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2011 in review

The following is an automated post…

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


So, the fourth of the Leicester Print Workshop ‘Introduction to Print’ classes was last night. This time it was etching with hard ground. The whole process is rather involved but much less complicated than I thought (I wasn’t really looking forward to this session). Because of the time constraints, Nichola had already provided us with zinc plates already prepared with hard ground but did show us how to do it ourselves.

The shiny side of the zinc plate is degreased (with Cif) and then placed onto a hot plate (huge chunk of metal sitting on one of the side benches: wondered what that was for, other than stacking paper onto and banging my elbow into). A blob of hard grounds is rubbed & melted into the shiny surface of the plate after it has heated up and then smoothed out all over the plate (using a tool – dabber? – that looks like a darning mushroom covered in leather). The plate is then left to cool and the grounds to harden. But our plates were already at that stage.

Scribing the plate was much the same process as with the first lesson on drypoint, but with less pressure being required since we were only cutting through the ground and not into the plate. This time, I did not try to transfer an image onto the plate before scribing, just used a photograph of a canal in Venice and then hand drew it. I’m no good at this process. Working that small (my plate was only about 3″ x 3″), any hand shakes cause a bit of damage and my hand does tend to shake when I try to draw clean small lines. But I ended up with something that everyone later recognised as a Venice canal so was not too disastrous. I tried using other tools like the roulette (see the lines in the sky) but without much success.

After finishing the image we had to protect the back and side of the plate, the back by putting packing tape over it and the sides by painting varnish onto it. Then the plate was lowered into the acid bath (10:1 water : nitric acid), in my case for about 11 minutes. While in the bath, the ground took on a dark colour and bubbles of air formed over the plate. The bubbles were brushed away with a feather. When finished, the plate was lifted out (we were wearing gloves and goggles with all the acid work) and washed in water. The ground was then removed by rubbing the plate with white spirit at which point it was ready for printing.

The printing process was the same as for drypoint: scrape ink onto the plate, rub it into the grooves and off the surface using scrim, polish using telephone directory paper and tissue paper, lay onto the press bed, face up, on top of sheet of newsprint, lay damp sheet of printing paper over the plate and another sheet of newsprint over that and print.

My first print was:

venice canal etching 01

It looked ok. Nichola then suggested I could leave some surface ink in places to add some atmosphere and so I did this, leaving it on the water and sky with the result:

venice canal etching 02

Much better. I don’t think my drawing skills are up to this approach but it was more enjoyable and much easier than I thought it would be. I will have a go at this again, in the future. I’ve joined LPW as a member so will be able to go along any time to try this again. I may try copying some old master prints to get a hang of the techniques.

Janet Morrow exhibition

I went in to the opening of the Janet Morrow exhibition at Surface Gallery tonight. It was the first opening I’ve been to at SG and I went as a viewer rather than as a volunteer since I needed to get away early. I was impressed with how many people turned out for the opening event. The place was packed.

I didn’t think to take my proper camera so the following shots were only on my Nikon P5100. Apologies for the limited quality. I’ll remember the D90 next time. Though several people seemed to have ‘real’ cameras so better shots should appear later.

I’m also trying out a new Mac-based blog editor (MarsEdit), so hope this works. These are pretty much in order that I took them. I’m dreadful at remembering names so will largely not even attempt to name the people I know.

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These show Janet herself and her husband in conversation. I spoke to Janet before the show got going and when I left. I have to say she is one of the nicest people I have met.

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More pics.

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I’m still finding my way into the volunteering with SG but hope I can contribute more to the next exhibition. They really have a great gallery. I’ll be in the gallery Friday and Saturday so hope I get time to consider Janet’s works better.

Induction @SG

I had my induction session today at Surface Gallery where I have started as a volunteer. The office accommodation is rudimentary, to say the least, but more than made up for by the friendliness of the other volunteers and the diverse and top quality nature of the exhibitions.

I’ve seen three exhibitions there: The Nature of Landscape, Fluorescent Sheep and XV (SG was one of about 20 locations around Nottingham hosting this excellent graduate show: I spent the whole of this morning looking around some of the other main locations). This was after my previous painting tutor, Val Turton, who has a studio above SG, told me about the place. When I heard they were looking for volunteers, I knew this would be one good use of my retirement time.

The bit of work I took on today, after the induction session (thanks, Iain and Leila), was to start posting notice of the upcoming exhibition to various sites. After an hour, I’d only managed to add three such postings: not as easy as it sounded as every site requires different information, in different formats and of different lengths. (Maybe I could get my former colleagues in the VOEvent community to help out 🙂 ).

This next event is ‘Janet Morrow – “A Community of Non-Normative Beings”‘:

2010 Surface Open Show winner and Texas based artist Janet Morrow returns to Surface Gallery this June for her long awaited solo exhibition. A Community of Non-normative Beings is a body of work examining themes of deafness, disability and otherness and what it means to occupy a non-normative body in a culture where normality is narrowly defined.

