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04 Feb

Pre-election Question Time comes to Birmingham

(live blog of event here)

Last night saw the first in a series of pre-Election Question Time specials, hosted by Total Politics magazine, and City Inn hotels, first in Birmingham then onto Manchester, Leeds and London for the next three consecutive Thursdays.

Chaired by Conservative activist and blogger, and founder of Total Politics magazine, Iain Dale (@iaindale) (who proved to be an entertaining and forceful chair), the panel consisted of MP for Redditch Jacqui Smith, MP for Birmingham Yardley John Hemming, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and Marc Reeves, former Editor of The Birmingham Post, who has made the headlines himself recently with the launch of a new venture, called The Business Desk.

This evening’s debate started with everyones favourite topic: MP’s expenses. Apart from, perhaps, Jacqui Smith who, as Iain Dale put it, has become something of a “whipping girl” after some of her husbands very private video viewing habits went public after ending up on an expenses claim.  The general concensus, however, was that the expenses system is flawed and needs adressing, whilst their pay SHOULD be dealt with by an external body. There was also concern that the expenses scandal has not only damaged MP’s reputations as a whole, but could threaten future democracy if good people are put off from standing as an MP.

However the Birmingham faithful were out in force, and the discussion soon turned to more local issues, namely, Sion Simons decision to stand down as MP for Birmingham Erdington and go for the as yet non-existent Mayor of Birmingham position. This was met with some derision from John Hemming, who called him “mad” to give up everything for a job that does not exist. He did, however, say he’d happily go for it himself when it does!

A lengthy debate started over red tape and beurocracy for businesses in the region, and how Health and Safety legislation, for example, was not helping in these tough times, whilst proportional representation, hunting and public services got a good airing too.

There was banter (unsuprisingly between Jacqui Smith and Andrew Mitchell), telling-offs (Jacqui Smith for using climate change deniers, which Dale felt was too close to Holocaust Deniers for comfort) and uncharacteristic coyness from all 3 MPs (when asked to name their favourite MP from the other side).

Another question, odd yet interesting, asked the panel which bus they were going home on that night, I’m guessing a test as to their local knowledge and green thinking. Marc Reeves, ever the down to early local boy, rattled off several bus routes he takes, Jacqui Smith said the train, whilst Andrew Mitchell justified his use of a car to get home by saying it was locally produced.

He drives a Jag.

(live blog of event here)

Next stop, Manchester with Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd, Graham Brady (Altringham and Sale West MP), Mark Hunter (MP for Cheadle) and David Ottewell  from the Manchester Evening News.

Get your tickets here

04 Feb

Election Question Time Special in Birmingham: live blogging tonight from 7pm

As part of a series of pre-election session around the UK, Birmingham will tonight host a Question Time special at the City Inn.

On the panel:

Andrew Mitchell – Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Jacqui Smith – MP for Redditch and former Home Secretary
John Hemming – MP for Birmingham Yardley
Mark Reeves – Former Editor of the Birmingham Post
Iain Dale (Chair)

29 Jan

Grafitti + Twitter = Tweefiti

As part of a new Birmingham arts project, this weekend that will see one of the city’s grafitti artists spraypaint inspirational messages send in on Twitter.

The theme is “life feels better”, and Aerosol Arabic will be outside Bullring shopping centre on Saturday and Sunday creating a unique piece of art from tweets sent into the @lifefeelsbetter account, which will also appear on a Twitterfall.

It’s a nice idea, and a nice push for Twitter. However, do enough people use Twitter yet? We all know Facebook is the behemoth of the social networking world (350 million users and counting), but have enough people adopted its more minimalist rival? It’s big news in the media/tech world, but every one else? A lot of my friends join Twitter, then leave again saying “I don’t understand it” or the classic “it’s not as much fun as Facebook”.

It’s a great idea, however, and it will be interesting to see the response it gets

The Bullring Arts Project launched on 25th January 2010 and Brummies are being encouraged to send in their pictures, artwork, writing or music to http://www.lifefeelsbetter.co.uk

[mappress]

27 Jan

It seems we can’t have it all … hand held video recorders

I am in a dilemma.

Sony Ericsson SatioI am the owner of a perfectly good (despite the reports) Sony Ericsson Satio mobile phone. The 12 megapixel camera (and other gadgetry) means the picture quality of video recording great for still interviews. The only downside, is the audio.

  1. the internal mic is terrible. It is useless for interviews, and makes the subject sound like they are down a mine
  2. the handsfree kit mic records excellent quality sound, but it gradually falls out of sync with the video.

