Tuesday 27 November 2007

Visit by Zhuji City, China delegation to EEI

Zhuji City in Zhejiang Province ranks 24th in China's 6000 cities and it was therefore a privilege to join a visiting delegation from Zhuji at the East of England International offices in Cambridge.

top- Richard Wishart, Delivery Management, Robert Edge & Joan Zhou EEI

Situated 2.5h from Shanhei and Ningpo, Zhuji & Zhejiang are interested in expanding their business ventures abroad, building on current £2bn exports worldwide (£250m UK). With 6 companies listed on international Stock exchanges the region is pushing to add at least 15 more over the next five years.

Whilst the region may not be familiar to the man on the street, its products are, with 75% of freshwater pearls originating in the region. Current freshwater pearls are a leap in quality for jewellry, especially as in contrast to seawater pearls which are often seeded with a bead, freshwater pearls are pearl through and through! On a more prosaic but relevant note for the current cold winter weather, there is a 35% chance that you will be wearing socks produced in Zhejiang!

The main interest for the delegation was logistics - in particular accessibility via Britains ports. Robert Edge of EEI briefed the delegation at the meeting, facilitated by Joan Zhou also of EEI.

More photos on Milton Contact's Picasa Album site

With more than 50% of port traffic at Felixstowe coming from China and the concommittent increase in ship size, the port is planning expansion to the south for deep water container quays to secure its postion as one of Europe's major hubs. A current alternative with large warehousing capacity is the London Gateway Port.

Collaborative networker and colleague Richard Wishart of Delivery Management delivered a practical introduction to his profitable one stop eCommerce solution for entry into European markets, presenting the visiting delegation with slides and white paper in Chinese text. Milton Contact limited was involved in the writing of the white paper (English text, Chinese text) and provided the key graphic for the document, shown below.

The Chinese delegation comprised He Xiaomin, Executive Vice Mayor Zhuji City Government; Qi Jianping, Chairman, Honglei Group Company Co.,Ltd, Xu Xingxi, Chairman Zhaoshan New Star Group; Wang Ling, Chairman, Zhejiang Meibang Textile Co.,Ltd; Huang Feigang, General Manger, Dadongnan Package Co.,Ltd, Zhejiang: Chen Jindi, Chairman Xiongfeng Group Co.,Ltd.; Lily Zhao Vice Managing Director Managing Director, Touchroad International Group; Chen Jianhong, Vice Director, Zhuji City Aboard Trade and Economic Cooperation; He Lijiong, Director Zhuji City State Taxuation Bureau.

Saturday 10 November 2007

Photographs in Bourn St Helena & St Mary's Church

Having just attended a business breakfast talk by Professor Alan Barrell at Bourn Hall Clinic (see earlier blog), I was joined by Richard Wishart of Delivery Management and Mike Feinson of Mulberry House Consultancy as the Autumn sunlight shone on the twisted spire of Bourn's Church of St Helena and St Mary, luring us for a closer look.

We arrived to find the annual Christmas sale on in the Church and a friendly community who welcomed us in! Although an atheist, I love wandering around churches as they are the result of a communities original desires and activities which imbues each with its own atmosphere.

I was delighted by the 1897 beir parked in a hidden corner and we were intrigued by the meaning of a wooden panel, showing a wounded bound woman.

A lead panel on the purported to contain the arms of John Ferrar (1620) but it was difficult to see, so I photographed it with an oblique flash and subsequent editing revealed a whole set of arms and inscriptions.

We refreshed ourselves with tea and cake before setting off again to themore mundane realities of our work.

You can see a selection of photos in my St Helena & St Marys online album and more information on its history is available on the Bourn Village Website History page
Other online photographic church tours include Horningsea and Hohenkirchen

The Dragon, the Elephant and us

I arrived on a round about route at the Bourn Hall Clinic set deep in the heart of the Cambridgeshire coutryside, on a chill morning with a deep blue sky.

Around 20 Cambridgeshire businessmen and women and the local Members of Parliament, Andrew Lansley and Jim Paice, met in the sunlit boardroom of the Hall, set in a gentle landscape that had continuously occupied the site since the first wooden castle erected there in Norman times (http://www.bourn.org.uk/history.htm).

An excellent and welcome breakfast relaxed us sufficiently to enjoy the talk by Professor Alan Barrell, FRSA and Holder of the Queen’s award for Enterprise Promotion, on the rise of the Chinese Dragon and the Indian Elephant economies. We were reminded that here were two giants that had been slumbering for a past century and were now arising to take their place at the forefront of world economies.

European businesses might still view both mainly as manufacturing sources but these two nations were beginning to flex their R&D and innovation muscle; Highly vibrant, entrepreneurial and significant in their impact on the global economy, their dynamism sent out a wake-up call to the UK and EU – we need to adapt to the new realities or be sidelined.

The talk was entertaining and informative – with quotes from Napoleon to Ghandi – and he adapted to the audience which included Thak Patel of Think India and Joan Zhou of EEI.

