The Daily Dust delivering the best bric a brac, daily news and events with a British flavour » Around Britain Mon, 15 Sep 2014 09:05:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I sense an impending call from The Force Thu, 08 Sep 2011 15:38:45 +0000 Ewan It must be a tough year for the Empire as "Darth Vader" jailed for robbery.

If you’re going to rob a petrol station, you need a disguise. Francis Anderson thought he had one… a Darth Vader mask.

It was as effective as the shielding around the Death Star’s thermal port, mind you, as he’s just been sent down for armed robbery for five and a half years.

Any last words from the accused to the Judge? Oh yes… "Thank you my lord for nothing."

More at STV.

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Where are all the characters in Jane Austin’s novels? Tue, 06 Sep 2011 15:14:05 +0000 Ewan What happens when you take the works of Jane Austin, and start analysing the text for the characters showing up?

That’s what Matthew Hurst has done, taking some of Austin’s greatest novels and analysing where the paragraphs occur with the major characters mentioned. It’s a wonderful way to see the arcs of someone like Wiloughby in Sense and Sensibility.

Now, which books should be attacked next? May we here at T’Dust suggest the Harry Potter series?

More Austin at Data Mining.

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Only three months left to paint the Forth Bridge Tue, 06 Sep 2011 08:15:33 +0000 Ewan The never-ending painting job is about to end.

Thanks to a new formula of paint, the age old myth of the never ending painters working on the Forth Bridge is going to end in December, announce Network Rail.

Keeping the metal bridge shielded from the elements has traditionally meant constantly reapplying the paintwork, but a new three layer coating means that the workers can take a break in December and enjoy Christmas at home. With the new pain coating started ten years ago likely to be good for 25 years, it’s the first break of more than a few months since the bridge was opened in 1890.

Put your feet up lads, you’ve earned it. Either that or nip round to my stairs if you need a new job.

Picture by Nick Hubbard, Flickr.

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Europe by night Mon, 29 Aug 2011 18:51:11 +0000 Ewan Still loving every single picture coming down from the International Space Station, but this one of Europe is worth pointing out to everyone else.

Isn’t it gorgeous? More from NASA’s Earth Observatory, including a higher resolution version.

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Let us keep time for you Fri, 26 Aug 2011 15:54:01 +0000 Ewan Congratulations to the the team at the National Physical Laboratory – the United Kingdom officially has the most accurate clock… in the world!

If you were to leave the clock running for 138 million years, it would be out by just one single second. Running a caesium fountain to keep track of the time. With some nifty physics tracking the number of electromagnetic flips the caesium atoms make (which is an exact 9,192,631,770 times in a single perfect second).

With five our clocks in the world, and teams of physicists looking to get even more accuracy, we might not hold the record for long, but it’s a proud day for the NPL team.

More at NPL.

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The Bird Box that outwitted the Council and the Speed Cameras Tue, 23 Aug 2011 14:49:09 +0000 Ewan We missed the delightful story last week of Ian Magee, who built a bird house at the bottom of his garden. A bird house that overlooked a busy road in his home of Williton.

A bird box that looked exactly like a Gatso speed camera.

Typically, the council decided that it broke planning regulations, was cluttering up the area, and were probably quietly annoyed they couldn’t collect any revenue from all the traffic slowing down by the camera. Magee would have to take it down – even though the local constabulary say no laws have been broke,

Not so fast, reports Treehugger. Now nesting in the box are some birds, who just happen to be a protected species. Looks like the avian sqautters can stay, the camera’s not going anywhere in the near future.

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Three months of BBC News in three minutes Tue, 02 Aug 2011 18:42:20 +0000 Ewan The shape of the news never changes, just the pictures.

Hats of to Ouchiko2 on Twitter for this YouTube of the BBC News homepage over three months. Because that’s what you do with a bundle of images from a timed screen capture program you forgot was still running… for three months!

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Let’s get Flex-ible with the new organiser from Filofax Wed, 27 Jul 2011 11:58:06 +0000 Ewan Can Filofax make their new system, Flex, as popular and useful as their long running ring binder organisers? We here at The Dust think they can.

Putting aside different paper sizes or fashionable covers, it’s been a long time since Fliofax has launched a product that’s genuinely new. Well, at the start of summer, Filofax did launch something new – Flex – and we here at The Daily Dust have this new organiser system to review.

