The cold entered it’s last gasp today (which I know because I’m writing this, um, tomorrow, and I’m mostly better) and it was a nasty gasp. Woke up very groggy and the groggy didn’t shift for most of the day. So I spent it on the sofa again making more Deep Dreams. Being ill is oddly good for my art as it limits the speed of my brain and forces it to do boring iterative things rather than jump from one concept to another. It’s no co-incidence that my most widely spread piece so far was made when I had a nasty cold. So when The Creators Project put my Lizard Selfridges on their roundup and Instagram it didn’t surprise me terribly.

Surfing the hype period of a graphical meme is a bit weird. You know it’s mostly superficial and will soon be discarded by the cool hunters, but there’s something interesting going on here, something important about how images can be created from other images, which informs into how humans perceive images. On the one hand I’m playing into this by deepdreaming Birmingham icons, but on the other hand I’m trying to keep it focussed and use that to better understand the systems at play here. And the best way to do that is to keep making images with it.

Bull Bubble 1

In other news a big burly builder took away our patio today and some more builders will be replacing it with a new patio, plus a proper fence to keep the rabbits in their paddock. More on this as it develops.


Up and down with the cold today. It hasn’t been miserable but it has restricted my movements somewhat. Thankfully I’d been looking for some time to play with the Deep Dream neural network image stuff, and this mostly involves running a bit of code and waiting. In fact each wait is about the length of two tennis games, so everyone’s a winner.

Being my first go I just did what everyone else did, but I’m pretty pleased with the results. Next I need to get my head around the actual code itself and poke at it with sticks.

Here’s a few of my favourites from today. The rest are in this set and I’ve been posting notes to the Tumblr.

inception_3b-5x5_reduce-3-9 (1)

inception_3b-5x5_reduce-3-9 (2)

inception_4c-output-3-9 (3)

inception_3b-5x5_reduce-3-9 (3)


Slept fitfully as the cold Fiona had earlier in the week broke through my weakening adrenalin barriers than had been keeping at bay as my body relaxed after a crazy few days and decided to die in a sea of snot. Woke up every couple of hours needing water and eventually broke out the cold-cure tabs, which helped. In the end I slept, on and off, for 18 hours, which is always the best cure for a cold, emerging at 6pm. I feel better but still cluggy. Thankfully tomorrow is also a day off. And then it’s back to it.

But boy was it worth it.

Tried to install the Deep Dream stuff on my Mac. Got frustrated and stopped. May have to get a proper nerd in.


Today was brilliant, but long and tiring and I’ll write about it later anyway on the Bham Obscura blog. But yes, what a day!


Very tired. A long day, for me anyway. Up at 7:30 to drive the camera obscura-laden car to Digbeth where it was a camera obscura dominated day.

In the morning I spoke at How To Play Knowledge, a paid speaking gig for an academic conference about new ways to communicate research where myself and Nikki Pugh were, I guess, inspirational edge cases doing stuff outside the structures of academia. I spoke about the Birmingham Obscura project which turned out to be a really good fit for the conference, with the added bonus of forcing me to go through the last 18 months and seriously think it through. The main discovery was that we haven’t actually started yet. We’re still laying the ground and probably won’t start the proper work before 2016. And that’s fine. In fact it’s essential. The long game is the right game.

Then I hotfooted it to The Bond where Many & Varied was happening, a salon for art/tech/other folks who don’t fit into the usual categories. It’s co-run by Nikki, again, and I see it as the culmination of her decade long effort to build a community around herself. Another long game, and it’s slowly coming together. Jenny and I set up the camera in the venue and Jenny presented it to the group. It was also the camera’s dress rehearsal before CoCoMad tomorrow, which was quite exciting.

Lots of other things were going on at M&V and the main theme was DIY-Bio, something that’s been on my radar but which I’d never gotten a hook into. The hook turns out to be pretty simple – home brewing is DIY-Bio, as is baking your own bread. Yeast, bacteria, micro-organisms, and then it’s just a few steps before you’re mucking around with DNA. I don’t know if I’m about to make biology a core part of my practice, but I’m certainly going to much around with it a bit.

At the end we did a silly group exercise where we came up with ideas which might fit a DIY-Bio project. I came up with the Literal Fish-Eye Lens, being a photographic lens made out of a real fish eye. Apparently, to withstand water pressure, deep sea fish have thick, solid lenses on their eyes. I want to see how these would affect the optics of a camera. You can buy fish-heads and whole octopi at the BullRing markets, which is just over the road from BOM, so what the hell, eh? My group went with it and we presented to the group. And it’s wasn’t event the most absurd idea.

By the end my 4 hours sleep was catching up (I finishing preparing my morning talk at 2am and was pretty wired for a bit after) so after checking some of the Digbeth First Friday stuff I drove the camera home. Fi, bless her, went and got fish and chips and we watched some more Once Upon A Time. And now I’m going to bed for I’ll be driving that camera around from 8am again tomorrow.

