A new camera – making headlines

Photography has moved on in the last decade – almost beyond recognition. The demise of film was inevitable at the side of the massive growth of digital imaging. I guess that most people now carry a camera with them – in the form of a mobile telephone. The quality of these devices has improved exponentially. You only have to go to a tourist destination to see hordes of people snapping away. It costs next to nothing to take a digital image (unlike film). So people take millions of images! The purists roll their eyes at these amateurs. Of course a professional photographers life is being made harder as so many people are trampling on his toes. The Canon and Nikon race continues to make headlines – who is holding the best camera title. They incrementally out-do each other with every release. Others simply try to keep up. Leica doesn’t need to – it has its own place. So I was really interested to see the launch of a new camera in the week. Called the Autographer – it takes images spontaneously – the camera senses movement and takes images automatically!The blurb says it is the worlds first intelligent wearable camera… It looks amazing – and I like the concept. I just wonder whether it is truly gimmicky. I’m fascinated about it’s ability to tell a story – which could be really interesting. The web site for the camera is here. If anyone fancies letting me use one for a while as a test, I’m available for that gig. It launches in November – I’m told the price might be £399…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged Autographer, , Canon, digital image, Nikon, storytelling

Junk Mail…

I get a lot of email. Sometimes there can be 150 every day. They fall into three categories – stuff for me – probably 30%, stuff I’m cc’d on – 40% and junk – the rest.

Yesterday I had two amazing emails…

The first, from MarinaSalam@Hotmail (I presume the NYPD are using hotmail now?):

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
Local Police Code
Time: 9:14 AM Date of Offense: 06/12/2011
Description of Violation:SPEED OVER 55 ZONE TO PLEAD,

I would love to fill out the form, but as I haven’t ever driven in NYC, I think it might be a case of mistaken identity?

But my day did get a whole lot better when Mrs Mary Parker dropped me a note:

I am Mrs. Mary Parker an aging widow suffering from long time illness. I
have the sum of 7.5 Million Pounds for you to use the fund for God’s work.
Please if you would be able to use the funds for the Lord’s work, kindly
reply me:
Yours in the Lord,
Mrs Mary Parker

This I regard as a result – I have replied thus:

F**k yeah. Send it over love. Used fivers works best for me.

I haven’t heard yet, but hope to do so before Monday. I could use £7.5m at the moment… If there’s no blog on Monday – rest assured, I’ll be doing Gods work. In The Bahamas.

A step back in time – to a very different era….

I had an opportunity last week of having a look around the former Home Brewery premises in Daybrook, Nottingham. My colleague Craig Straw is selling the building. I am guessing that it is it probbably 25 years or more since I was last in there!

This was the place I started work in July 1979. On the princely wage of £27 a week! I was a ‘Trainee Architectural Technician’. Although the place has changed quite a bit – mostly as the insides have been torn down to make way for open plan offices – I did find my old office space – where I sat perched at a drawing board for three years!

They were great days – a very different era to the workplace of today. Lunchtime drinking was quite normal – it was a brewery after all! People smoked in the offices. We wore flared trousers and spoon collars. And beige. The Brewery busiling remains an iconic landmark in Anold (or more properly Daybrook) – it was designed by Cecil Howitt a famous Nottingham Architect back in the middle of the last century. He designed Nottingham’s Council House, the Nottingham Trent University Newton Building and the Raleigh Headquarters on Gregory Boulevard. The style isn’t exactly pretty – more pretty brutal. But these buildings were made to last. Home Brewery is now listed – as is the famous “Home of the Best (Ales)” sign.

It was a fascinating visit – and the memories of my happy formative years came flooding back.

I just missed the smell of the hops…

2020 Squash – backing the bid

For some reason Squash isn’t considered enough of a sport to make the Olympics – and won’t be in the the 2016 Rio games either. But Horses going backwards will.