Option 1 is, well, not really an option. 2 is “get-roundable”, if I have got 2 hours to spend muting the video, adding the audio as a sound file on a separate track in something like Movie Maker, and then edging it back in sync every minute or so. So much for a fast turnaround.

I have considered using the phone for the video (because it is so good) and getting a good digital audio recorder, then sticking the two together elements, but again, not incredibly practical.

So, begrudgingly, I am going to have to fork out for a handheld mini video recorder.

Thanks to a great blog post by @Podnosh (here) it seems to be between the Flip Ultra, Flip Mino, the Kodak Zi8 and the Zoom Q3.

I quickly ruled out the Flip MinoHD s it seemed all glitz and not much punch (and doesn’t take AA batteries). I spend my life battling against power. There are never plugs when you need them and to rely on main power (especially at festivals, where I will be using the recorder) would be foolish.

The Flip UltraHD, on the other hand, seems more practical on the battery-front but no external mic, something that is useful in noisier environments.

For better sound, the Zoom Q3 is an option – these guys know what they’re doing with sound, BUT there is still no external mic option – and I’m worried that at a distance, the audio will be lost

The Kodak Zi8 DOES have a plug in mic option but it is not compatible with Windows Movie Maker and needs some faffing around so it can be edited. I don’t really deal well with faff. This is putting me off. However the Zi8 does come with some useful features, including a imagine stabilization, face recognition, good quality video and stills so maybe I can forgo a smooth set up fora good finish.

Or maybe phone, Kodak AND laptop will end up out of the window. Tune in to Twitter later to find out …

26 Jan

A Good Girls Guide to … co-working UPDATED

Open office (or co-working) is hot news nowadays. The press has been full of it this week, with magazines (Company) and radio (4) running features about this very 21st century way of getting stuff done.

So how does it work? Well, either by membership or a one off entry fee, you gain access to an open plan environment, normally with wi-fi and hot and cold running drinks where you can plug in, log in and work. It has become a refuge for home workers desperate to get away from Jeremy Kyle and the washing up.

In theory it’s a great idea: away from the distractions of home life, you can focus and increase productivity. If you want to chat, the people around you are vibrant, trendy media or programmer types who want to share their ideas and collaborate on some wonderful magical project that will cure cancer or make Twitter fail-whale proof.

In reality, its a bit like being in a library. However, at least in a library you know the rules as they have been drummed into you since an early age. No talking, no mobile phones, no eating and generally don’t be a pain to everyone else or face the wrath of the chief librarian.

In a co-working space, do these rules apply?

If your phone rings, do you answer it? Should it be on silent?

Should you have a spontaneous little creative chat with your co-workers if everyone else is sitting there in silence?

Are they all wishing you would just SIT STILL and stop fidgeting?

If you work in an office you KNOW the person sitting next to you. You may not like them but at least you know their name. In a co-working space you are sitting next to a total stranger. So when you go to the toilet, should you take your bag with you? Or is that seen as a lack of trust? You wouldn’t take your laptop, but what about your mobile phone?

And that nice person that you exchanged a few pleasantries with an hour ago: do you offer them a drink when you get yourself one?

It’s a minefield. But at least it’s better than Jeremy Kyle.

MORE ON CO-WORKING

http://www.moseleyexchange.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE51G49R20090217

________________________________________________________________

Recently I began renting a desk at the Substrakt offices.  It’s a great location based at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth in Birmingham and is 50% populated by this very cool creative communications company and 50% by other people, like myself, who just need somewhere to go.

It’s early days and I need to decide if it’s value for money, but for now it’s proving to be incredibly good for me. Without my stuff to distract me I am getting a LOT done. I also feel obliged to actually get up and go into the office as I am paying for it. It’s nice to have people around, and you never know, I may get some work out of it.

Who knows?

18 Jan

#BodiesRevealed The Beginnings of Life

THE EXHIBITION

The Bodies Revealed exhibition is currently running at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. It focuses on how the body works, major illnesses and development. Hashbrum headed along to get the full guided tour from Medical Director Dr Roy Glover

The Beginnings of Life

Stillborn and Neonatal Deaths Charity

18 Jan

#BodiesRevealed: the lungs

THE EXHIBITION

The Bodies Revealed exhibition has been running at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. It focuses on how the body works, major illnesses and development. I headed along to get the full guided tour from Medical Director Dr Roy Glover

Lungs and Smoking

Smokefree – quit smoking

Cancer Research UK

British Lung Foundation

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020