The Filofax ring binder, or the classic idea of a Filofax as identified by the yuppies of the eighties, have been making a slow come back over the last five years, with a mix of smart products, advertising and a resurgence in paper planners. That rise of paper planner has also led to a new brand becoming the "must have" accessory, and the one that has been seen as the hipster icon du jour. The rise of Moleskine range of pocket notebooks will not have been missed. But how can the old standard reply to the young pretenders?

Flex is Filofax’s answer to Moleskine.


The big difference between Flex and the classic folder is there are no rings to hold your paper in. Rather than holding in bundles of loose pages, the Flex binder holds a number of thin notebooks in its covers. With a number of flaps making up the binder, you can slide the covers of the different pads into place. You can have your notebook on either side of the cover, with the spine either in the centre (so it opens like a regular book), or on the outside edge so it opens up but still leaves the opposite side of the binder accessible – which might have another notebook, a scratch pad, diary, or other elements of the Flex system.

You can even move the pen holder around to have it inside or outside. Quirky, versatile, and all very nicely done with some basic engineering and no moving mechanical parts that are easily broken.

Here’s how Filofax explain the system.

It’s this ability to customise what paper you can use that gives Flex the DNA of Filofax, while at the same time presenting a much less threatening image than that of the ring binder Filofaxes, bulging with pages, tabs, marker, ink, and history. There’s nothing wrong with the ring binder approach (it’s one I heavily favour), but it’s not for everybody.

The other consideration is price. You can’t look at this in a vacuum, The middle size, Slim (reviewed here) is £19, and you can get a basic Filofax Personal for about the same cost. But in context, you’re also picking up a 64 page notebook and jot pad with the binder. The list price for Moleskine notebook of the same size is £10, and the A5 notepad refill for the larger Flex binder, with 256 pages, is £7.50. Yes, there’s a higher install investment, but the ongoing costs are about the same, and there is more organisational ability in Flex.

You can also, whisper it now, slip your Moleskine into the binders, along with other off-the-rack notebooks. While this might seem a bit off-message, this openness, and dare I say hack-ability is actually a strength of the Flex system. The addition of a Field Notes book not only makes the system more personal to me, it actually builds the emotional bond to the Flex binder, which is a good thing for Filofax as a company.


Let’s be honest, Flex is not targeted at people already comfortable using the Filofax ring binder system, it’s about attracting new customers with something that is not threatening or scary to them – one of the chief worries about starting on the Filofax binder system. They look smart, they work well, and even though you could look elsewhere, there’s recurring revenue for the company in the refills.

I’d recommend you take a look at Flex, and think of it as an extended notebook rather than an organiser. It’s a good product, it’s arguably British, and it’s going to get more useful the more you use it.

Flex is available direct from, as well as a number of High Street Stores… and Amazon.

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Sing along to “The Rupert Murdoch Song” Tue, 19 Jul 2011 13:34:49 +0000 Ewan Our favourite folk-culture singer, Alan Smart, takes on the head of News International.

The lyrics might be NSFW, but we here at The Dust thinks this captures a  lot of the sentiment around at the moment. Try not to get caught singing "Forever in the Shit" on the bus home tonight!

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How many Tardis’ are there in London? Tue, 19 Jul 2011 13:21:03 +0000 Ewan Or is it the same Tardis, just travelling through time?

Londonist ask the question that every geek probably already knows the answer to. How many Tardis’ can you find in London?

The iconic time machine was based on the once-familiar police call boxes, from a more innocent time when the words ‘police’ and ‘phone’ weren’t used in the same sentences as ‘News of the World’ and ‘tapping’. For a fictional device, there are quite a few… about town.

More at Londonist.

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Man catches chickens Thu, 14 Jul 2011 13:39:54 +0000 Ewan Never say we don’t bring you the happiest news in the UK. Who needs phone hacking scandal when you have a man with four escaped chickens?

As "Friend of the Dust" Sean Murricane asks on his blog:

Ever watched an out-of-shape Scotsman in his 30s lollop around a garden trying to catch four loose chickens?

Love it – this is what puts a smile on the face of the UK!

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The Return of the Nor Loch to Edinburgh Mon, 11 Jul 2011 09:09:09 +0000 Ewan A week of rain in three hours reshapes the Capital’s landscape.

Lots of pictures of the effect of the heavy rain in Scotland over the weekend (well, what did you expect, T in the Park was on!) but the one that really made us stop and go "ooh" was the one above, by David Lesault.

Princes Stret Gardens, at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, used to be a loch – the Nor Loch. And now it’s back, albeit temporary and a little shallower, but it’s there.