Networking continued after the talk itself and you can see the best pictures in my album for the event “SCGB 091107 Bourn Clinic”.

The event was organised by Jan Mughan of the Southern Cambridgeshire Business Group with assistance from myself both as Huntingdonshire Business Network’s Mailing and Marketing Manager and through my international contacts list.

Chris re-elected as HBN's Mailing and Marketing Manager

I was delighted to be elected onto the 2007/08 committee of the Huntingdonshire Business Network, as the Mailing and Marketing Manager. In the previous months since taking over from Steve Sheddon of Ivory Graphics, I'd been able to further develop professional mailings to members and a wider audience on the xciting seminars and events that we had had (you can see some of the graphics designed for this on the HBN-Events album.

Our members Photo competition for the HBN 2008 calendar resulted in over 100 pictures from which we now have to make a selction of the 14 to actually use!

We have a dynamic new committee and I'll be striving to ensure that we use 21st Century technology to keep members informed and spread the news on the friendliest business network in the area!

German NRW companies forge links with UK companies at the Interbuild

On a sunny October morning, nearly all the participants and organisers of the Association of Contractors of Duesseldorf, Mission to Birmingham met in a room immediately adjacent to the entrance to Hall 5 of the NEC Interbuild 2007. We’d come for the planned B2B meetings organised by Mark Dodsworth (Europartnerships) and his colleagues which included my company (Milton Contact Ltd), Sylvia Schmidt’s Come Across (Berlin) and Carolina’s Enlink.

We had spent the previous evening on a walk through the regenerated city centre by the canal and enjoyed a visit to two pubs for a relaxing get together.

It was great to link faces with the names from the brochure I’d designed for the event and voices over the phone, for whom we were arranging UK contacts.

Once the first UK meeting partners arrived, the day took off in a sequence of meetings, excursions and forays into the Interbuild itself. We were all flexible in adapting to those last minute changes in timings as some arrived early, some not at all and other arrived who we had not expected!

My personal role had been to support the company Künzel (Künzel Bauunternehmen GmbH & Co KG), specialising in trenchless technologies, for whom I’d arranged contacts. However, they came in a four man strong team with an English colleague and were fine on their own. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to find out that they had hit a bulls eye with at least one of the UK partners I’d arranged for them.

I therefore teamed up with Thomas Willmes, Owner Manager of Bedachungstechnik Thomas Willmes GmbH, a company specialising in roof technologies. Our experience in the nuances and pertinent market areas to pursue increased from meeting to meeting so that we had a range of UK partners for him to pursue in the future. Our forays into the interbuild exhibition allowed us to gauge both the competition and establish which local suppliers of key components for any future work were already present in the UK.

In between, I snatched every opportunity to practice my photography as a record of the visit and you can find the best of the selection in the Album BGV NRW Mission to Birmingham.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at the end of the day to catch my train back to Cambridge and miss the opportunity for a final get together in a restaurant. However, I left with the abiding impression, that our colleagues from Germany had gained happy memories and practical information on the opportunities for their companies in the UK market!

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Visit to the South Cambridgeshire Business Group

Today I visited Jan Mughan and Denise Smith of the South Cambridgeshire Business Group. They are a networking association which aim to keep businesses in touch with our MPs, Andrew Lansley and Jim Paice!

I had attended one of their breakfast meetings just after Gordon Brown had decided NOT to go to the country. We discussed issues with Andrew Lansley that had an impact on our businesses, from the perennial frustration with the A14, the success of manufacturing in Huntingdonshire and the effects of superbugs in our health system.

The thing that impressed me most was, that our MPs were willing to listen and discuss some of the issues that we as businessmen felt were having an impact on our being able to make South Cambridgeshire a more successful region.

The next breakfast that I hope to attend is on the 9th of November at Bourn Hall Clinic where Alan Barrell will be speaking on the hot topic of Business Deveopment in India and China and its effect on Business in Europe which is very pertinent to the international side of my business. Look forward to seeing you there!

