Girl Geek Dinner

19 Jan

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On Thursday evening I went to my first ever Bath Girl Geek Dinner evening. Geek Girl Dinners was set up 10 years ago by Sarah Lamb who realised how isolated many women were in the science and technology sectors, and wanted to build a community to break down the stereotypes of women in science, encourage those with an interest in technology and figure out where the barriers were. This I can vouch for after attending computer science lectures at university where the ratio of women to men was less than 1 in 10, although as i specialised, my field has always been about 50:50. Men are by no means excluded, though the focus of the group is focused on women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries. Since the original meet in London, other branches have started up not just all over the country but all over the world.

I think I first heard of the Bristol group, however I was uncertain about attending as I am not a programmer and was worried that I would have nothing to say. It wasn’t until I met the Bath ladies at one of the ‘Bath: Hacked’ events that I felt encouraged to come along

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I arrived to the fairy light and candle lit vaults of the Porter to a glass of wine and a friendly welcome. I didn’t know anybody except the organisers and speakers, so took a deep breath and started to say hello to people. After a time of meeting and mingling the talk by Leigh Dodds began. This month the topic was Bath: Hacked, the Open Data organisation in the Bath and North East Somerset authority who’s aim is to ”liberate data and make useful things” as well as promoting open data to the wider community (not just techies). You can read more about Bath Hacked in my previous posts here and here

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Then came the sandwiches which were truly delicious, I had beef ones and bacon and chicken. There were also these divine little salad pots with salad leaves, olives, croutons, cornichons and pine nuts. After a bit of chatting and munching our food Leigh then introduced us to the City Data Store hosted by Socrata to start the hands on session. Not only does it store the data but has tools for interrogating and analysing the data into reports, graphs and even maps. Its great, you can fiddle about on the site and produce results without any specialist skills.

So that was the first meet up for 2015 and the upshot is that I will definitely be going again to meet new people and learn new things :)

p.s. Sorry for the dark photos. Although the lighting was very lovely in the vaults it wasn’t great for photos and I didn’t want to use the flash

 

Leopard Print Duck Tape

18 Jan

I used to regularly pass a car accessory shop and in the window was leopard print duct tape. I thought this incredibly cool but somehow never got round to going in. However it was when I learned about the use of wash tape in crafting I thought it would be rather fun to have some (particularly for making pockets in my filofax)

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I started to look online and discovered that the tape was from the Duck company which does a mega range of pretty patterns (even Disney’s Frozen!), and though of course the various animal prints are my favourite this ‘dill with it’ one is rather cute

gherkin duck tape

Scotch do patterned duct tape also and I absolutely adore the lips pattern. Unfortunately my local The Works doesn’t have any of their tape (bottom left of collage) as they have a zebra one i’d quite like and its currently 99p

One further thing I found out is you can also get scented duck tape, however if its anything like my scented nail varnish I think i’ll stay away

scented duck tape

Companion Zombie short stories

3 Jan

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I discovered this post the other day, which although was written a year ago had never been published. The snow globe is from Think Geek

February 2014:

After reading Warm Bodies, I was eager to read the prequel The New Hunger by Isaac Marion. The book is set several years before and follows Nora and Julie as they search for refuge across the devastated country with their families. We see the lengths people take to protect their families and survive and the pain and loneliness of the individuals. We also follow a man who wakes up in the woods not knowing who he is but knowing that there is a craving and he must move forward to satisfy this hunger. This hunger is people, but is it really what he wants. This book is an insight into how the girls became who they are in Warm Bodies, and how doubt conflicts with instinct within the decayed mind.

World War Z has been permanently out at the library so I still haven’t read it yet, I have however seen (and loved) the film. I noticed this small book of short stories Closure, Limited by Max Brooks. Two of the books are related to World War Z and two are stand alone zombie short stories. They are excellent and heartbreaking. They offer melancholy rather than excitement but leave you thinking, oh wow I’m glad somebody dared to write that. They deal with the emotions of loss, hope, desperation, the drive to survive, and the disappointment of regret. It made me cry.