David’s picture is on Twitpic.

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GET10 and help Anthony Nolan Wed, 06 Jul 2011 08:12:00 +0000 Ewan Charity looking to get 10,000 men on the bone marrow register, can you help?

While men aged 18-30 might be the biggest financial donors to the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust, they’re the lowest represented group in the donor register – and the charity is hoping to change that this summer.

With GET10, they’re aiming to get 10,000 new people onto the register, and all it takes is signing a form and providing a small blood sample. If you’re up for it (and we here at The Daily Dust have been on the register for years) then get ten of your friends to join in and potentially save a life in the future.

Join in at

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Manchester claims the London Underground Tue, 05 Jul 2011 11:05:35 +0000 Ewan London Tube world record now belong to two Mancunians.

With a time of 16 hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds, Marc Gawley and Martin East are record breakers!

That’s how long it took them to visit every London Underground station using only public transport, shaving fifteen minutes off the previous record. Lots of details on his website about the planning, running and aftermath and his thoughts on the biggest question.. why?

Ironically in order to make the journey fast, I had to avoid using Tube trains and a lot of commuters would agree with that strategy.

Hat tip to Annie Mole, more details at TubeChallenge.

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And our welcome is warm… Fri, 01 Jul 2011 13:19:27 +0000 Ewan Why not Visit Scotland? Because behind the soundtrack of the cosy adverts lies a much darker truth.

I’m not sure who this would appeal to, but I bet Edward Woodward would! (Sorry, old joke).

Hat tip to B3ta.

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Could this be the new tube map for London? Fri, 24 Jun 2011 08:29:52 +0000 Ewan Starting with the same principle as Harry Beck, would the Underground look a bit like this?

Given that’s what the team at have done, the answer has to be yes. While this is unofficial (and they’re very clear about that), it presents some wonderful improvements; all the news now have the same design principle so it looks much more unified, and instead of Beck’s choice of 45 degree lines in the original, they’ve went for a 30/60 isometric tilt.

But they’re most proud of the better representation of the distance between stations on the map – not that people who try to run round all the stations know the shortcuts (Bayswater/Queensway for example).

We salute you guys, and while London Transport’s branding expert will likely never choose another map, here’s hoping they let you carry on and be a secondary choice available online.

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Leicester holds up a red rag to the undead Mon, 20 Jun 2011 07:30:00 +0000 Ewan What happens when a Council admits it is unprepared for a Zombie attack? It gets attacked by Zombies.

It reads like a B-movie plot, and everyone knew it was going to happen, apart from possibly Leicester City Council. Last month’s Freedom of Information request, asking if LCC had a plan for a zombie invasion was answered with a confident no.

"…[We are] unaware of any specific reference to a zombie attack in the council’s emergency plan, however some elements of it could be applied if the situation arose."

So James Dixon raised an army of the undead (or at least 150 of them) and shambled from the city centre clock to the council office. Where they managed to press up against the glass, but the "open the door" principle defeated them.

Perhaps that’s enough of a defence?

More at BBC Leicester.

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The ultimate question for the Irish is now answered Fri, 17 Jun 2011 06:00:00 +0000 Ewan James Joyce pondered if you could walk across Dublin without passing a pub. Turns out that the answer is yes.

Irishmen can all thank Rory McCann of Maps on Kindle for coming up with the answer. He’s had to overcome some interesting problems, like what is the exact definition of "across Dublin", what is a pub, and does a hotel with a bar count?

Technical details?

While reading all the nodes it stored a dictionary of nodes with the positions (and tags) of the nodes. While parsing the ways, it checked if the way was tagged with a highway value one of pedestrian, trunk, trunk_link, footway,residential, primary, secondary, unclassified, service, tertiary, steps, track, path, and the access (if provided) is either public or yes. This stops it trying to route us through private roads. If the way is tagged like that then it stored the ‘connection’ that you can go from node1 to node2 (and vice versa).

That means something to someone, but the route is there. Is anyone brave enough to walk it?

More at, hat tip to Keith Mills.

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Stamp Thomas the Tank Engine onto your mail Thu, 16 Jun 2011 10:41:08 +0000 Ewan Happy Birthday to the Rev W Awdry, the author behind Thomas the Tank Engine. And if you want to send a celebratory card, then the Royal Mail have the perfect stamp for you… Thomas himself.