Monday 17 September 2007

The Reality of Funding in Cambridgeshire

The Funding Fair 2007 provided useful information and contacts to organisations and individuals interested in funding their organisations and activities. This article will include a summary and useful links for both those in the arts and those working on social/community projects as well as a brief mention of people or organisations I talked to with both my artist and business networker hats on.
It was a glorious day, the tail end of summer, when I arrived in Cabourne for the funding fair on the business park! Fourteen funding agencies and three community groups had set up display stands and were actively talking to the visitors dropping in. Four seminars were also on offer and I attended the “Arts Project Funding” and “Sustainable Funding”.
Whilst the superficial message was bleak for arts funding from local and regional government agencies within Cambridgeshire (capital funding only and at a reduced budget), there was an underlying wealth of information and assistance available to the artist in our region. South Camrbidgeshire District Council Art Development Officer Andy O’Hanlon (tel: 01954 713343) has a friendly team with “start” (supporting arts development) and useful information on the SCDC site, if you know where to find it (http://www.scambs.gov.uk/LeisureandCulture/ArtsDevelopment/default.htm ).
Two very useful documents that I gathered were:
  1. the “Cambridgeshire’s Toolkit for the Arts” available at the bottom of the page from http://www.scambs.gov.uk/LeisureandCulture/ArtsDevelopment/localArts.htm; the page also introduces the arts development team!
  2. the “Funding Toolkit 2007 Update”, available at http://www.scambs.gov.uk/CommunityandLiving/CommunityDevelopment/ . Whilst this covers a broader range of funding sources than just the arts, it has an excellent five pages of Funder – mentals, hints and tips on how to plan applying for funding effectively
I also blessed the Arts Council table with my ignorance and learnt that again, whilst applications were considered from a whole breadth of arts, it was worth taking time preparing and gathering information to improve chances of success. Providing grants from £200 to £30000, their website is www.artscouncil.org.uk and has a regional section.
Funding for community and social activities was also feeling the financial squeeze, with many participants attending because they were looking for imminent renewal of funding for existing projects.
Two factors were affecting sustainable funding. Firstly, the trend in funding was towards the establishment of new projects. Second, the proportion of monies available from grants had declined to 38% with fee income solutions now making up the majority of sustainable funds. David Coulson of the Social Enterprise People introduced us to the concept of the structured market within the voluntary sector, where voluntary groups needed to educate and collaborate with the authorities to identify tasks and solutions the voluntary sector could fulfil on a contract basis. This required a longer term planning and looking to the future, patient work and networking – and no guarantee that the participants would actually gain the contracts arising!
Here again the Funder-mentals section of Funding Toolkit mentioned above will be invaluable to those aiming to be more successful in any bids for funding or contracts.
People and organisations I met included;
Bev Sedley of Lifecraft (www.lifecraft.org.uk), a Cambridge based mental health charity who is also an accapella singer and part of a local singing group.
Richard Taylor of Arts and Minds (www.artsandminds.org.uk), currently interested in storytelling and mental health.
Marie of the Peterborough Women’s Centre (www.peterboroughwomenscentre.org.uk) who aim to provide training and support for all women in an empowering environment.
Cambridgeshire Community Foundation (www.cambscf.org.uk) who manage funds and grants on behalf of patrons in this region.
Mondegreen EB (www.evolveeb.co.uk) who fund community projects within a 10 mile radius of landfill sites.
Overall the event was informative and useful and I would recommend anyone involved in funding to look out for the Funding Fair 2008!

Friday 14 September 2007

New free online tools for small businesses

Collaborative networking is one way that small businesses can work loosely together to provide serives that are greater than the sum of their parts. I'm therefore always on the lookout for tools that can be of help.
Recently, I discovered Goggle's free document and spreadsheet facility. This goes one step further than the shared folders that can be used currently by Windows Live Messenger users in that two people can simultaneously work on a text document online and see the respective changes in real time.
People can be invited in as collaborators or simply as viewers - all that is needed is a free Google Account.
At the moment I'm using the facility to create, share and edit documents with two other companies, one in the UK and one abroad, on a joint project. The other advantage is that I can then access the documents from anywhere online if I wish to in a secure password protected manner.
Whilst the formatting settings are not as sophisticated as those of Word on my PC, I can create credible documents formatted online. If I need to prettify the final version, the document can be saved in a variety of standard formats for processing on my own machine.
If sharing documents with clients or colleagues is something that could benefit your company, give Google Documents and Spreadsheets a trial!

Saturday 11 August 2007

Huntingdon Photographs

This Friday's trip to the Huntingdonshire Business Network was on a gloriously sunny day. Met up with Richard Wishart, Delivery Management for discussions over teas at Costa Coffee, with other HBNers dropping in for chats too.

At 3:30pm wandered around Huntingdon with camera, exploiting the fantastic lighting conditions. Caused consternation at the Market Inn when photographing the calligraphic sculptures there and ended up talking to two Stephen's on photography, pixel resolution, ccds and the benefits of film over digital. Then continued to river for more photos. Of the 60 or more pictures, 20 were OK for a web album . Of these only a few are noteworthy - which do you think?

Monday 6 August 2007

Basic information and links on foot and mouth disease relevant to the current outbreak 2007-08-06

As curious as no doubt you are about the current Foot and Mouth epidemic, I spent an hour searching for information on the subject on the web (information research and summary is one of my activities) and thought, why not share the info!

