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    The Birmingham Salon are back

    Very excited to hear the Birmingham Salon is making a come-back next month.  It’s always nice to have interesting discussions and debates happening in Birmingham and I always thought the Birmingham Salon had a nice edge to it which complemented other groups like the Birmingham Skeptics and Cafe Scientifique.

    Their latest talk is on the subject of morality in children, which looks pretty fascinating.  Here’s what they emailed out this morning…

    Nina Powell, researcher at the University of Birmingham will discuss her completed PhD thesis ‘in-conversation’ with Helene Guldberg, associate lecturer in child development at the Open University and author of ‘Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear‘.

    Some recent research argues that ‘ground-floor’ and some sophisticated moral cognition develops as early as 14 months of age. Drawing on her Phd research Nina will argue that the case for an innate moral understanding that expresses itself before the age of 6 or 7-years-old is at best limited, and at worst, grossly misrepresented in some research. The implications of such misrepresentations of moral development are efforts to increase moral understanding in the early years through schooling and parenting interventions, as well as an overall problematic view that ignores the complexity and changeability of human beings and the way we think about morality.

    If children are moral, then what implications does this have for parental responsibility? Should the age of criminal responsibility be lowered as some have argued? Is the distinction between adulthood and childhood, as presently conceived, acceptable given these new theories?

    They’re meeting on Thursday 12th July at 7pm in The Ropewalk Pub in St Pauls Square, Jewellery Quarter.  It’s an interesting move having had previous discussions in The Studio on Cannon St, which is a nice space for meetings and conferences but always made the discussions a little too formal.  The Ropewalk is a nice pub so I’d imagine the discussions will flow a-plenty and give a lot of food for thought – particularly to anyone who went to the Cafe Scientifique talk last month about how far neuroscience has come in understanding the child’s brain.


    Blogpost for Dine Birmingham

     I like reading about food almost as much as I like eating the stuff, so writing about it was a bit of a given.  I really ought to blog about food more, but I’m really glad when other people give me the opportunity to do so.  Brum’s very own guide to where and what to eat, Dine Birmingham, recently did this and I reviewed the rather fantastic Blue Ginger in Kings Heath.

    Head over there to read my blogpost…


    Birmingham + food + magazine = Edible Brum

    Birmingham has been getting some food press recently about its foodie exploits, so the launch of a new magazine celebrating this seemed fairly apt.

    Edible Brum is a darling of a magazine created by the team behind the Warehouse Cafe (a fab veggie restaurant in town) and features an array of articles from local food heros.  It’s got an interesting collection of articles, from one by Loaf‘s Tom Baker (whose Bread Basics course I went on a few years ago and would highly recommend) on the state of bread and where to get a good loaf from, to an exploration of indie coffee shops (including two of my favourites and one I’ve been meaning to try for a while), interviews with top chefs and a host of other articles.  Oh and there’s an article by a certain bar showing you how to make your own seasonal rhubarb cocktail too.  I was around when this was being created and its pretty delicious – sloe gin and rhubarb liqueur, of course it would be!

    I’ve already made a mental list of things mentioned in there I need to seek out and I’m already looking forward to the summer edition.  Have a read of the first issue below…


    Birmingham, Books, Online stuff

    My thoughts on Library Camp 2011

    I felt a bit of a fraud on Saturday morning turning up to Library Camp, an unconference for librarians, until I realised that I had actually spent some time looking after a library.  And I made cake, which actually seemed to be more of a prerequisite for attendance than a library career.  Thankfully everyone was so utterly delightful that I think as long as you are passionate about libraries and had cake you were greeted with welcomed arms.

    Photo of part of the timetable by smilylibrarian from flikr

    The first part of the unconference was the pitching for sessions, duly written on post-it-notes, groups and organised into sessions.  It’s a shame we could only go to five, but when the disappointing thing is too many interesting sessions you know you’re on to a good thing.  Thankfully lots of people tweeted throughout the day so it was possible to catch up on other discussion and people have subsequently blogged their thoughts on them too (like this one from Jennifer Yellin).

    It’s hard to pick favourites, but I really enjoyed the two on advertising and what libraries can learn from retail, which isn’t surprising given that I work in communications and marketing.  Bums on Seats made some really good notes on these two sessions.  The retail session seemed to focus on a lot of practical things that could be done in libraries – displays and books facing outwards, although the idea of having books in categories seemed to split opinion.  Personally I think opening times are one of the biggest barriers to people using the library – something which I mentioned on twitter and seemed to get some good responses.  The last session on advertising was the one I understood the best, having experience in public sector marketing and it seems that some of the problems the librarians found were similar, if not worse, to those I found in the NHS.  Sadly it sounded like the will to market was there, but with little support from their corporate communications teams (one team has to email tweets to the webmaster which are frequently changed and lose meaning)

    The other notable session I sat in on was one on Shared Reading  A group of about ten of us read a short story about a father and son, paused at relevant places, which provoked some really unexpected and strong emotional reactions.  I’m not entirely sure I can convey how powerful and moving this session was, but when a 45 minute session with a group of strangers nearly brings you to tears you might get the idea.  I’m determined to learn more.

    Discussions at lunch about further education libraries, children’s development and a whole raft of bookish talk were really interesting.  Plus I was given a free book by the lovely @JennySarahJones which I found out about thanks to the power of twitter!

