Month: September 2017

Weekend Reading

  • Bananas Emit Antimatter Almost Every 75 Minutes

    Potassium-40 is a fairly unstable isotope, although the half life is nearly a billion years. Because bananas have so much of this isotope, there is enough decay to generate one positron (approximately) every 75 minutes.
    Hey CERN, hey, see that super collider thingybob… HAVE YOU TRIED A BANANA IN IT?

  • A Story About ‘Magic’

    Some years ago, I (GLS) was snooping around in the cabinets that housed the MIT AI Lab’s PDP-10, and noticed a little switch glued to the frame of one cabinet. It was obviously a homebrew job, added by one of the lab’s hardware hackers (no one knows who).
    A metaphor. I think. Maybe? I dunno. Flip that switch and see what happens!

  • My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest

    Yesterday I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism.
    Well worth a read. As a white male I have privilege up the wazoo so these kind of posts help keep some perspective on that.

  • Local Boy

    The life of twenty-seven-year-old Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer of and lead actor in the new musical “In the Heights”—about the ups and downs of the residents of a block in Washington Heights—seemed pretty serene the other day as he did some errands in the old neighborhood.
    A before they were famous article. I think this guy went on to create another Broadway show… maybe..

  • Can You Speed-Read Your Way to Happiness?

    Since you’re wondering: no, I haven’t taken a speed reading course (although I did read 10 Days to Faster Reading). I signed up for Blinkist.
    Excellent article. Confirms I can ignore all the adverts for this (yes I’d been tempted).

  • How I Learned to Stop Being a “Chill Girl” and Start Being Me

    Somewhere along the trek between girlhood and womanhood, I went through a phase of trying excessively hard to be the most chill, fabulously blasé person ever. The problem was that I was not chill. And I hated it.
    Finding yourself, regardless of gender, is hard. Peer pressure sucks.

  • The World’s Greenest Sports Team Is a Century-Old Football Club in a Tiny English Town

    When Dale Vince became the chairman of Forest Green Rovers, a hundred-and-twenty-eight-year-old club in English soccer’s fourth tier, in the autumn of 2010, one of the first problems that he set out to fix was on the menu.
    Whilst I’d heard of FGR, I didn’t realise just how green they were.

  • Bigger, Longer, And Shockingly Feminist

    The first Magic Mike film was definitely a surprise. When you hear there’s a movie coming out starring Channing Tatum as a male stripper, even with an auteur like…
    Still not seen this, but I’ve some free time this weekend….

  • Snopes and the Search for Facts in a Post-Fact World

    It was early March, not yet two months into the Trump administration, and the new Not-Normal was setting in: It continued to be the administration’s position, as enunciated by Sean Spicer, that the inauguration had attracted the “largest audience ever”.
    Dammit, a Trump mention snuck in here…

  • How Apple Built An iPhone Camera That Makes Everyone A Professional Photographer

    This fall, when hundreds of gorgeous, expertly lit portrait shots of friends, relatives, and their pets inevitably begin to dominate your Instagram feed, feel free to thank 17th-century Dutch master painters like Vermeer. It’s the day after Apple’s Sept.
    Yeah it’s good PR but I don’t recall seeing articles like this coming out of anyone else in the smartphone space (Google buying HTC may change that… or may not)

  • Here Are 10 Pictures of Your Daily Recommended Servings of Fruits & Vegetables

    What’s the most important part of a nutritious diet? Most of us can automatically recite the answer: fruits and vegetables. And yet it can be tough to eat the daily recommended amount of produce, and most Americans simply don’t.
    As a visual thinker this is v.helpful (he said, munch on cake whilst skimming reading articles)

  • The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science

    Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer’s – and what you can do about it.
    Ignore the scaremongering. Sleep is fast becoming better understood and way more valuable now that no-one (it seems) is getting enough.