Foot and mouth disease is a highly infectious virus borne disease of cloven hoofed animals including cows, goats, sheep, pigs and deer. A good summary of its properties, spread and impact can be found at http://www.vet.uga.edu/VPP/gray_book02/fad/fmd.php and also at the DEFRA site - http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/notifiable/fmd/index.htm

The Guardian has a nice computerised image of the virus and pictures of symptoms can be found on this google image search

Current information on the UK outbreak provided by DEFRA can be found at

The Pirbright site (http://www.iah.bbsrc.ac.uk/info/labs.HTM#pirbright )of the Institute for Animal Health (http://www.iah.bbsrc.ac.uk/ ) is being checked in relation to the outbreak because the strain of foot and mouth virus found in the infected cattle is very similar to the one used for generating vaccines, 01 BFS67, which originally came from the 1967 outbreak in the UK.

A private company, Merial (http://www.merial.com/ ) active in animal health also has a presence on the site and was producing the same kind of virus strain a few weeks before the outbreak.

Foot and mouth virus has to be worked on under high containment – for animals it is a category 4 animal pathogen. Work on such viruses is most likely to be conducted in a category 4 laboratory for animal pathogens (http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/pathogens/category4.htm ) which has stringent controls. these include working under negative pressure, extensive filtration of air leaving the laboratory and full treatment of waste before it even leaves a lab.

Sources quoted here indicate that most infection is by close proximity to existing infected animals, however, Foot and mouth disease virus can be spread through the air but this requires a high count of virus particles to cause infection - this has been the focus of scientific research. One accessible paper on the internet is by A.I. Donaldson & S. Alexandersen (2002 http://bvs.panaftosa.org.br/textoc/DonaldsonPredicting2002.pdf ).

They quote that 100 infected cattle could produce a plume of virus which would infect other cattle at up to 1km overland. Where large numbers of animals are producing airborne virus such as in the middle of large epidemic as in the 1967 outbreak, the distances can be from 6 to 90km.

By the end of today (06/08/07) waterborne virus transmission was also being considered due to flooding in the area of the infected farm. As all effluent from Category 4 laboratories has to be treated before release, the theory requires a significant breakdown in biosecurity caused by flooding.

The third route of virus escape and transmission would be by human error - inadequate cleaning, clothes changing etc of an individual working at either of the establishments and that individual somehow coming into contact with the cattle several miles away.

Note that the existing control measures being implemented aim to catch the disease very early before spread by proximity occurs or sufficient sick animals develop symptoms and shed quantities of virus that could spread and be infectious by air (http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/fmd/about/qanda.htm#16 ). Culling and incineration destroy source and virus effectively.

What about vaccination? It is an option being considered. Note that apparently vaccination is effective for only a few months and that vaccinated animals that are not completely protected could still be a source of the virus without showing symptoms (see vaccination section at http://www.vet.uga.edu/VPP/gray_book02/fad/fmd.php )

This information has been derived from publicly accessible material as a short exercise to demonstrate my capabilities and is for information only. If you need to check the accuracy of the information – please contact the sources – Defra is a good place to start.

With such a serious issue of national significance please understand that I cannot take responsibility for actions based on the information that I have given here, again - go to the relevant authority in your country for best guidance and practice.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Bookplates, Archival papers, inks and adhesives

In our ephemeral everchanging world of the present, it comes as a pleasant surprise and challenge when you have to consider your work lasting for at least the next 80 years. This was the challenge when asked to produce bookplates for a client donating his scholarly collection to a college library.

The most obvious element is the paper - it has to be acid free to prevent browning and decay with age. Interestingly, most modern papers are much less acidic that in the past (Wikipedia article), however, for archival purposes, it is still best to use materials adopting the archival standard ISO9706. I set out enquiries with two potential printers of which one passed me on to the excellent support team of Xerox who recommended their Colotech+ paper that met the standard.

Digital printing is now common and very economic, would the colour toner also meet the requirements in terms of not damaging the book and and lightfastness? The message came back "Tests have shown that EA Toner is light fast for 15 years indoors with 10 hours light exposure per day. It's light that makes the toner degrade, so keeping the colour plates closed in a book and viewed once in a while for a few minutes should mean that 80 years is OK." Using EA toner (which the DC250 uses), along with Xerox colotech would conform to ISO9706.

Colotech+ did come in a selfadhesive form, however, I had requested that reversibility of adhesion would be desireable in case there was a need for conservation in the future and that could not be met. The bookplates therefore needed to be glued with a reversible archival adhesive.

The recommendation from Harvard was for very dilute methyl cellulose, from the Australian Museums and Galleries online for the starch pastes used for centuries with known consequences. Some establishments did use dilute PVA but there appeared to be concerns about the potential brittleness of the adhesive and its impact on delicate papers.

For me, starch paste would appear to be the obvious choice!

Now I only need to wait another 80 years or so to see if the advice that I received and have passed on is accurate!

Sunday 8 July 2007

Seminar Writing for Promotional Purposes

Fridays educational theme continued with an HBN Seminar by Jon Beal of Netflare on Writing for Promotional purposes.