I may be biased as a player and qualified coach – but this is bonkers. Professional squash players are amongst the fittest people I know. They train rigorously and a match can be two hours – which could be part of the problem. It is a difficult game to grasp – the rules are not the easiest to understand! But it has all the hallmarks of a great sport, aggression, fitness, hand/eye coordination – and tactics. It is said to be gladiatorial chess! Players burn off around 1,000 calories per hour!

A major push to ‘back the bid’ is underway to get squash included in the 2020 Games. You can read about it here.

Squash is trying to make itself more accessible – with clearer explanation of the rules (they’re not that difficult!) – and modern glass walled courts where you can see all round them. There are now TV video replay appeals during games.

There are real characters in the game too – think McEnroe type people – who push and challenge! It can get quite exciting when the players quiz the referees about decisions (most of which happen in the blink of an eye!). The ball can travel up to 170mph…

So, I’m backing the bid – and have the tee shirt to prove it!

Sad news – Stephen Bradford

One of my clients called today with the sad news that one of my University peers (from a long time ago) has passed away. Stephen was a great mate back in the 1980′s when we quickly worked out that he had the neatest notes of all of us! So we used to photocopy them when he wasn’t looking (or at breaks!). He only realised when we came to Exam time and ‘revision’ when we all turned up with immaculate notes – his. I lost track of him in recent years – although used to bump into him at some events – we still used to laugh about those notes. He was a tad younger than me – far too young. RIP Stephen.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged Hodgson Elkington, Stephen Bradford

Meetings and preparation….

I played squash in the week with a good mate at Nottingham Squash Rackets Club – and we were chatting about the way some people handle meetings so badly. He came up with a great quote,

In God we trust; all others must bring data“.

I love this. It is attributed to W Edwards Deming.

The point is that, in my view, you should go to meetings prepared. You should only ask questions in the meeting if you know the answer or know a series of optional answers. You should do your homework – especially if you are responsible for something. It’s sloppy not to have information at your fingertips. Even if that information is ‘high level’ or an approximation. And even worse if you try to fudge an answer. Preparation is everything!

All too often you tend to hear excuses – ‘that information is in another file’. Or, “I can’t be expected to know that level of detail’. People shouldn’t go to meetings if they can’t contribute at this basic level.

It’s important to have data – it informs decisions. Sure, there are times when the data might not help and you have to follow a different decision making process, but for the most part it is important to have a grasp of the parameters.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged decision making, Deming, In God We Trust - all others bring data, Meetings

Venice – The Place

As I blogged yesterday, I was in Venice last week for the Biennale. I don’t think I have ever been to a place that so looks like how you imagine it. It’s a bit like going to see a band play live and them sounding exactly as their album!

As I’m interested in the sense of place – this was a really interesting visit.

Of course this is a place steeped in history. It has been inhabited since before the 10th Century BC. The sense of history is palpable. If it weren’t for the motor boats (and cruise ships!) you can’t help imagining that you have been teleported back in time. There are very few new buildings. The colours and textures of the buildings are authentic; there is no pastiche here. It’s the real thing!

The Venetians cater for the tourist – from the Gondoliers to the Musicians in St Marks Square – dressing according to tradition. Although I was slightly disappointed by the Gondoliers Nike Trainers!

Harry’s Bar provided modern history – and is a tourist must – even if a drink (Bellini of course) was £15. But people will pay for a slice of history?

The street (and canal) pattern in Venice make you want to explore. It’s easy to get lost or lose your bearings as you wind your way through the narrow streets. You want to explore and there are surprises at every turn. Shops are small – independents in the main. Although in parts there are some multiples. But there are no big shops here – there isn’t room. It makes the browsing experience so much more interesting. Shops vie for your attention with colour.

Then there’s food. Of course the Italians are quite good at food! But there are lots of restaurants. Good weather helps with the ability to eat alfresco. But the meal is an occasion – and a relaxed affair. There are no cars here so drink driving isn’t an issue!