  • How to Clear Your Amazon Browsing History

    Not only does Amazon track your purchases, it tracks all the products you looked at and didn’t buy too. Here’s how to make it go away. There are a couple reasons you might want to clear your Amazon browsing history.
    I’ll try and remember to re-post this after Christmas, when my browsing history is full of perfume, hair accessories, and toys for two year olds (there ya go, set that one up for y’all…)

  • Am I Bi Enough?

    Content note: this post might be very confusing for straight people. Sorry, buddy, I can’t help you. This isn’t for you.  Happy Bi Visibility Day, the one day of the year where we blink into the visible light spectrum, usually only existing somewhere between X-rays and gamma radiation.
    A good primer for those who are still not that sure what being ‘bi-sexual’ means. Hint: it’s not a binary thing (no pun intended)

  • Ex-British spy on leading a “double life” as a famous author

    The name David Cornwell is probably unfamiliar to most of you, but he’s an interesting person to talk to in these days of alleged political conspiracies, espionage and a rekindling of the Cold War.
    Nope, I didn’t know who David Cornwell was either. Turns out he’s been a tinker, a tailor, a solider, and a spy.

  • Caitlin Moran on Fighting the Cowardice of Cynicism

    Maya Angelou wrote in contemplating courage in the face of evil. In the decades since, cynicism has become a cultural currency as deadly as blood diamonds, as vacant of integrity and long-term payoff as Enron.
    YES YOU CAN.

  • Wes Anderson’s Cinematic Debt to Stanley Kubrick Revealed in a Side-By-Side Comparison

    Most film fans hold the work of Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson in high regard, even if they don’t find one, the other, or both to their particular taste. And at first glance, it might seem hard to understand what kind of taste could possibly encompass both Kubrick and Anderson.
    FILM GEEK NIRVANA Item #192

  • Taking a knee

    Late last week, Donald Trump called any NFL player who kneels during the national anthem protesting police brutality a “son of a bitch” (recall that this is the President of the United States we’re talking about here) and said they should be fired (Ha! He said his catchphrase! From that TV show!)
    Yup. Trump. Again. Sorry. But this is an important one.

  • How Hollywood created its own worst enemy in Rotten Tomatoes

    Rotten Tomatoes, which scores movies on its Tomatometer based on the share of critics on the site who gave “good” or “bad” reviews, is the go-to barometer for US films. And Hollywood encouraged it all—until things got rough.
    Something something stop making shit moves/sequels/remakes something

  • Apple Watch Series 3 First Impression: Mindblown.gif

    This might be the most delightful Apple product I’ve ever purchased. It feels like an inflection point in the story arc of consumer devices. The addition of cellular isn’t iterative. It’s revolutionary. In other words: This is my second Apple Watch.
    Interesting side take. As disillusionment with social media grows, as does the desire to ‘switch off’. Is the Series 3 a solution for some?

  • macOS High Sierra Review: A Modern Snow Leopard?

    The Mac has had a stressful time over the past few years. The professional portion of its user base has been wondering about the future as the Mac Pro grew older and less relevant and notebooks got thinner and lighter.
    Worth a read if you use a Mac, some little details I’d not seen elsewhere.

  • You’ve done a man’s job, sir.

    In the run-up to the release of Blade Runner 2049, three short prequels showing events that occurred between the 2019 setting of the original film and the 2049 setting of the sequel have been released.
    ALL THE EXCITE for Blade Runner 2049 (given how much I loved Arrival). So these prequels ONLY ADD TO THE EXCITE!!

  • Structural engineering you can wear

    Whether or not you wear them, chances are you probably don’t realise just how complicated bras are to design and how difficult they are to manufacture.
    Article #512 in ‘fascinating details about everyday items’.

  • The data that prove bad weather alters your mood

    Before Facebook and Twitter existed to explain us to ourselves, we knew the weather made us moody because we were gloomy on rainy days and cheery when the sun shone.
    Article #2927 in ‘No Shit Sherlock’.