In the past Jon had directed me to Paul Gorman's book with an incredibly long title, which also dealt with this subject. i was therefore familiar and regularly use the 7 point strategy for writing copy:
  • Headline
  • Promise
  • Benefits
  • Proof
  • Consequences
  • Sumary
  • Call to action
The new gem that Jon gave us was a structured way for preparing to write good copy by identifying our customers and what products and services we were offering. This was done by identifying your customer type, their relationwhip with you/your product and the qualities that they would be looking for. By considering the possible scenarious and asking yourself pertinent questions, you could come up with responses that were of immediate use to your copywriting!

Telesales Tips from VELC Seminar

Friday began at an ungodly hour for me, at a breakfast meeting organised by Jo Morgans's Very Early Lunch Club. I'd been attracted to this meeting by Sureya Landini's short talk on Telesales. The key messages that I came away with were 1. that your attitude and posture when phoning are transmitted in your voice when you call and can have a real positive impact on your success and 2. that it is better to listen than talk!

Interestingly, there was an article in this weeks New Scientist "Why we are all Creatures of Habit" which included mention of studies that demonstrated that a persons success in a business or other transaction was less dependent on what they actually said, but on how they said it and their overall body language and could be accurately prediced within a matter of seconds. the broader tone of the article sparks a debate on whether we are actually creatures of habit and instinctive reactions and therefore extremely predicatable!

Monday 2 July 2007

Peter Brooks Nimrod Launch at Landbeach

Milton Contact had invited the residents of Landbeach to attend Peter Newman's book Launch of Nimrod - A Memoir of Mishief and Mishap on Peter's behalf for last Friday. Peter had booked the Village hall, arranged food and drinks for what he saw as a celebration for the Landbeach community, of which Nimrod, the cat in tale, had also been a part of.

Over 40 guests attended to hear Peter read extracts from his book and then hand over a special copy to his Grandson Richard to whom it was dedicated.

Whilst the party then got into full swing with guests enjoying the wine and Grace's (Peters Wife) excellend finger buffet, Peter and I were busy with the book sales and signing.

The evening was a tremendous success for Peter, with copies of the book going like hot cakes!

Some guests were already through several chapters of the book during the evening and I'm looking forward to some positive reviews in the near future that can be posted on the web.

Thursday 28 June 2007

Speedwalking into business

Tony Blair had just left office and Brown was facing being the new Prime Minister as I arrived for a Boardroom Lunch at the invitation of UHY George Hay in Huntingdon. It was an eclectic mix of UHY Partners, clients and others brought together for a pleasant form of networking between businesses that might not otherwise have met.

Neil Parker was from the Greenwich Observatory Ltd, a company specialising in optical equipment from Telescopes to my particular interest, microscopes. pre lunch conversation swirled about the visibility of Venus by day to the glare of city night lights drowning out the stars.

Over the main course, Ken Barber of Capita Solutions Ltd and I swapped stories about the pleasure of meeting different businesses and learning the variety of mostivations that people have for running their own business. his company deals in financial solutions for companies unable to obtain funding from other sources and could prove useful for some of my overseas contacts should they wish to enter the UK market.

During the dessert course my quiet neighbour to the left, Peter Howard of Rayzel International Properties Ltd, revealed himself to be an ardent speedwalker and I learnt that the hip and bottom wiggling technique was passe and that a key requirement of the technique was to straighten the advancing knee before the foot touched the ground.

I had to leave early to meet with another future client, behind me a room still buzzing with conversation.

Thursday 21 June 2007

Opportunities for startups and disadvantaged communities

Thinking of starting up in business? There is a new kid on the block with assistance and training as I found out today, attending the NWES launch of CREAM (Cambridge & Rural Enterprise Advice and Mentoring). NWES, with its roots in Norfolk, has taken over Enterprise Fenland to become one of the UK's largest enterprise agencies. NWES provides assistance and loans to new companies and is particularly supportive of disadvantaged, ethnic and minority groupings.

With the restructuring of Business Link to provide information, diagnioses and brokerage within the East of England rather than providing training and similar services as in the past, the launch of CREAM is timely in its provision of free business support and training to startups. This will be delivered over a four year with free training courses being available from July onwards at a reange of locations in Cambridgeshire. Interested parties can find out more by phoning 01354 660900 or e-mailing info@nwes.org.uk.

I would not even have been aware of the launch, had Andrew Wilson, Head of NWES Support not contacted me. Furthermore, as a potential business user or referrer, it is hard to keep up with the current changes in business support, agencies and training provision in this area, by agencies that might often feel themselves in competition with each other. Existing businesses and networks like the Chambers of Commerce and HBN could also play a valuable role. Perhaps the GCP could emulate their provision of centralised contact/information for international visitors by providing an overview or common information point on their website on the diversity of business support services/agencies.

CREAM looks like an excellent idea and I hope that it reaches its intended clients.

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Goodwill and the Value of your business

I learnt a new word today as Barry Jefferd of UHY George Hay gave an entertaining talk at the Premier HBN Event, held this evening at the Huntingdon Race Course: Goodwill.

