Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Cank: 12th Century Water Cooler?

Cank Street, Leicester, is a well-known thoroughfare near the Market, but do you know the origin of the name “Cank”?

Plaque on Cank Street

Plaque explaining the origins of “The Cank”

According to a brass plaque near St Martin’s, the name refers to “The Cank”, a well first recorder in 1313 AD, and is thought to be a dialect word meaning “gossip”.

A small plaque is set into the road marking the original site of the well, now long gone. Such a tiny marker is easily lost amongst the manhole covers, hydrants and drains, but a careful search of the area will find it.

Cank Well

Plaque marking the site of The Cank

It seems a shame that The Cank is not better known, and despite St Martin’s being a popular area, most people will walk past the plaque, or even sit in the seating that it is mounted on the back of, without even noticing it.

From outside the Olde Sweet Shoppe, you can view both plaques, if you know where to look.

two brass plaques

View of the two brass plaques

So next time you are out and about in Leicester, why not take time to walk along Cank Street (I suggest starting from the Clock Tower so that you can enjoy the newly re-opened Silver Arcade), and see if you can spot the site of The Cank? If you do, you can reward yourself with a relaxing drink at the nearby St Martin’s Coffee Emporium!

Cank Well Plaque

Close up view of Cank Well Plaque



Butterfly Pave, by Linda Schwab

Called in to the New Walk Museum, Leicester, today. More on that later, but outside, the path has been dotted with butterflies!

Title Pave

Linda Schwab’s Butterfly Pave

The pavement around the entrance has a couple of dozen inset glass circles, each with a butterfly or two in it.

Linda Schwab's Butterfly Pave

Linda Schwab’s Butterfly Pave

There are many varieties shown, and also the pavement itself has butterfly designs built into it.

Linda Schwab's Butterfly Pave


The overall effect is very captivating, and personally, I think the Autumn Leaves add to to it, rather than take away.

Linda Schwab's Butterfly Pave

Linda Schwab’s Butterfly Pave – Wide View

So there you go. Butterflies. Enjoy!


Procrastinate Now! A review of CardHunter.


Equipping Your Character

A friend (@ZeRootOfAllEvil) put me on to a silly computer game recently. Going by the name Card Hunter, it is a board game, based on Dungeons and Dragons, and has been soaking up all of my spare time.

The game itself is quite simplistic: you equip each of your three characters with weapons, armour, arcane items etc, and each piece of equipment has some cards associated with it, that go to build your Deck. When you choose an Adventure, you draw some cards from your deck, and the opponent draws from thiers. You now take it in turns to play cards (Attack, Move, Block etc) until neither player wishes to play (or is out of cards), at which point you draw three more, and continue until the Challenge is completed, or your characters have been defeated. As you complete Adventures, you find more (hopefully improved) cards, and gain Levels (giving you more Equipment Slots, so more cards) and can use better cards.

Adding to the amusement is the ongoing storyline: Gary, the Games Master, has borrowed this set of cards from his older, more experienced brother, who keeps offering unsolicited advice, and warnings. Also, Gary is trying to stop Karen, the pizza delivery girl, from finding out what a geeky hobby he has! The story unfolds gradually, as you complete Adventures, with Gary’s brother confiscating the cards, and Gary finding another set from an unexpected source!

Adventure map

Adventure map showing the Characters facing a horde of Monsters

There are a lot of in-jokes, and self-deprecating stereotypes; those of you who know D&D, MtG, etc will find some parts disturbingly familiar!

The game has a lot to keep people interested, with more and better Items, new abilities and different types of Challenges. There are shops to buy new Items, and sell your Loot to. Some Adventures are not available until others are completed, giving several in-game story-lines, and although it is possible to go back to earlier Adventures, if they are too early, your party is handicapped, so that they are not too easy! If you fail part of an Adventure, you get up to three attempts, and then must start it from the beginning, or try a different one.

I haven’t tried the multi-player section yet (and probably won’t). It looks to be a Gladiator Tournament, where people match up their characters and tactics to see who wins. Personally I prefer the “Player vs GM” Adventures.
But whichever you prefer, it will soak up your time, as you keep pushing for that extra Win!
Just one more Adventure! 🙂

Upgrading software: What can possibly go wrong?

The software that runs my online shop (The Crystal Cave) needed updating last week. Great, I thought! Security updates, performance issues solved, speed increase! So, I had a look at the upgrade process, and it seemed really simple. One-click, and its done! BUT: There is an advisory – make a back-up, just in case. Good advice, I thought. They even provide a back-up button. So, I wait a while, as it copies my existing shop, so I can restore is needed. Then, click to upgrade. A short while later, an error pops up! No Data. hmmm …

I can now no longer log in to my shop! Customers appear to be able to log in, and order things, but I am unable to check the orders and process them! A few tests, and I am emailing my website hosts to let them know, and see what can be done. Of course, this is Friday afternoon! A couple of automated “We have received your email” and a request for more info leaves it at 6PM. The shop is effectively offline for the weekend!