  • Marc Benioff got tired of the gender pay gap at Salesforce, so he spent $3 million to close it—twice

    Companies under pressure (paywall) to close the gender pay gap might want to look to Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.
    I’m still not sure if this is a good thing or not. Laudable yes, but he had to do it twice? Why didn’t they fix it the first time? This is not sustainable either. Equality now, please.

  • Staying motivated without urgency

    How do I stay motivated when there’s no sense of urgency? I’ve moved from a stressful ‘everything due yesterday’ full time job to part time teaching and working on my portfolio, and am slipping into some bad habits. Motivation — when we want it most, it just isn’t there.
    Oh god yes to all of this. *looks forlornly at half written novels*

  • Do men interrupt more than women? Yes, they do.

    About a month ago at work I overheard one woman complaining to another woman about a man’s habit of interrupting everyone in meetings. Then they went further. “That’s just how it is around here. The women listen, but the men interrupt in meetings all the time,” one of them summed it up.
    Ugh. Men are dicks.

  • Why We Read: The Case for Books as a Means to Many Ends

    If hell exists, I know that for me, it’s a place without books. Even when I am just out running errands, I always carry a book in my bag with me.
    I too always have a book in my bag.

Focus needed

With no apologies whatsoever, I’m gonna talk about going the gym. Again.

The next block of ‘boot camp’ sessions starts on 4th October. It’s the third time I’ve signed up and have to admit I’m looking forward to it starting, and it’s got me thinking about how I can make it successful.

The first time I did boot camp I went all in; I tracked my food in MyFitnessPal, tracked my weight, slept better, and was focussed on using the 10 weeks as a way to kick start a healthier lifestyle. As a result I lost weight, and my body changed shape enough that people noticed. I noticed too because my belts all had to be tightened in a new notch, and my shirts didn’t gape open quite as much when I sat down.

The second time I did boot camp I started with similar intentions but then my knee started playing up, then I had a joyous few days with a noro-virus type bug, I missed a few sessions here and there and, well let’s be honest, I used all of that as an excuse to relax my focus. I stopped tracking what I was eating, my sleeping patterns started to fluctuate and whilst, overall, I still went to a lot of the sessions and my eating habits didn’t slip ALL the way back to where they had been, it’s been noticeable that I didn’t make the same type of improvement as I had previously. In fact I put on a little weight this time around.

But this time around I’m back on it and I’ve been quietly making adjustments.

I’m getting physio for my knee, which is definitely helping, and if I can avoid the usual spate of autumn illnesses that flow round the office then bar a couple of calendar clashes, I should make every session. I’ve been attending some other classes at the gym to keep things ticking over and, if I can, I’m planning on being there 3 times a week throughout the 10 week block; two Boot Camp sessions, and a Conditioning class, and there is a possibility that I might end up doing a yoga starter course as well but I’ll decide on that sometime in November.

Which is all well and good but I think the key, for me at least, is to go back to tracking my food again as it’s the one area of accountability that I need. I’m more aware of what I eat these days but I’m still too quick to give myself the ole ‘I’ll do better tomorrow’ pass. Plus, given my goal is to lose weight I really should be more focused on the consumption/expenditure equation!

I’m not quite sure what it is about boot camp that I enjoy so much. I think I physically and mentally respond better to the HIIT style sessions more than anything else I’ve tried recently so it might be the fact that I can feel and see the improvements in my physique and fitness. Or maybe it’s the camaraderie – borne from our common enemy (burpees) – or maybe it’s the format of the sessions and the fact every one is different (in horrible and cruel ways!). Whatever the reason is I’m not questioning it, just going with it.

I think there are still spaces available so why not come along, join the fun, and try it, I mean what else are you gonna be doing at 9am on a cold winter Saturday?

Check out the AG Fitness Facebook page for more details.

Gin Festival


Last week I looked ahead at my calendar and realised that I had nothing at all planned for the weekend just passed.