Barry was talking about valuing your business if you had the intention of selling. Whilst able to dispell the myth that accountants could not be amusing and excellent speakers, the general tenet of valuation still resided with the numerical elements of assets, turnover, profits and shares; value was in part dependent on the integrity of the accounting practices with which the business was run. We were getting into less tangible areas when considering how the business was managed. If it could run without you, value might increase, if it could not run in your absence, value would be likely to be diminished.

Whe all the financial and managerial factors have been considered and there are no hidden skeletons in the cupboard, that is where goodwill enters the balance sheet. Not just any goodwill, for goodwill is a real accounting term, it has to be purchased goodwill; it is the surplus over the fair value of the net assets which someone is prepared to pay for the business.

Goodwill is an intangible asset, a fickle thing, influenced by factors from business contacts, location to business potential. It can be high at one evaluation of the company and diminish to nothing if the reputation of a company becomes tarnished.

Ultimately the value of goodwill and the value are dependent on one final factor, the presence of a willing buyer.

Monday 18 June 2007

Practicalities of Cherry-pip spitting

Sunday trip to Wells Next the Sea for an enjoyable walk by the seaside. Here I unexpectedly came upon the "11 to sign" party in the midst of their annual Northern Hemisphere Cherry pip spitting competition! (One of the Southern Hemisphere Cherry pip spitting competitions is by GlobeVista.)

So what is the best spitting technique in this sport? Not being able to find anything on the web, I submit the following theoretical considerations:

From conventional ballistics, the maximum trajectory is theoretically obtained with a launch angle of 45 degrees from the horizontal. This YouTube video by a ladies amateur team demonstrates the benefit of launch angle.

Height also increases distance traversed.

The distance is then dependent on the launch velocity, so the longer you can accelerate an object before it enters free flight, the faster the speed and the greater the distance travelled. A professional cherry-pip spitter will purse their lips to provide a simple "gun barrell". The higher the explosive pressure release to accelerate the pip, the better.

Distance travelled is also dependent upon air resistance.

Therefore for maximum spitting distance I would recommend standing on tip-toe for maximum height, pursing the lips as much as possible to achieve the longest mouth barrell/acceleration route for the pip, and placing the pip at the back of this barrell as opposed to the front of the lips. Aim to spit the pip at an angle of 45 degirees upwards. Build up a good lungfull of air and explosively blast the pip. Additional centimeters may be gained by thrusting the head/body forward and the same time to impart further momentum. A few millimeters may be gained by conducting the contest either at high altitude or during a low pressure weather system.

The playfull amateur may wish to spit in the wind direction instead of against it, the professional might wish to take wind velocity into account when establishing records.

I would be interested in the opinions, experiences and advice for trainers & practitioners in this sport of Cherry pip spitting following this article.

Friday 15 June 2007

Young at Art

A plodding day at the PC and a dismal wet evening had not left me in the most positive of moods to venture out for the Cottenham Village College GCSE Art Exhibition to which I had been invited as parent and Governor. But once through the door, my mood lifted dramatically!

Meandering through the crowds of students laughing and chatting, proud parents and relaxed and pleased teachers, the eye was initially gripped at random by a portrait on the right or an abstract ahead in the large collection covering the walls of three rooms.

Technical competence varied dramatically but came second to the sendipity of the gems scattered independently of ability - where an idea had clicked and connected with the viewer. Fabrics were one thing I noticed on my second tour - studies of saris that I had mistaken for photographs, a sleeping figure swathed in gentle folds of a pastel blanket and unassuming at first, an oil painting of a simple apple on a dark green fabric which one overlooked until you came close to marvel at its execution. Portraits that captured a smile, longing or sadness, ranging from posterised ink studies to positively Shreklike. And in one corner, an abstraction of shells in a few simple lines and colours.

But the best thing was the ideas, the different ways of representing something. I wanted to bring a camera to capture some of them so I could go back and try them out myself, to develop further!

I left with lifted spirits - and a new desire to try experimenting with pastels again, having been seduced by the soft blends and textures.

photo - microscopic foraminiferan shell, CT

Thursday 14 June 2007

North Atlantic Fish

As part of an existing project for Europartnerships, I needed a passing knowledge on some of the pelagic fish species in the North Atlantic, otherwise known as FAO 27 fishing area.

Mackerel (Scombus scombus) I had heard of and of course eaten (tastes great with a sweet gooseberry butter sauce). Horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus) was however new to me. also known as scad, it can grow to 60cm and is eaten in the mediterranean countries and Japan.

Tuna turned out to describe a multitude of species, such as albacore or bonito or the bluefin. Their red flesh is due to the increased amounts of myoglobin, the oxygen capturing molecules in muscle. Apparently tinned tuna tends to be skipjack tuna from tropical waters and has the added benefit of less mercury accumulation that the other larger species.

Sardines also covers a range of species (up to 21 according to Wikipedia!) and the sardines in supermarket tins are often not sardines but young herring or sprat, close relatives.