    So what did I learn

    • Library folk are some of the nicest people ever and really like their cake.
    • Following a hashtag (#libcampuk11) on tweetdeck when its updated fairly regularly is rubbish, the twitter app was a lot more useful.
    • The cola cupcakes recipe from Hummingbird Bakery book was actually a hit – people even tweeted me to say so!
    • If the people at libcampUK11 are anything to go by, so long as the current government doesn’t completely chop the library budget to shreds, the future of libraries are in good hands.

    Initially I wasn’t sure how interesting I’d find the day or how useful I’d be, but in the end I left Library Camp inspired and hopeful – and determined to use the library more.  A big thanks to those that organised the event and to those in attendance for providing me with some really interesting ideas.


    Do you like your men like you like your coffee?

    Some times I get some really random, but curious emails. My favourite one recently was about the Carte Noire Man Café which appeared in Birmingham for today only. Sadly I was working from home all day so didn’t get to pop in and see it, but it’s an interesting concept.

    The idea seems to be that all women need a bit of ‘me time’ and what better way to experience this than at a Man Cafe? A Man Cafe! My inner feminist is getting a little angsty about the concept, but I do like the whole marketing schtick around the “Men should be like coffee, hot sweet and strong” saying. Although I’ve been trying to figure which of expresso, cappuccino, latte macchiato, and creme intense relates to the choices at the Man Cafe of Mr Confident, Mr Romantic, Mr Cool and Mr Continental. I’ve also been trying to figure out if my choice of coffee also says anything about my choice in men too, but that’s probably not something for a blogpost.

    And because this song has been in my head for the last two days since getting the email, here’s a video for Supersister’s song Coffee; “I like my men like I like my coffee…”


    Co-working venues: Costa Coffee, High St, Kings Heath

    So after a bit of a break in our co-working, Liz and I thought we’d try the newest kid on the block – Costa Coffee which opened fairly recently. One of Liz’s friends had said that Costa was a good place to work from, so it seemed like a good enough endorsement to check it out.

    Costa Coffee, High St, Kings Heath

    Opening recently in the site of the old Clarks shop store, which has moved a few doors down, Costa is the first real chain coffee shop on Kings Heath High St in amongst all the little independents.  Kings Heath was once the barometer by which the recession was supposedly being measured, if the flurry of national interest was to be believed, so the fact that we’ve now got a chain coffee shop (although we’ve had a chain pub for a while, good ol’ Wetherspoons) surely means something, but who knows what.

    Well this is going to be a short section. We initially thought there was internet. After all if the little coffee-shops up and down the High St can manage it, surely a national brand like Costa would consider it akin to offering milk with your tea. Apparently not. Which is a great shame, as Costa is by far the best venue we’ve found for plug sockets and had plenty of tables that looked perfect for a laptop and mug of coffee.

    And anyone that knows me know that I tend to want to know why something isn’t as it should. So I checked the internet on my phone (thank goodness for 3G), the internet was a bit unsure whether Costa offered wi-fi….their website certainly didn’t say. However it did lead me to the number of their PR manager. Hey, I was writing a blog on Costa and I couldn’t find a lot of contact info on the rest of the site, so maybe their PR manager might like to comment. Except they were on holiday – what if I found a rat in my tea?! Yup this is utterly ridiculous but it seems kinda odd way to run a press office to me. Still, I know that Kings Heath Costa doesn’t have wifi, but I still don’t know what the official position is on the matter. And seriously, it’s 2011 and if both Mc Donalds and the little indie cafes on the High St can manage wifi why on earth can’t Costa. Bad Costa, bad.

    Food and drink
    Costa is probably my favourite coffee shop of the big coffee-shop chains. When I had to cut caffeine and dairy out of my diet for a while one of the Costa chains were really accommodating and that’s the kind of thing you remember. And they actually manage to make reasonably decent tea, even if it is just a tea bag, but it comes in a tea pot so win for them. Oh and they do skimmed milk, which makes Liz happy.

    Food wise I didn’t partake this time round. I’ve always found the food on offer a bit typical of coffee-shops and honestly, trying it would be a bit like reviewing Mc Donald’s – it’s going to be the same wherever you go. Except its sandwiches and cakes and stuff and all perfectly pleasant, but I just find them a little uninspiring. But the same goes for Starbucks, Costa, Nero and whatever other coffee shops I’m missing. Nice, but nothing new and exciting and also feels a bit pricey when over the road I can sit in and have a baguette, crisps and can of drink for about the same price as their sandwich or a freshly made sandwich from one of the indie cafes.

    General atmosphere
    I’ve always preferred Costa over the over coffee-shop chains, so I’m glad that if we had to have one on the High St this would be it. And it seems like other people like it too. Even though we were in early afternoon on a weekday it was pretty busy with lots of different people, but nicely busy which is probably helped by the fact it’s got a good sized floor space. There are some comfy sofas for heart-to-hearts which are a bit rubbish to work from if you have a laptop, but thankfully there are plenty of normal tables and chairs for that. But only if you’re writing a novel or something that doesn’t require the internet (I know, broken record, but come on this is 2011 every coffee shop should have wifi by now). It’s got that kind of cosy coffee shop atmosphere and isn’t too noisy, even with a good number of people inside.

    So, to sum up; it’s your usual chain coffee shop, but one of the better ones. Co-working wise it would be good for a meeting, but the lack of internet really lets it down. Everything else, is fine.

    Check out what Liz thought here.