I wracked my brains for a second, it doesn’t take much longer, but couldn’t think of anything that I might just have forgotten to add. I really did have an entirely blank weekend.

Bemused, I took to Twitter and that evening my query got a response from the lovely Sharon! 

Do I like gin? Is a one-legged bear a catholic?!*

And so it was that I found myself in the company of the lovely Sharon and her “Maw”, Nell, drinking a variety of delicious gins. We met up for lunch with some other folks beforehand, so my day ticked all the boxes of good food, good booze, and good peoples.

I’m sure I’ve read somewhere about the negative effects gin and tonic can have on your mood but clearly whoever wrote that didn’t spend their afternoon drinking with my lovely companions. The main ache I had the next day was not in my head (nor my emotional mood) but in my stomach from all the laughing.

The setup was pretty straightforward. The entry fee of £15 got you a card with 10 boxes. Each time you visited a stand you got a taster of their gin, and they marked the card. That was the theory at least, in practice some vendors marked your card, some didn’t, and it became a little bit of a game to see how many ‘free’ samples you could get; we reckon we tried around 16 gins so we were well ahead of the game, although Markar were counting four samples as ‘one’ so….

Of course we weren’t drinking full measures; a pattern was soon established, typically a small shot glass with about 10ml of gin to let us taste it straight, then a wee top up with mixer/garnish of choice. There were some lovely gins on offer too, a few not so lovely, and I still can’t make my peace with whisky so avoided a handful of ‘whisky cask soaked’ options. It was good to see such a mix as well, from McLean’s gin (made in the guys flat), to the Makar and Botanists of the world.

Highlights for me were the Arbikie AK’s gin (so good I bought a bottle), the MacQueen Chocolate gin, El: Gin Morayberry gin, with Misty Isle and Tyree gins once to look out for in the future. Each vendor was clearly passionate about their offerings, and were more than happy to chat and answer questions. All in all a great event and as it was sold out, and mobbed for most of the day, a good sign that the gin revival is showing no sign of abating.

* IN-JOKE KLAXON – Many years ago me and my friends would run through the gamut of ‘no shit sherlock’ phrases, AKA does a one-legged duck swim in circles? does a bear shit in the woods? is the pope a catholic? – and at some point it all got mashed together into this nonsense sentence.

Weekend Reading

  • Chords of Inquiry
    It’s 1984 or 1985, Prince and the Revolution are in California, and they decide to drive out to Joni Mitchell’s house in Malibu for dinner.
    Can still remembering ‘discovering’ Joni Mitchell about 10 years ago. I’m not a big reader of biographies but might pick this one up.

  • Keeping ‘Insecure’ lit: HBO cinematographer Ava Berkofsky on properly lighting black faces

    The actors on HBO’s Insecure are hotter than you. They’re hotter than your friends, they’re hotter than me and they’re even hotter than the ex the show won’t let you forget about.
    That’s why I’m not hot, IT’S THE LIGHTING! (I’ve been saying this all along).

  • A moment that changed me: turning my back on monogamy

    Brought up believing in romantic exclusivity, relationships caused me crippling jealousy. Then my husband and I embraced polyamory I married my partner, Andrew, in 2011. On our wedding day, in hand-written vows, we pledged love and devotion and to always belong to one another.
    Always interesting to read how others stepped away from monogamy. I may be single (OH SO SINGLE!), but I’m poly.

  • For Muslims In The US, There’s Before 9/11 And There’s After

    When people squint at my name on something in front of them and then ask where I’m from, I tell them “Columbus, Ohio.” When they look again and then, perhaps more urgently, ask where my parents are from, I tell them “New York,” smiling more slightly.
    Harrowing. Check your white privilege at the door (next to mine) and read this. 20 years on, nothing has changed.