The attached picture is of a Dorade fish scale, a mediterranean species, taken using polarised light and filters.

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Colour reproduction and printing

You send off your company images to the printers and are then dismayed at the result that comes back! This is a common result, frustrating to both printers and their clients. It inevitably arose in converstation with Peet Hiddink, a Dutch photographer (whose work on Doors has been accepted by UNICEF for a colourful series of cards) and her partner Jos when visiting Cambridge over tha past two days. For an artist especially, the transition from photo on the screen to print by a distant company can be a traumatic experience.

So how do you ensure avoid these problems with material your company is producing? The following comes from my years of experience wrestling with the issue and suggests a pragmatic solution.

The first step is to accept the fact that as an image progresses from one medium to another or from equipment to equipment, it is never quite the same. What our eyes perceive is different to the film camera which is different to the individual brands of digital camera, to the PC screen to our deskjet printer, to the commercial printing machine. There is a lengthy informative article and related information available at the Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI) if you want it but here's the message in brief.

Your PC or mobile screen cannot reproduce the full spectrum of colours we see, although we build our colours in the same way from red green and blue light (RGB). The colour range of the printer is different to that of the screen and is generally made up of cyan, magenta, yellow and blacks (CMYK). By the time you get to the printed version, you have lost a lot of the potential colour spectrum! it also means that certain shades of blue, red and green visible on the screen cannot be reproduced accurately by printing (techies say that the RGB colour extremes are out of gamut from the CMYK range).

A good photograpic or printing company will take account of this by getting the screen to display in the more limited range of the printer and then adjusting contrast, brightness and colour balance in such a way that the eye/brain believes it is seeing a pleasing full colour image.

The second step therefore is to find a good local printer who is prepared to work with you. Build a relationship where you get an idea how they work and they understand what you need over successive contracts. If you can, view the images before they are printed on their screens as they will have tried to get their screen views as close to their printing machines as possible.

The final step is to get a proof printed, preferably on the machine that will do the complete run, and to look at that proof WITHOUT reference to the original. Minor colour changes can often still be tweaked on the printing machine at this stage. If you like what you see printed - go with it, if you don't, ask the printers advice on how the original should be changed, or what you should do differently in future.

For an artist or director with a real emotional committment to the image being printed, a lot of stress is reduced by judging the printed product on its own merit without the critical eye of comparison with the original. If you and the printer are happy with the product, your clients will not know the difference when they receive your printed brochure, postcard, flyer etcetera.

Peet was interested in photographing angels for a new project, so here is one I photographed on our sightseeing tour around Cambridge. Looks good doesn't it? Ah, but you should see the original stained glass window in Kings College Chapel!

Friday 8 June 2007

Warning Tale to the young from Godmanchester grave

Today I was practically brain dead, exhausted from the hyperactivity of the past week, and stuck in a jam in Godmanchester on a grey day. Tantalisingly just a few minutes away from the HBN networking meeting I wished to attend, my thoughts returned to the last Friday. There, glorious sunshine had prompted me to get out of the car after the HBN meeting and wander around Godmanchester with my camera, somewhere I had previously just driven through for the past three years.

Chartered in 1212, Godmanchester turned out to be a little gem as I sauntered across the Chinese bridge, over the river Great Ouse. The boats, gardens and blue sky reflected peacefully on the water and pedestrians wandered unhurriedly past the timbered buildings. A friendly greeting to a local resident with a comment that I was enjoying looking around led to his suggestion that I make my way to the graveyard and look out for the grave of Mary Ann Weems to hear of her cautionary tale!

Through a side lane I entered the graveyard of the Pittoreque Church of St Mary the Virgin, with its open mouthed gargoyles and came upon the stone bearing the following inscription (in many cases, the lower case s was substituted with an f - not the long s as might have been expected)

"As a Warning to the Young of both Sexes This Stone is erected by public Subscription over the remains of MARYANN WEEMS who at an early age became acquainted with THOMAS WEEMS formerly of this Parifh this connection terminating in a compulfory Marriage occafioned him foon to defect her and wifhing to be Married to another Woman he filled up the measure of his iniquity by refolving to murder his Wife which he barbaroufly perpetrated at Wendy on their journey to London toward which place he had induced her to go under the mask of reconciliation May the 7th 1819 He was taken within a few hours after the crime was committed,tried and subfequently executed at Cambridge on the 7th of Auguft in the fame Year Ere Crime you perpetrate survey this Stone Learn hence the God or Juftice sleeps not on his throne But works the Sinner with unerring Eye The suffering Victim hears and makes the Guilty die"

A sprightly octagenarian told me that she understood that Mary Ann was not as innocent as she seemed, having used a feigned pregnancy to snare her man!

Another chance encounter in the White Hart pub back on the main road revealed that the body of the poor murdered MaryAnn had been laid out in that pub near the window so that the locals could pay their last respects. It was said that she still haunts the pub!