A good day.


Very much a did-nothing-day. I was feeling a little under the weather and the prospect of two heavy camera obscura days was looming, so my body kinda forced me to slow down, which was nice of it. I treated the day as a Sunday, mooched around and did very little. And then, once I’d left it until the last possible moment, I started preparing my talk for the next morning.


Fairly productive day. Went into BOM for 12 to cover Leon for a couple of hours. Did some paid work for Karen tweaking the BOM website, basically undoing fripperies that WordPress theme designer thought were a good idea but which look idiotic when you actually put content in. The Custom CSS plugin on that site is full of statements like “none !important”. Still, it’s easier than building something from scratch. I guess.

Cycled in, which I thought would be a nightmare in this heat, but actually wasn’t too bad. My fitness levels continue to improve and I didn’t even sweat too much. Until, of course, I stopped and then the drenching occurred. We joke about how we need a shower at BOM but it would actually be a good idea sometimes. Maybe we could make one using a paddling pool… Hmm…

Jenny came by after work to see what I’d done with the camera obscura this week. She’s tied up with her paying gig so I’ve been taking the strain this month. It’ll be her turn next.

When getting my lunch there was a fire alarm at New St Station so all the workmen had to evacuate and gather on John Bright St. I often see bunches of them outside BOM waiting to march off to work (their offices are above us) but this was ALL of them, all in orange hi-viz. It’s quite the sight. I took a few photos and wasn’t the only one. Really pleased with how this came out.



The annual heatwave is with us, so things are a bit melty. I decided not to bike into the city centre, where things are maginally hotter, and to instead work in the garden under a shade. It was perfect. There’s a whole thing where people stuck in offices moan about freelancers working in gardens, but fuck that shit. When I worked in a shop I had to be in one place because that’s where the customers and the stock were. Most people in offices don’t actually need to be in that specific location. They could be outside with a laptop but for some reason their employers won’t allow that. Which is fucked. And also not my problem.

I think I actually got more done than usual, being on a beanbag in the garden. Go figure.

Watched a bit of Wimbledon. I do like watching lawn tennis but I could do without the idiot commentators and the idiot spectators, especially the ones who think they’re funny.


I forgot to mention we bought the new car today, which is an odd thing to forget. Though to be honest once we bought it (at lunchtime) it just sat outside the house. I didn’t feel the urge to take it for a spin, or explore the controls. There’ll be plenty of time for that and while it’s a good car and we’re very happy with it, it’s still just a car.


Worked at home, as I tend to do most Mondays. Did a good chunk of work for Fiona on the client’s new site. We hired Seb to build it but there are still some tech niggles that she needs me to work on that don’t require Seb’s much more valuable time.

The other priority was getting the copy for the camera obscura banner completed. It went through the usual editors and was finally ready by the afternoon. I took it over to Gareth to do the layout edits and had two 530mb PDFs on a thumb drive by 8pm.

It looks like this:

Bham Obscura Banner

It’s going to be three metres wide, so the text is actually 1.5cm high and perfectly legible close-up. But from a distance it looks like a shape. Is the idea. We’ll see if it works!

Built a sandpit for the bunnies. They liked dust-bathing in the soil last year but we’ve turfed everything now so hopefully they’ll like this too.


So far plenty of digging but no evidence of rolling.

Watched Jupiter Ascending. Liked it in the sense that it’s a big movie for teenagers that isn’t idiotic.

Am playing a new phone game for the first time in months, if not a year. I’d gotten utterly disillusioned with the games market but Furdemption £2.25 (or so) little puzzler is lovely. Also, rabbits.


The morning was a nice, long, hangover-related lie-in. Mmm.

Fi had some Ukulele business in the afternoon / evening so, knowing I was in danger of just crashing in front of some bad TV, and with Friday’s deadline hovering in front of my worry-cortex, I trundled into BOM to do some work on the camera, specifically finishing the curtain.


Getting that completed was a good feeling. Just need to polish up the wiring and get the banner made, which Gareth is finishing tonight. Then we’ll be ready for Many & Varied on Friday and CoCoMad on Saturday.

Working in the BOM gallery on a Sunday, with no-one else in the building, was kinda nice. It’s a big space and it was all mine. I imagine this is what having your own studio is like. Loads of space to spread out and no-one to bother you. Not that being bothered by people is a bad thing. Leon came by with a couple of people who’d been DJ/VJing with him last night. Talking to them about the camera, etc was delightful. But so was having “my own” production space.

Home for a late dinner and we watched Whiplash. It’s very good.

Then remembered I needed to write four paragraphs of text for the camera obscura banner, all exactly the same word count. Writing, as you know, comes fairly easy to me, especially about things I know about, but writing to an exacting spec is bloody hard work and one of the reasons I don’t do well at academia. So that took a while.

And then to bed.