If you want to see how small the human race really is in the grand scheme of things, viewing Josh Worth’s visualisation of our solar system in your web browser will do the trick.
1st June 2014
5th June 2014
Today was my second and final Open University exam for my current modules, meaning that the giant pile of textbooks below can go into storage.
Two three-hour exams on computer programming (including writing reams of code by hand) may sound like an ordeal, and it was, but I think I’ve done reasonably well. The worst mistake I made was writing
pubic instead of
public in a method header. I have a one-track mind.
I now have some respite until my next modules start at the end of September. It’s going to be a strange feeling, coming home from work and not immediately having to bury myself in textbooks. Yay me!
8th June 2014
There’s a lovely piece in today’s Observer: Liverpool Reopens For Business
Max Steinberg remembers that it was a struggle to get a single busload of investors to come to Liverpool in 1981. He was working for Michael Heseltine, the Conservative minister who took charge of reviving the city after the Toxteth riots. Some Tories talked of abandoning the former imperial powerhouse to “managed decline” and it seemed the business world agreed.
So Steinberg is more than encouraged that, from Monday, “the world is coming to Liverpool”. Now chief executive of the city’s economic development agency, Liverpool Vision, he has overseen the organisation of Britain’s biggest-ever business fair. At least 75,000 people are expected to come to the Liverpool Festival for Business, a seven-week jamboree that the government hopes will trigger £100m of foreign investment over the next decade.
For me, the most encouraging aspect of the article is its mention of the tech start-ups that are flourishing in the Baltic Triangle area. It’s great to think that, when I get my computing degree in a few years time, I may be able to make use of it without leaving the city.
It’s not all good news: there are still many pockets of acute deprivation, and Government cuts are threatening to choke Liverpool’s recovery just as it was gaining momentum. But this place is on an upward trajectory, and that’s great to see.
19th June 2014
In the 1970s, Newcastle, like Liverpool, was faced with an increasingly decrepit local rail network, which was not achieving its full potential. Like Liverpool, they solved the problem with a radical upgrade of trains and stations, and a brand new cross-city link tunnel under Newcastle and Gateshead to stitch it all together.
The resulting Tyne & Wear Metro opened in 1980 and was an instant hit. Thirty-odd years later, the network has been expanded and is currently undergoing a modernisation programme.
Shamefully, I have never visited this transport system, and I was determined to put that right. On Friday afternoon, I descended the steps of Central Station… Station, to take a spin on the imaginatively-named Yellow Line out to Whitley Bay.
23rd June 2014
On the Friday morning of my stay in Newcastle, I hopped aboard a bus. It was one of those magic talking buses. “The next stop is Widdleton Crossroads,” it said. “If this is your stop, ring the bell once and remain seated until the bus stops.”
At EVERY stop. EVERY 30 seconds. Needless to say it got a bit wearing after a while. However, it did come in handy when, after about 20 minutes or so, I heard the announcement for “Angel of the North”.
Having said that, it’s quite hard to miss the stop – there’s a noticeable landmark nearby.
27th June 2014
Whitley Bay seemed as good a place as any to spend my Friday afternoon. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, other than giving me an excuse to have a nice long ride on the Metro. Still, I liked what I saw of the place during the brief time I was there.
Whitley Bay, as far as I could tell, was to Newcastle what Southport is to Liverpool – that is, a place for people to decamp to at the weekend, to get away from the city and enjoy a day at the seaside. On a Friday during school term time, however, the place was quiet.
I strolled down the high street, and turned towards the promenade, passing a traditional amusement arcade. I dwelled in there for a while, losing most of my loose change in the process (I was so sure that the Jumbo Crane would grab the teddy bear on my next try) before moving on.
30th June 2014
As is traditional, here is my end-of-trip tidying up report.
I travelled to Newcastle and back on the new direct service from Liverpool which commenced on 12th May. I say “new”, it’s actually a reintroduction of a regular service which used to run until the timetable was rejigged a few years ago, diverting most services to Scarborough.
For once, the Transpennine Express is worthy of the name. This trip is FAST – the end to end journey time is just a shade over 3 hours, and the time from Liverpool to Manchester Victoria is just 32 minutes, non-stop. We hurtled through St Helens at 80mph – always the best way to experience St Helens.
In a fit of extravagance, I had booked First Class tickets. As I slumped into my extra-wide seat, the friendly First Class host approached me to offer a drink and a pastry. We hadn’t even left Lime Street. Thumbs up for attentiveness there!
He came around again after Manchester, offering further snacks – embarrassing for me as I still had my previous croissant on the table. He appeared again after Leeds, and York. He came around again for a final patrol at Chester-Le-Street, just 12 minutes before reaching the final terminus.
Maybe I was lucky to get a good train crew, but I was very happy to be plied with snacks for the length of the trip.