Tomorrow, there is the first session looking at the entries for the coming Open Show. Sounds fun.

I’m back

Maggie and I arrived back in the UK from our long holidays in Australia and New Zealand on Monday. And I am back in a blogging mood. Will start posting more stuff shortly: reviews, ponderings and likely lots of drivel.

Dead email!

Few days ago, I redirected my ‘’ domain to my ‘’ account so that I could set up a proper home page for myself. Unfortunately, this broke the gmail redirect for all my emails to that domain (ie, all my emails). Stupid boy!! No idea if I’ll be able to recover emails, probably not, so if you read this and have sent me an email on or after 13-Jun, please resend  (just checked, it is back, so okay to resend now).

still quoting

Nothing new, just a quote from LRB, 17-Dec issue, Michael Wood on Frank Kermode (p.10: link for subscribers), talking about William Empson, talking about Pascal’s Wager (my emphasis) which I liked and wanted to share:

Empson of course spent much of his later life attacking the very idea of salvation as long as it had a Christian tinge, but he had his interest in nobler magic too, and his idea of honour, eloquently drawn out by Kermode, is a matter of moral style rather than mere morality. Empson despised Pascal’s famous wager (we might as well bet on the existence of God since we shall win if there is a God and lose nothing if there isn’t) because he thought it made one who accepted it ‘the slave of any person, professing any doctrine, who has the impudence to tell him a sufficiently extravagant lie … Clearly, if you have reduced morality to keeping the taboos imposed by an infinite malignity, you can have no sense of honour or of the public good.’ This is stirring stuff, and the public good is a surprising note. Kermode says: ‘It does warm the heart to hear [Pascal’s] line of argument dismissed as simply dishonourable.’

Mobile downside?

I just witnessed one of the downsides to mobile phones (is ‘downside’ a downside to the Americanisation of our language?). Our postman just delivered the mail. I could hear him coming from up the street as he was talking on his mobile all the way here and all the way on. I remember (oh dear, it is one of those posts) when the post arrived and you had a quick chat to the postman before he moved on (and it was all men in those days). I used to chat to the two previous postwomen who did our route (latter was born in Adelaide before being removed to this country while still a baby) but there was obviously no chance of talking to the guy who turned up today.

So, I guess the mobile phone has made it easier for us to chat to our friends and family — that is, people we know — but more difficult to strike up conversations with strangers.

Back to the drawing board

Ever since I completed the MA in Philosophy at the Open University, I’ve thought about doing a PhD. One of the subjects I’d had in mind recently was free will and determinism: the thesis being, as I’ve laid out here, that they are not only compatible but essentially interdependent. I’ve been thinking about this subject and making notes for a few months. I then came across an article on Philosophy Compass, Recent Work on Free Will and Moral Responsibility. This pointed me to the book by Robert Kane, A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will. There I discovered, not only that my great and original thinking had been done before, but that this had been said as long ago as Hume and Mill and as recently as Dennett.

This, of course, points up the problem of doing an MA without the preceding undergraduate work. I shall finish the book before attempting to think of any further problems in free will that I might attempt!

And, I still have the idea of what might a robot mind look like: I’m almost afraid of looking into that subject now :).


I was sat on the train to London this morning, laptop out and doing some work. A woman got on at Leicester and sat opposite me – diagonally opposite fortunately, so I was still able to keep my legs stretched out. She seemed pleasant, didn’t acknowledge me but sat down, got her own laptop and papers out and started looking over some printed figures. She had nice features, looked like someone used to telling others what to do but also looked like someone who was able to smile and laugh with others. The ??? woman came along shortly after the train left Leicester (what do they call the people who check your tickets on trains now? I’m sure they aren’t conductors and ticket collector doesn’t sound right any more either.). Woman opposite got out her travel pass (so obviously a regular journey for her) and held it open ready. But she continued reading her notes right up until the train woman had reached her, checked her ticket and passed. At no time did she acknowledge or look at the other woman. Was her work so important that five seconds taken out to smile at someone would bring down her company? I don’t think so. Manners, people. A little politeness costs nothing but makes others’ jobs a lot more pleasant.

Libraries galore

Just a link but a very worthwhile one:

Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries | Curious Expeditions


Well, this prat is keeping up his ESWC record. Those who remember the multi-coloured eyes I was sporting on return from Tenerife and ESWC 2008 will not be surprised to learn that I’ve taken another tumble over here. Nowhere near as serious this time. Was walking along the plastic pathing spread along the beach (shingle) between the hotel Maggie and I are staying in and the one the conference is held in and went to give way to someone carrying a couple of glasses, tripped on the broken plastic strips and went sprawling. Scraped up hands and knees with right knee bloodied but nothing serious – one plaster and no concussion! Hopefully will make it back to the UK in one piece with no more pratfalls.