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Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Cycling in Barcelona


There are some nice cycle paths along the sea front. I don’t know whether they extend through the entire city though. There’s also a cycle hire scheme, and I would ate hired a bicycle if it weren’t raining, and getting dark.

Posted by bigblue on 31/03/2009 at 11:16 PM
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Sunday, 29 March 2009
Signs of green shoots?


Recently The Good Food Shop of Oxted shut its doors for good. A sign on the boarded-up shop front indicates that the independent food retailer is to be replaced with a service/entertainment supplier. Unfortunately with the local greengrocer also closing recently it means there is still a gap in the independent food sector. Perhaps the imminent opening of the Co-Op in Oxted will help to restore our ethical options.

Posted by bigblue on 29/03/2009 at 01:11 PM
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Saturday, 28 March 2009
Earth Hour


It was suddenly lights out chez Meanie this evening (pictured) when I remembered about Earth Hour.

Posted by bigblue on 28/03/2009 at 09:02 PM
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Friday, 27 March 2009
Sign of the economic times


The Chertsey Bookshop has closed and has gone into administration. See the article Another store bites the dust in Chertsey (Surrey Herald).

Posted by bigblue on 27/03/2009 at 07:18 PM
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Thursday, 26 March 2009


Except this is not Havana but Berlin.

Posted by bigblue on 26/03/2009 at 10:08 PM
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Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Train in Berlin


I think this photo looks more interesting this way than the right way up. I came to Berlin today to meet with my client and will spend the night here.

Posted by bigblue on 25/03/2009 at 11:00 PM
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Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Emily Cummins (for Ada Lovelace Day)


Earlier this year I pledged:

to publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire

and then almost immediately regretted it. Not because it was naff, but because I read someone else telling the organiser how they were going to write about their math teacher who had been the first something-or-other in the military, developing rocket bombs.  I recoiled against celebrating “women in technology” regardless of whether the technology is good or bad for humanity. I prefer to celebrate only that which is good for humanity. Likewise I can think of many women who had no involvement in technology but had a profoundly positive effect on humanity. I hope we don’t value these women any less.

Of course the idea is to celebrate women who have played a positive role in a particular field, and to promote women’s participation in a field that they have been traditionally excluded from. How nice it would be then if we could also promote a feminisation of technology: Healing, not destruction; ploughs and wind turbines, rather than bombs.

Anyway a few days after signing up to the pledge I listened to a radio programme about Emily Cummins, inventor, and decided she is a good person to write about.  Her website is here. Her projects have included a toothpaste dispenser, a water carrier and a sustainable refrigerator.  Now of course her “inventions” are adaptations of existing technology. The toothpaste dispenser is a lever that squeezes the tube (with applications for the elderly and disabled people). The water carrier is a type of ball barrow. The refrigerator is the good old pot-in-pot fridge (“invented” by Mohammed Bah Abba in 2001, and by ancient civilizations thousands of years ago).  I am not poo-pooing Emily for this. Like most inventions she is building on other ideas, playing with different materials, and using existing technologies in a different way. I also think there’s a danger of seeking over-complicated technical solutions to long-standing problems when a simple and “low-technology” solution is appropriate. Emily has looked at using materials that can be readily sourced locally, in Africa where her inventions should prove useful.

She seems to have taken the approach “how can I solve this problem” rather than “how can I make money out of this”.  Anyway, here she is in her own words:

I do want to use my skills to make a difference. I’m not interested in making a bigger TV or greater sound system. I want to create change for the better.

~Emily Cummins quoted in the Torygraph.

Posted by bigblue on 24/03/2009 at 12:01 AM
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Monday, 23 March 2009
North Downs path


This is one of the delightful off-road tracks that I cycle when on the Oxted Down. Most of my route is on the roads but when the ground is dry there are some opportunities to take to the ancient paths and bridleways.

Posted by bigblue on 23/03/2009 at 06:49 PM
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