Some things that happened in 2017

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Each year whips by at a cracking pace. I’ve managed to make a relatively sustained effort on blogging this year and, as the year has progressed, I’ve found myself referring back to things I wrote earlier or sending links on to colleagues and friends. So, in no particular order here’s a list of the places, people, and other things I have encountered this year and very much enjoyed. As January 2018 ticks over and I’m contemplating my winter blues I can use this to cheer myself up.

Design my Privacy

I came across a link to the Social Cooling site via a tweet from Mike Caulfield at the start of the year and used it as a link in my rant on the NGDLE. I’ve visited this site a few times since then and dug into it a bit further to find out more about Tijmen Schep, the designer behind it and the equally excellent This led me to his book “Design my Privacy” which I have been carrying around since. It’s informative, thought-provoking, useful and accessible. I shared it with a colleague and he included a few of the principles in it into a workshop he was running to develop a refreshed web strategy for our institution. That’s a result I think.

Embedded in the Landscape: Psychogeography, Folk Horror and the Everyday

This talk was an unexpected gem that I discovered at the Unseelie Court event at Summerhall. It was part of a full day programme organised by the Folk Horror Revival group and I went not knowing what to expect, except that my friend Sally-Ann was speaking. Read a version of the talk via the link above and follow @Fifepys on Twitter for more.

Alan Moore quote, shamelessly nicked from here:

Kerry Pinny

That girl has the secret sauce. Accomplice in mischief and sedition. Blogs an awfully good rant.

Birthday on the Kapiti Coast

A birthday happened again this year as it seems to every year, although this year was a little more significant. I also happened to be in New Zealand again. This trip I made the time to go see friends over on the Kapiti Coast. It was a special trip as it was the first time I’d seen them since they got married and made some other big changes earlier in the year. The clock ticked over midnight whilst we were drinking wine, snacking and talking rubbish. We had presents and more wine. Next morning I went for a walk in a gentle breeze along the beach at Paekakariki, looking out to Kapiti Island. Land of the long white cloud indeed.

Queen Elizabeth Park, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand

Nefertiti Bot

This is the application of AI that I saw this year that expanded my understanding of how it could be used in education in a way that was creative, instructive and that could problematise and prompt deeper enquiry. Nefertiti Bot is a cultural heritage project that follows on directly from the Nefertiti Hack (also read here). The bot is the imagined voice (personality?) of the scanned head of Nefertiti and the project that created her seeks to ask questions about the interpretation of museum artefacts. What other interpretations are there? What information might be missing? (for example that many artefacts came to be in museums via a process of cultural looting). I met Nefertiti Bot in a session at MozFest17 and as a group we asked her various questions and discussed the answers and implications. This was one of my MozFest highlights, much like Nefertiti Hack last year.

Nefertiti Bot MozFest 2017


I spent a portion of June in France in Brittany. Un autre pays Celtique. Part working holiday, part pleasure, and one of the things I indulged was a love of automata. Two visits – one to Nantes to Machines de l’Île and another to Musee du Poete Ferrailleur. Machines de L’Île is a big affair and is part of a larger urban regeneration project in the old shipbuilding heartland of the city of Nantes. One of the many things one can do is take a trip on a 12 metre high walking elephant. One can also ride the Carousel des Mondes Marins. If giant articulated squid are your kind of thing, you’ll like it just fine.

Le Grand Elephant et Le Carrousel des Mondes Marins, Nantes

The Musee du Poete Ferrailleur is altogether a smaller affair. One man’s 25 year project to transform his family property, building a range of strange mechanical devices and structures, mostly from recycled materials. This is altogether a less commercial and more whimsical affair, only open one day a week and hidden far out into the countryside. You will often see the man himself carrying out some little maintenance job.

Musee du Poete Ferrailleur, Lizio

Pigeon on a train

One of the joys of public transport is the chance encounters with new people. This fellow traveler alighted at Livingston North train station. I’m not sure if that was his preferred destination, or indeed if he got back home safely. I’m pretty sure he dodged his fare and he definitely put his feet on the seats.

Pigeon on a train

Tapestry Weaving

My friend Lucy suggested that I might enjoy a Tapestry Weaving workshop that she had done before and so we signed up and went along together in July. The theme was ‘Seascape’ which as someone who grew up beside, on, and in the sea, suited me well. There was a suggested pattern to follow, but I decided to go off-piste and taking a bit of inspiration from some photos from Mataikona on the New Zealand coast, I managed to produce this little piece in a day. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out and I think I learned enough of the basics that I could give something like this a go again. The visit also prompted me to go learn more about the Dovecot Studios production of a Chris Ofili design.