  • Two British science museums held a majestic, two-day fight on Twitter

    Twitter battles tend to descend into a dumpster fire of insults. But when a duel emerged between two of Britain’s most prestigious museums, it wasn’t just entertaining, it was educational.
    AKA Social Media done right (although Glasgow Kelvingrove could take them both, just saying)

  • Your Next New Best Friend Might Be a Robot

    One night in late July 2014, a journalist from the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly interviewed a 17-year-old Chinese girl named Xiaoice (pronounced Shao-ice). The journalist, Liu Jun, conducted the interview online, through the popular social networking platform Weibo.
    That’s great. But my current robot sometimes only listens when I shout… Alexa, ALEXA!!!!

  • Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017

    The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, founded in 1965, is an annual international showcase of the best in nature photography. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.
    Inspirational and beautiful images. Inspiring me to burn my camera because COME ON!

  • Here’s Why You Should Embrace Multi-Account Web Browsing

    Firefox users bouncing between work and personal accounts on a daily basis are probably tired of logging in and out, or switching accounts. Thanks to the new (and overdue) Mozilla-made Multi-Account Container extension, you won’t have to worry about remembering which account you’re logged into.
    For all you multiple social media account people (you and your personal branding, huh!)…

  • The Making and Unmaking of Iggy Azalea

    During the summer of 2010, Iggy Azalea lived free of charge in a guest house in Los Angeles, courtesy of Polow Da Don. As the producer behind Fergie’s biggest hits, he saw Iggy as the second coming and wanted to groom her into a pop star.
    The music industry, and many people in it, really are their own worst enemy sometimes

  • Americans Didn’t Ruin the Man Booker Prize. Book Publishers Did.

    Complaining about the Man Booker Prize is an important British tradition. Since its inception—as simply the Booker Prize, in 1969—it has been criticized for its imperialist overtones, its unwillingness to take risks, and, above all, its corrupt insularity.
    Yeah but The Sellout though, unreadable and AMERICAN. Just saying…

  • These Scottish women are leading the way on tackling period poverty

    For the majority of women, periods are a mild inconvenience at best, and a painful few days at worst. But for homeless women – who have little or no access to sanitary products and hygiene facilities – it can be a nightmare.
    As Glasgow parlance would have it “Gon yersel’ hen!”

  • Satya Nadella Rewrites Microsoft’s Code

    Satya Nadella’s corner office, on the fifth floor of Building 34 at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters, features a can’t-miss 84-inch Surface touch-screen computer that dominates one wall. But what demands even more attention are the vast quantities of books in the room.
    Micro … ohhh yeah them! Turns out they are still around and doing pretty damn well thank you. How? By embracing BEING NICE. It’s not rocket science people.

  • The Root 100 – The Most Influential African Americans In 2017
    Of which I’ve only heard of a handle. Shameful.

  • A pile of trash in the ocean has grown to the size of France—and some people want it recognized as a nation

    There’s a country-sized problem in the north Pacific Ocean: a patch of trash has grown to the size of France. So the environmental charity Plastic Oceans Foundation has paired up with the news and entertainment publication LadBible to campaign for it to be recognized as an official country.
    SHAMEFUL. Why do we hate our planet so much?

  • This is your brain on art

    When we experience art, we feel connected to something larger. Why? If you think about it, having a great time at the theater defies logic in many ways.
    Somewhere I’m in the middle sector of a Venn diagram with two circles, science geek, and over emotional child. So this article made a lot of sense!

  • With a series of Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons, Indian women are finally getting their due online

    You only have to look at the Wikipedia page of the early 20th century Indian painter Amrita Sher-Gil to know that she’s a household name: It’s detailed, well-sourced, and full of pictures of her works, some of which have been sold for millions of dollars.
    I support Wikipedia financially. Yes it is flawed but things like this keep my faith.

  • Siri is dying. Long live Susan Bennett.

    She’s been in the hands of over 100 million people. Perhaps she’s slept on your nightstand. She may have even drunk-dialed your ex. And guess what: Susan Bennett, the original voice of Apple’s Siri, never saw it coming.
    I’m not sure… is it good, or bad, to now be able to put a face to the voice?