Monday rolls around, and, as usual, my hosts (Free Virtual Servers – look them up, if you need a domain, hosting or web design!) get the systems all sorted in the blink of an eye! All is well, and I can log in and start processing the weekend’s orders. But what is this? Another upgrade available? Nooooo ……

With great trepidation, I reach to click the link, fully expecting another few days offline. I’ve plenty to be getting on with besides fixing the shop, and can do without the hassle …
I decide to set it going, and rather than watch it, I’ll go make a coffee. By the time I’m back at my desk, the upgrade has finished, asking me to “Click here to test the upgrade” … I reach for the mouse. I click. I wait. My shop appears. No problems.

I spend the next half an hour logging in and out, in disbelief! I test all the new functions, and make sure the old ones still work. I check my products and look to see which have fallen out of their categories.

All is working.

I never trust things that work so easily, especially just after a major failure. But The Crystal Cave is open for business again! Feel free to browse and buy, safe in the knowledge that your order can be processed quickly and smoothly. And if it does fail again, don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know!

The Mother(board) of all Art!

I’ve had my P.C. Wizard hat on most of today, up to my elbows in dismantled computers.

ATX Backplate

ATX Backplate

In between cursing the components for their lack of cooperation and scraping my knuckles on solder-spikes, I took a little time to examine the Art to be found inside a computer case.

I quite like the connector-plate, with its regular rows of plugs and sockets, with their tiny numbers and colour-coded pattern. These plates have changed many times over the years, while keeping within certain form-factor limits, but have always had a certain charm.

Row of Capacitors

Row of Capacitors

This set of capacitors, regulating voltages around the circuit board, sit in a neat row, but their regularity is offset by the cross-cuts twisting at different angles. An artefact of the manufacturing process, this adds an organic twist to an otherwise sterile, mechanical scene.

PCB Tracks

PCB Tracks

The tracks leading between components have to be precisely laid out, never touching, and never crossing. Acute corners are avoided, keeping to 45′ wherever possible, as the tracks wind their way across the board.
Probably my favourite view of a motherboard, this close-up shows the emergent patterns that form from computer-generated layouts, defined by the locations of components and the connections that must be made.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.
Have you noticed any emergent art, in technology or elsewhere? What is your favourite gadget, when viewed close-up?
Or does the whole idea of looking closer at Technology repel you?

World Pipe Band Championships

OK, I did find some art, in the end!rspba-logo

BBC Alba are showing the World Pipe Band Championships, featuring bands from Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and, of course, Scotland. Broadcast from Glasgow, the 12 Finalists belted out their finest Pipe ‘n’ Drum tunes.

Won by the Northern Irish “Field Marshal Montgomery Band” for the third year running, there was a fantastic display of music!

Now, I’m no connoisseur of bagpipe music, but I thought tonight’s performance was very good! And if a bunch of guys in skirts blowing into sheeps innards while their mates bash at stretched pig skins isn’t Art, then my name’s not Mary Pickford!

Yes, We have No Art. We Have No Art Today.

I tried, but I really didn’t get any time at all to consider Art today.

I spent this morning wrestling with my online shop. I knew the upgrade would cause trouble, so I made sure to back it up first. And now, lo and behold, it will not let me log in! And it won’t let me reset my password. So, as usual, I have to email my Website Host on a Friday afternoon with technical difficulties! I’m sure they think I do it on purpose. I’m resigned to it not getting fixed until Monday. So long as it gets fixed! People can place orders, and I hope it will email me a notification, but I can’t do anything about it!

This afternoon was spent reinstalling a customer’s computer (as my alter-ego P.C. Wizard). Fantastic machine: Intel i7 CPU, 32GB RAM, 480GB SSD System drive, 240GB and 120GB SSD storage drives, 3TB SATA storage drive. I forget which AMD GPU, but it was a monster!
OK, that’s enough techno-babble. I got it done in the end, but despite it being a super-fast PC, it took all afternoon. Just so much needed doing.

Then into town, sort out start-of-month and end-of-week monies, grab a coffee, and head home to sort out paperwork. Shop still glitched, so can’t do anything there. Quick call to sanitise another customer’s PC, after they’ve filled it with spyware, malware and other infections.

Check into HootSuite to keep my Social Media Presence up to date … nope, their servers are down! And by the time I’ve got another coffee and checked my email, I’ve forgotten what I was going to post!

So, its now 9PM, and I haven’t seen a single piece of Art today, unless you count the car-crash of a day I’ve had as some kind of “Performance Art”. If it is, I think the theme tune would be “Entrance Of The Gladiators“.

“But now its the weekend!”, you cry, “Time to relax, enjoy yourself!”. As if! Another day of broken PCs tomorrow. At least I’ll be out in the countryside, and the Met Office has promised me a nice day.

So you don’t even get a picture with today’s blog. No art. Nothing. Just me ranting about a long day. But there will be more Art soon, I promise!
Let me know what sort of art you like, what you’d like to hear about. Even visit the Crystal Cave, if you dare!