Tapestry Weaving - July 2017

Hokusai at the British Museum

Many years ago I saw the 100 Views of Mount Fuji exhibition at the British Museum, drawn from their extensive print collection. I loved the Ukiyo-e in the exhibition and the Hokusai ones in particular. I’ve only ever been able to afford this homage to his work by Kozyndan (go buy a copy – it’s very reasonably priced). Returning for this exhibition was a real treat, especially as it involved impromptu lunch at the Ivy with Sally-Ann and a first visit to the Atlantis Bookshop. I also heard the In Our Time podcast prior to going, which turned out to be really helpful as the exhibition was very busy and I couldn’t see all the labels.

Feeding penguins

One of the gifts I was given for my significant birthday was an opportunity to hand-feed the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo. Penguins at Edinburgh have a long history – the population there has been captive bred for a number of generations. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has a strong remit from it’s foundation for education and conservation and on my visit I learned, amongst other things, that whilst penguins don’t have teeth, they do have a set of spines in their mouth to grasp fishes and help them proceed swiftly into penguin bellies. You can see below a slightly lighter grey penguin known as “Snowflake’s daughter” round the back of me. She was inspecting the toggle on my coat. I persuaded her to swap it for a fishy.

2017 Highlights

Little Sparta

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s masterpiece in the Pentland Hills. I have no idea why I had not ever visited before this year. In the end I went twice. Once was a too short visit, but on the most glorious day; the other was a longer visit on a more overcast day. I still find it hard to describe without sounding foolish. I will return again and again.

Little Sparta, Pentand Hills

Glasgow Women’s Heritage Walks

That Lorna Campbell and I did the Garnethill Women’s Heritage Walk tour and it was brilliant. Run by volunteers from Glasgow Women’s Library there are now a selection of different guided walks available around parts of Glasgow, each one telling the story of women in the city – famous women, infamous women, strong community leaders – all illuminating women’s lives in Glasgow. We noted various names and biographical details and identified a few women who didn’t have Wikipedia pages. I found the time afterwards to write a brief biography for Hilda Goldwag, a Jewish artist contemporary with Joan Eardley. It’s a stub and no more, much more remains to be said about her work. We’ll be doing more of these walks in 2018 for sure.

La Gacilly Photo

“Le temps d’un été, dans le village de La Gacilly, les jardins, les venelles et les murs des habitations se transforment en galeries photographiques dédiées à l’art passant.” (

One of the main subjects of the festival this year was sub-Sarahan Africa. There were stunning displays of early / mid 20th century photography from African studios in an old roofless garage space and gardens of animal portraits. I was blown away by the work of Aïda Muluneh and her collection “The World is 9”.

2017 Highlights

#ds106 The Daily Create June 2017 challenge

Along with indulging myself in automata, during my June holiday in France I decided to complete the #ds106 Daily Create 30 Day Challenge. Taking part in this helped me supercharge and refine the image editing apps I am able to use on my phone. It also taught me a little bit more about photography. Not so you’d notice though. One the images I created I think stands as a good example of classic British Swearing.

Beaky Faced Twig Shagger


A much too short trip to Venice took in a Bosch exhibition, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a trip to Murano, unexpected art in churches and around street corners, excellent food, excellent coffee, some sitting about, lots of walking. Good walking shoes were required, and by coincidence these understated lovelies from Kalimala came home with me.

Shoes from Venice - Kalimala

Bathgate Bins

A clandestine equipment drop. A dead letter box. A Friday night date with mystery.

Bathgate Bins

Wikipedia Games / SPLOTPoint

I’ve written about this several times already, but this year I ran a session at MozFest17. I met another Wikimedian Alice White, and used one of the SPLOTs created by Alan Levine and Brian Lamb. It’s led on to several other uses for SPLOTs and there are more ideas brewing. I’m looking forward to incorporating them into our blogging project in 2018.


2 January 2018: A chat with Lorna Campbell reminds me that there are a good number of other good things that didn’t make it into this post, because really I have to stop at some point! For posterity, they include:

  • A race against the Welsh in the Wiki Loves Monuments competition (also includes lovely walks with Ewan and exploring Hospitaller Preceptories)
  • Working with Girl Geek Scotland – helping arrange events and leading one just before Christmas. I’ve met some brilliant people through this work.
  • Running the LitLong Wikipedia Editathon
  • Running a knitting workshop for Ada Lovelace Day
  • Organising the release of a number of openly licensed images of the Sick Kids Mortuary Chapel murals
  • Celebrating 25 years of the Friends of Mansfield Traquair Centre
  • Taking part in the Women’s march to the American embassy in Edinburgh
  • A brilliant weekend on Bute with loads of friends in an enormous old house, celebrating getting old
  • Visits by friends and colleagues from foreign lands
  • Meadows Fair – lovely French book of images and articles and an ace Czech glass vase
  • All the Festivals things
  • Andy and Diana’s wedding
  • Visits to exhibitions at our National Galleries – Ages of Wonder; Joan Eardley; British Realist Painting.
  • Finishing another room in the house (hallway)


(Paper Animations by Nancy Liang (c) Nancy Liang via

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