The Godmanchester White Hart regulars also had another tale - of when a large truck screeched into the carpark and a horde of Americans piled out. Thinking there was going to be a fight, the locals rushed out to find that the real reason for the visit was much less confrontational. Whilst being stationed in the area a long time ago, an enterprising american had bought the old pub sign from his favorite watering hole and taken it back with him at the end of his tour of duty. Now, years later on a visit to the UK, he had returned to show his friends the pub where the sign had come from!

Thursday 7 June 2007

Hinxton Technologyworld07

Hard to believe from the photo that we were networked out after the second day at TechnologyWorld07! This time the location was Hinxton, home of the Human Genome Project, where just a day earlier there had been news of the largest study of genetics of human diseases (see Sanger Centre News item).

This time Dr Jo Stanley of Anglia Ruskin joined me in supporting Richard Wishart in a packed day of meetings with the great and small from Sanyo to AuthorIT. This was in effect an International Sector activity arising from the cooperation of three members of the active networking group, HBN. We are pictured here with longstanding contact Catherine Atkins of I10, (on the right) who facilitates communication between businesses with specific technology queries and the academic might of the regions universities.

We had an extremely productive day with Jo's academic expertise in IT and Digital Business Ecosystems supporting Richards Strategic role in RFID and logistics, whilst I fulfilled the role of Research director and meeting facilitator/project manager for Delivery Management.

This time the buzz concentrated around the main marquee with the central coffee area surrounded by the business stands.

Giving, sharing or altruism in business and the advantages of positive thinking

David McMullan of the McMullan Group and I entered a philosophical mode as we retired to the Jolly Brewer in Milton for a quick lunch inbetween discussions on newsletter and other designs.

We both shared an enjoyment of meeting with others from different business backgrounds and were happy to share our experience and advice if asked. But why did we do it unpaid a lot of the time? Our conclusion was that there were benefits in the longer term: The building of trust and relationships that in turn often lead to new opportunities where we would benefit in a Win Win situation. David had impressed me previously by the open way that he had welcomed Graham, a potential competitor in the fleet management area, to our our networking meetings at HBN and offered assistance. A closer business relationship has grown with an added synergy due to the different skill set the two bring to it.

The key though is not to expect a return or consciously work towards it with particular objectives in mind- that would be more on the manipulative side. The objective is to share (without getting into the realm of business incompetence), preferably across a spectrum of contacts and be pleasantly surprised at the opportunities that do arise at a point in the future, without one necessarly knowing what form they may take. That's how Milton Contact entered self publishing or learnt about blogging!

Our second mutual experience was that thinking positively about setting and achieveing an objective was far more successful than worrying about all the potential hurdles in the way; the latter more likely to lead to giving up trying before even beginning to go down a new path.

Hunger stilled and mind stimulated, we returned to battle with the more mundane realities of Spreadsheets.

Tuesday 5 June 2007

Technologyworld07 Ascot

Dragged myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5:30am, forced some tea and cereal down before heading off to huntingdon to meet my friend Richard Wishart of Delivery Management. Swapping to his car we took a leisurely 3h drive to Ascot for the first of Technologyworld07's two event days.

This was our third outing to the event at which UK companies could showcase their ideas to visiting overseas companies. This time Richard was the first speaker of the day. By one minute to the 10 o'clock start of his speech, three members of a prospective audience arrived so I slipped out briefly and wandered amongst the attendees reminding them that the keynote speech was about to start and could they please make their way to the Seminar Room if wishing to attend. Five minutes later Richard started his innovative talk on the evolution of society and technology with particular reference to RFID (radio frequency identification) to a considerably swelled audience!

The rest of the day was spent in 20 minute meetings with a variety of companies according to an ambitious schedule, arising from people we wanted to see and those who arranged to meet Delivery Management. It was great fun but exhausting as we met directors, vice presidents and others from Singapore, Sichuan, Chengdu, Germany, Malaysia, India etc. to learn about their services, products, needs, dreams and ambitions, and regaled them with Richard's skills in strategic consultancy in all manners postal and RFID.

The buzz subsided into a warm glow on the homeward trip as we reflected on the positive responses we had encountered. Richard was justly proud of his excellent seminar and commented

"I had quite a good attendance at my seminar!"

"Ah! Richard," I started, slightly shamefaced, "perhaps I should explain..."

Monday 4 June 2007

Was visited by Dr Paul Gans of Plant Health Management today where we finalised his companies new logo. This delicate flower is actually that of a potato!

the most exciting event this week has been the publishing of Milton Contact's second book, Nimrod - a Memoir of Mischief and Mishap, by Peter Newman Brooks and with illustrations by Ian Levene. It is a tale of a siamese cat, Nimrod and his nine lives, told by his 'Obliger' with occasional comments by Nimrod himself. More information on the book can be found at http://www.miltoncontact.com/book/nimrodmemoir.htm!