2014: A year in books

2 Jan

I started using Goodreads in 2013 and found it a great way to keep track of everything i read and also its a handy way to share it here in the little widget. Last month it popped up with “Your year in books” which i found a lovely way to visualise what i had been reading and spot genre trends; generally a lot of Apocalypse and a lot of Regency Fluff. There is also the Agatha Christie audiobook spree which i went on last year. The books are ordered by my rating of them so my favourites are at the top

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Happy New Year

1 Jan

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Happy New Year to everyone, may it bring you happiness and good things!

January is traditionally a time for kick starting things in your life and looking towards the future. I don’t personally make New Year resolutions, I make March resolutions. Too many times you can get really excited about something in January but then settle back in your hibernation waiting for winter to end. I find it much easier to make and both keep goals set at the beginning of spring. However the new year is a great time to give goals a boost, and especially the ones which were left to lapse as the nights drew in and the temperatures dropped. So here are my new year goal boosts for the next two months:

  • Remember to moisturise both morning and night. In the summer I’m better at this, especially with the need for spf creams, however the skin needs looking after too in the winter chill
  • Actually go to yoga
  • Make 3 new types of bread, including a sourdough starter
  • Learn a new crochet square pattern
  • Write on this blog at least once a week and catch up on my book reviews
  • Prepare the garden for spring

Edible Gifts

17 Dec

parish christmas biscuits

The photo above shows the shortbread and soul cakes which i made for our recent Parishes meeting to add a little festive something.

Edible gifts can be a great present at this time of year, be it a tin of biscuits for a group of people (makes a change from the usual chocolate selection box where everyone leaves the coconut ones) or a few choice treats in a pretty box or bag. Here are some recipes which i recommend

Chocolate Brownies recipe from BBC Good Food (tried and tested and someone declared they were the best he had ever tasted – i used dark chocolate all the way through though swapping it for the milk and white in the recipe)

Chocolate Truffles recipe from BBC Good Food – a bit messy to make but utterly delicious. I made some a few weeks ago and added cherry liquor although i wasn’t really sure you could taste it

Shortbread – recipe can be found on this previous blogpost. From experience with my oven i cook them on the top shelf but see what your oven is like

I like the idea of making fudge although I’ve never tried it and they would look lovely in these pretty snowflake bags from Lakeland

lakeland festive bags

 

Book review catchup

14 Dec

Ive got through around 60 books since my last review (although 20 of them were an Agatha Christie audiobook spree) so theres a lot to be catching up on, including the ones I never reviewed last winter. So coming soon is the continuation of the Jenny Colgan, Hester Browne and Amanda Grange fest, a brush with the Recency fluff of Georgette Heyer, John Dies at the End and what happened to him afterwards, discovering Cecelia Ahern, Zombies and my recent obsession with Teen Dystopia.

Although I’ve got behind on my reviews I have been tweeting a lot of what I have been reading with photos which you can see by going to my twitter feed on the right, and they are in my Good Reads feed also

Christmas Charity

13 Dec

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Christmas is a time when people’s minds turn to giving to charity, however with such a wealth of organisations how do you decide where to give. Some people have personal experience of a loved one in need through either illness or circumstance, whereas others would just like to help the world in what way they can. At this time of year, despite all the bustle and commercialism it is also a time to think about peace and goodwill. Above Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker play the charity collectors in The Muppet Christmas Carol (image source). Here are just a few ideas for helping others this Christmas. Please click on the organisation links to read more about how these charities help people.

