was shown to spokesdroids for the Liberal Democrats and the Tories, both of whom made encouraging noises. The government department concerned made no comment…

And that horrible car park in Gateshead is still there!

[1] Location for the long running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine

Architectural Details

I’m still way behind with sorting out all the pictures I’ve taken lately, and still being surprised by some of the things I’ve managed to capture. I’ve seen this turret many times, but I’ve never pointed a camera at it before.

Turret

Turret

I like this image, which is another one of those “set against the sky” things that I seem to be doing a lot of. What I hadn’t noticed before, and I didn’t see until I looked at the full size image on my screen were these seahorses:

Seahorses

Seahorses

Another photographic stroll

This lunchtime, I decided to have a play with my circular polarising filter. Never tried it before, and had some fun taking multiple exposures with different settings of the filter, and finding which settings in which kind of light totally confused the autofocus thingy. :tongue:

I started off around the Quayside again, where I took a random selection of pictures, before heading uphill to areas I haven’t been to in, err, umm, probably the best part of twenty years. More pictures of these areas will follow, just as soon as I’ve selected, Photoshopped, tweaked, twiddled and generally sorted them out. In the meantime, here’s one to be going on with. It’s a sculpture in the public plaza surrounding 55° North, the apartment block converted from the former BT building, Swan House. I’ve got some more pictures of it, but I like this one – the light is good, and the blue sky makes a great backdrop.[1]

It's art

It's art

[1] I’ve noticed that a lot of my favourite pictures[2] tend to be of things set against the sky. I’ve no idea why…
[2] Of my pictures, that is

Don’t look!

Here’s another picture from yesterday’s Quayside walk.

Look

Look

Hmmm. Next time I’m in the vicinity, I’ll make a really special effort not to look. But maybe it will make look at it. We shall have to see…

I’m definitely going to have to see the exhibition – I’ve seen some pictures on Flickr which suggest that it’s interesting…

Another lunchtime with my camera

Today, I walked down to the Quayside with my camera. Just for a change, I went with the 70-300mm zoom instead of my main lens. Which turned out to be a Good Thing, as I was able to get in a lot closer to this nifty Space Invader.

Space Invader

Space Invader

Smaller Space Invaders have been appearing around Newcastle, to the delight of photographers, the amusement of the artist responsible, and the annoyance of the police who have threatened the artist with arrest once or twice. It’s all connected with a new exhibition of urban art at the Baltic, entitled Spank the Monkey. Unlike most Baltic shows, this one sounds like it might be interesting and fun, so I’ll be going along at some point. I’ve got a load more pictures to sort out, and I’ll get round to them as soon as I can.

Royal Mail Still Going Postal

Last month, I mentioned the case of the postman who got into trouble for telling people how to avoid getting at least some of the junk mail that we’re all deluged with. Once upon a time, the Royal Mail was a public service – you know the kind of thing, something that exists to serve the public. But of course, that sort of thing isn’t allowed these days. Like most other former public services, it’s now a “business” labouring under the delusion that it’s in competition with other suppliers. Now for some areas of what they do, this is true. There are indeed companies eager to grab lucrative business mail. But the service of delivering mail to every household in the country? Nobody’s going to even try to compete there. But apparently, the management of the Royal Mail are very worried that if they don’t deliver tons of worthless, unwanted junk, somebody else will. And when this postman made the mistake of actually serving the public by telling them how to opt out from getting at least some of the rubbish, his bosses got a bit upset.

However, BBC News reports that he has been allowed to keep his job. But they’re not letting him back on the same delivery round, for reasons that probably make sense if you’re a manager in something that used to be a public service.

Wacom Volito 2 Graphics Tablet

I’ve vaguely glanced at graphics tablets before, but never seriously considered buying one, as I didn’t really have a serious use for one, and they were also a wee bit expensive. But a recent group test in Digital Photo caught my eye. They actually recommended a couple of somewhat more expensive Wacom models, but this one got a good rating at the suggested price of £40. I decided to have a look around the shops in Newcastle to see if there were any to be had locally. John Lewis had this one and one of its more expensive siblings, but I thought I’d check the web before paying the full price. A bit of goooogling led me inexorably to Amazon, who were offering it at over £10 less than John Lewis, and a good bit cheaper than the other online suppliers I checked, and with free delivery. Their free delivery takes a few days longer, but as I wasn’t in any particular rush, I went for it.

I got an email yesterday, telling me it had been despatched, so I was expecting it to arrive tomorrow. So naturally, it arrived today. :smile:

Build quality is excellent. The tablet is solidly built and not even slightly inclined to slide around the desk, and the battery-free pen fits comfortably in the hand. The installation program leads into a quite nifty tutorial, which takes you through using the tablet in “mouse mode” and then in “pen mode”. Using the pen as a mouse substitute was a little awkward at first, but got easier with practice. Can’t say I’ll give up my mouse, though. Pen mode is more interesting, and is where I’ll need to get some serious practice. In theory, I should be able to work on my photos with a little more precision than I have so far – a pen should be easier to position precisely, and Photoshop is clever enough to understand the pressure information the pen sends – basically, if you’re using a brush tool in Photoshop, you can vary the thickness of the brush by pressing harder with the pen.

I’ll be having a proper play with it later, but so far, I’m impressed. Nice kit for the price, and if I really don’t get on with it, at least I won’t have lost too much. And if I do get on with it, I can move on to a fancier model later.

Now that’s what I call really portable

BBC NEWS | Technology | Roll-up screens ‘moving closer’

A Cambridge team have developed metal structures that can morph from flat screens into tubes and other shapes. They say in the future the structures could form the basis for electronic displays that could be rolled-up and placed in a bag or pocket.

Roll-up screens have been a staple of science fiction for many years. Stephen Baxter’s softscreens – carefully not described in any detail – come to mind. And now it appears that the reality might not be too far off. Imagine the function of a tablet PC in a thin sheet that you can roll up and stuff in a bag. There could be a wireless link to a small box containing the processor and storage, and maybe a small keyboard, which could also roll up. And once screens get that thin, we could have really large screen TVs that could be easily hung on a wall without all those tedious brackets and bolts and things.

All very cool. Amazing new toys will be available! :bouncy:

Shadows

I took this picture on my way to work last Thursday. It’s the time of year when the Sun is lower in the sky at a time when I’m actually up and about[1], so I left home a little earlier and took a few pictures. There are a few more to come, but I thought I’d put this one on show – I like the shadow on the pillar. And it makes a change from the usual angles on the Tyne Bridge.

Tyne Bridge Shadow

Tyne Bridge Shadow

[1] Have I mentioned that I’m not a morning person?