A place that is compact, full of history, has interesting streets to explore and has superb food will always make for a great place?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff Tagged Biennale, Food, History, place, placemaking, Venetial, Venice

Venice – The Biennale

Once a year it seems I get the opportunity to play at being an Architect! Two years at Shanghai I met lot’s of people from Nottingham University (at the Expo) and last year it was Istanbul. So the chance to visit the Venice Architecture Biennale was too good to miss.

I had never been to Venice; it really is like stepping onto a filmset. The images you have of Venice are exactly that – images of Venice. If it weren’t for the motor boats – you could easily have stepped back in time – a thousand years. The sense of place is amazing, something I’ll re-visit again tomorrow.

The Venice Biennale is a collection of architectural projects under the curation of David Chipperfield. The theme was “Common Ground” – which is widely open to interpretation! But the brochure suggests that there was to be a concentration on the city – but also ensure that creations engage with the people who use it.

There are some wild and whacky installations, but some amazing ones too. Some are really ‘art’ rather than architecture (although you might argue they are inter-dependent?). I loved the Zaha Hadid work – and I thought some of the traditional materials (brick, tile and timber) worked really well. The surroundings of the Arsenale were spectacular – again steeped in history.

The main exhibition is based in the old shipyard – and again you feel that you are in a completely different era. There’s no modern crinkly tin sheds here.

Some of the photographs of the former eastern block countries and their rather brutalist architecture – concrete cities – were a reminder of how bad buildings can be. We have all seen these! But you are reminded that some of these places are peoples homes. How people have adapted to their surroundings is amazing.

This is a collection of work from all over the world. Some is conceptual but some is real too. It is well worth seeing – if only to get a grasp of some of the work being done around the world. But the real winner is the setting – Venice is a natural backdrop for architecture. Some of the buildings are just stunning, but that’s for another day!

Reducing the music collection – the Brennan JB7 solution

Pretty soon the collection of CD’s I have will have outgrown the corner of the house assigned to its storage. I’m not sure how many there are – it would take too long to count…

Although I have the majority of my collection on Apple iTunes (c.55,000 tracks of music) I wanted something a little more permanent. As I recently had a Birthday (which I have tried to forget) there seemed a good opportunity to get a Brennan JB7 – a music machine which rips your music into MP3. By all accounts it was a good solution – except for the fact that I would have to manually load all of my CD’s again.

So last month I started the process – with the intention then of storing my CD collection away. But it all went wrong, quickly. The CD mechanism broke and the unit had to go back after 10 days. Brennan did include a compliment slip saying “Mechanism replaced”. Never apologise, never explain then?

Then I started to notice that the CD register didn’t recognise quite a few of the tracks – and simply labels them “Track 1″ – which isn’t helpful for searching.And it got worse as I found so many albums unrecognised. Thus making a long process worse! I did email them and they replied 9 days later explaining that “they realised it was complex to rename tracks” (presumably for non-technical people like me). I don’t need patronising.

So, I now have a USB keyboard plugged into the unit whilst I have to rename hundreds of tracks.

It’s a great bit of kit – and looks cool. But it is proving painful. And they need to sort their customer service out.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Brennan JB7, CD load, keyboard, loading issues, manual, renaming tracks, Review, usb

Apple Maps – the good, the bad and the ugly?

The new maps feature on my ipad is superb. I can zoom into my favourite Pizza Restaurant – as you can see. Not sure why they only got four stars…

Then we get to Nottingham, where it’s not quite as good? I am sure you can make out my office? Its the grey one…

It isn’t quite what we expected Apple! Sure, New York and London are fantastic – and better than Google, but there is life north of Watford – despite what those Cockney types tell you. This is not John Major city – we have life and colour and some stunning buildings…

Work in progress it might be, but this is pretty rubbish and a backward step. Unless Apple are going to tell us that it’s really an x-Ray picture?