RNLI christmas card

The RNLI is an organisation I have great respect for. These volunteers provide a 24h on call search and rescue service, saving lives of those at sea and also during flooding. Each year they sell a range of christmas cards. Of course the ones of them rescuing Santa I like the best. They even do a personalised children’s book of the big Santa rescue

There may be something local you can take part in. This year I have been donating sweets to the local foodbank. The food bank collects donations of non perishable food, which is used to supply emergency supplies to people in crisis. They have a shopping list (so that people don’t end up with just baked beans) and at this time of year they are looking for a few special items such as sweets for the children… oh and toothpaste too. The internet is a good place to search for your local branch, however many supermarkets, churches, organisations such as the WI and businesses have collection points.

Although Christmas is supposed to be a happy festive time of year, there are some people for whom life can be very difficult through sadness, loneliness or depression. Charities such as MIND and the Samaritans are there for people in need

charity shop purchases

Rather than just buy someone that random bath stuff gift, have a think about what they like and have a look in your local charity shop. A gift doesn’t have to be new. You may find the book they have been wanting to read, or a particular china figurine that you know they collect, or nice crockery or just something completely random that you know they will like.

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And if you want to help those in crisis abroad, give a thought to Map Action who provide humanitarian aid to disaster areas through information mapping. Map Action deploys rapid response unit of trained GIS (Geographic Information Systems) volunteers to areas which have suffered from disasters such as typhoons, cyclones, disease outbreak, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes and provide aid work in conflict torn countries. When disaster occurs the first thing people need to know is What and Where. Which transport routes are open or blocked, where is the outbreak, where the power is still in operation, location of health facilities, population densities, the list goes on. Their most recent deployments have been to Liberia and Sierra Leone assisting in the Ebola outbreak. Please take a look at their website and see how the collection and dissemination of information can help save lives.

There are many many other ways to help, not only by donating money but purchasing merchandise or getting actively involved yourself.

Bath Hacked: Hacking for newbies

2 Nov

Screen Shot library stats

Playing with open data isn’t just for developers, theres lots you can do even if you aren’t a programmer. Yesterday we had an introduction to the Bath Hacked Data Store. Hosted on Socrata its not just a place to dump data, you can interrogate, analyse and visualise it too (even on a map)

After a quick overview of the capabilities we started having a play, between us we generated a map where the places with the worst hygiene rating,  looked at the trends of different car park usage throughout the day, crime and publishing. Apparently there was a boom in publishing books in Bath in 2006 (and also a peak in books published about Bath then too… coincidence?)

publishing per year in bath

Personally I’m interested in Libraries and books so i started to see what the lending patterns were in the county. The important revaluation is that YES PEOPLE DO USE THE MOBILE LIBRARIES. A LOT. So don’t cut their funding. When I was little and visited my Granny, the mobile library used to visit her and what a magical vehicle it was. If i was unable to travel I would hate to be cut off from a library. According to the data: Library Lending Transactions (Apr 2012-Jan 2014) – a summary of library loans in B&NES libraries from the period April 2012 to Januar 2014, people used the mobile libraries almost as much as they used Keynsham or Midsomer Norton (if you can’t see the label mobile libraries is the bottom middle lilac box)

Screen Shot mobile library

And finally its IDEAS which are important, even if like me you can’t code there are plenty of ways which you can interact with open data and always join together with friendly developers if you do want to build an app :)

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image source

 

 

Bath Hacked: Liberate data and make cool things for your city

2 Nov

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Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone, however what is the good of data just sitting there not doing anything.

“Bath: Hacked is a joint council/community initiative that aims to put open data and smart thinking at the heart of the city. Our primary mission is to bring bright people and quality data together to do useful things for the community”

What Bath is saying is “what do you want to know?” “what problems do you want to solve?”. The next question is “is there the data out there that can help?” “are there people who have ideas?” and “what skills can you bring together to make something cool for your city?”

Bath:Hacked 2.1 is the second big 2 day hack event for people who are inspired by open data to create something for their city. It all kicked off yesterday and there are projects using planning data, council spending, heritage plaques, library use stats, literary identity and more!

Check out the website, meet up and twitter @bathhacked #hacked21

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