Eagle eyed fans will of course spot that these engines are from the TV series models, which to be fair are the most recognisable and are close enough to the books that traditionalists like me won’t complain too much.

Six stamps are available in the collection, and the First Day covers are available online for pre-ordering in advance of availability next week.

More at The Royal Mail, or your local post office (if you can find one).

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Twenty comics to catch at the Edinburgh Fringe Thu, 16 Jun 2011 09:27:41 +0000 Ewan Edinburgh institution Kate Copstick, like many of us, has sat down with the Fringe program and picked out her favourites – although a nod from Copstick in The Scotsman is more likely to appear on the flyers of the twenty chosen acts than "Ewan says we’re quite nice."

Unless you follow the comedy circuit, a lot of these names are going to be new to you, but I can’t see a duff name in this twenty. I can see some comics that aren’t my cup of tea, but I’ve been known to drink tea with milk without complaining in the past. What I did enjoy about this list was the number of names that were featured in the Edinburgh Fringe Podcast many years ago, and continue to pop up like old friends that only see each other once a year. Acts like Axis of Awesome, Sam Simmons and Andrew Lawrence.

If you need a starting point for the thousand or so comedy acts, Kate’s list is as good a place as any.

More Fringe fun at the Edinburgh Fringe Podcast, follow the podcast in iTunes or via the dedicated RSS feed.

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Forget the Whips’ List, here’s the beauty parade of Parliament Sun, 29 May 2011 20:46:24 +0000 Ewan Anyone keeping a tab on their member of parliament with sites such as They Work For You now has a new way to grade their MP – thanks to another "head to head" comparison site.

The simple question is "which of the two MP’s would you rather have a date with", and that gives us a handy league table. Designer Francis Boulle:

In addition to my wanting to create a fun and memorable tool to help the British public get to know their Members of Parliament, I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to hold the first ever parliamentary beauty contest and find out once and for all which MPs and Parties have the most sex-appeal. Although I fully expect this to offend some people, this was never my intention and I hope you will see the funny side.

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes, more at

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‘Washing machines live just as long without Calgon’ – Which? Thu, 26 May 2011 08:23:20 +0000 Admin1

The content previously published here has been withdrawn. We apologise for any inconvenience.

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Royal Wedding? Let’s have a subtle street party rebellion Fri, 15 Apr 2011 16:17:48 +0000 Ewan Scottish project to turn Edinburgh’s Royal Mile into the Republican Mile for that wedding.

Not everyone is eager and excited for “Kate and Will’s Big Day”, and someone has the smart idea of subverting the Street Party meme to make a point:

In light of David Cameron’s reassurances that people will be allowed to freely mark this “special day”, without regard for “red tape”, we want to embrace such reassurances to express our contempt for the archaic and inherently undemocratic institution of the monarchy.

On this day, we hope to see the Royal Mile transformed into the “Republican Mile”, in a celebration of democracy and people power, and a two-fingered salute to the monarchy, the ruling classes, and all that they represent.

Almost 300 guests have said they’re going to turn up.

Care to join them? Sign up on Facebook.

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The British Balloon that reached out to touch space Thu, 14 Apr 2011 14:52:57 +0000 Ewan John Graham-Cumming’s balloon takes a trip to 105,000 feet to snap a picture of space.

Congrats to John, for his little hobby project, to launch a balloon in his spare time and get a camera up as high as possible, only to return it to earth on a parachute had a successful conclusion this weekend.

The idea came to him in July last year, to launch his own celebratory flight for Yuri Gagarin on his 50th anniversary of the first flight into space:

My mission won’t be quite as high as Gagarin’s: I plan to launch a helium-filled balloon into the stratosphere in attempt to photograph and film the curvature of the Earth with the blackness of space visible. Also unlike Gagarin, others have gone before me: it’s quite possible to launch a ‘weather’ balloon carrying a payload with cameras and take photographs at an altitude of 30km or greater.

Or to put it another way, he did it… because he can. And we here at The Dust think that’s the best reason someone can have.

You can find John’s write up online, and the pictures of the trip on Flickr.

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Kate Middleton for the win? Wed, 13 Apr 2011 11:12:37 +0000 Ewan Our “Princess of Hearts: The Next Generation” might have an evil streak in her.

Having lots of fun browsing through Kate Middleton For The Win this morning, as the meme-cats get to work on the Royal Bride of the Year.

Because Kate (sorry Princess Catherine) isn’t the commoner we thought she was…

More at Kate FTW, hat tip to Chixor.

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