  • iOS 11: The MacStories Review

    iOS 9 marked a significant milestone for the iPad platform. In contrast with previous iPhone interface adaptations, iOS 9 did away with longstanding preconceptions and allowed the iPad to reach beyond the comfort of familiarity with the iPhone’s experience.
    Get a coffee for this one.

  • ESCAPE THE ORDINARY

    If I had a favourite word then it would probably be ‘escape’. Because it’s something I do regularly in my head. Being an adult, with a mortgage, a child and a deep and meaningful subscription to Netflix, escape in the literal sense is no longer an option.
    Wonderful post about finding your passion, regardless of how that is expressed.

  • Why Scientists Seem Like They’re Always Changing Their Minds

    Is coffee good or bad for us this week? Butter is still okay, right? Are we in a “diet coke will kill you” or a “diet coke is fine” cycle? It can be hard to keep track. But headlines don’t tell the full story. Behind the scenes, scientists aren’t constantly disagreeing and flip-flopping.
    I’m guilty of accusing “Science” of this exact thing, which is why I always take those articles with a pinch of salt (except on the weeks when salt is bad for you, obvs)

  • Dive into the details of iOS 11: Is Apple still detail-oriented?

    Few days ago, Apple had their fall special event at Steve Jobs Theater located inside Apple Park, unveiling the all screen iPhone X, and later pushing iOS 11 GM to beta testers, which is going out officially next week. I updated my phone as soon as I got the push of iOS 11 GM.
    One for the geeks. I hope this guy never looks at this blog though…

  • Ridley Scott Walks You Through His Favorite Scene from Blade Runner

    The opening Voight-Kampff test that turns explosive, the flight over the high-rise rooftops and past the tower-side video geisha of 2019 Los Angeles, Roy Batty’s dying monologue on the rainy rooftop, Deckard picking up Gaff’s origami unicorn…
    Interesting choice, I need to re-(re-re-re-re-)watch this I think.

  • Is there a single food that you can survive on forever?

    For all of 2016, Andrew Taylor ate only potatoes. There were a few caveats: He ate both white potatoes and sweet ones, and sometimes mixed in soymilk, tomato sauce, salt and herbs. He also took B12 supplements. But, overall, he ate potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
    THIS MAN IS MY HERO! (this week at least, until Science change their mind again)

  • How a Recording Studio Mishap Created the Famous Drum Sound That Defined 80s Music & Beyond

    It’s not a subtle effect, by any means, which is precisely what makes it so effective.
    If you like this kinda thing (hidden details) you should check out 99% Invisible.

  • Building a Better Coral Reef

    ON THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, off Australia — After a plunge beneath the crystal-clear water to inspect a coral reef, Neal Cantin pulled off his mask and shook his head.
    We are killing so much of this amazing planet. So sad.

  • This Stanford Professor Has a Theory on Why 2017 Is Filled With Jerks

    We are living in a world full of assholes.
    And it’s not just 2017…

  • AC/DC’s “Back in Black” Played on the Gayageum, a Korean Instrument Dating Back to the 6th Century

    Every now and again, we check in on what’s happening in the musical world of Luna Lee–a musician who performs Western music on the Gayageum, a traditional Korean stringed instrument that dates back to the 6th century.
    Take a few minutes to listen to this. Then realise you’ve lost your evening down a wonderful musical rabbithole.

  • The Mysterious Voynich Manuscript, the 15th-Century Manuscript Written in a Language Linguists & Code-Breakers Have Never Been Able to Decipher

    A 600-year-old manuscript—written in a script no one has ever decoded, filled with cryptic illustrations, its origins remaining to this day a mystery….
    I’ve linked to articles about this manuscript before but don’t think I’d actually seen more than one photo of it before. Fascinating.

  • iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review: India

    I’m writing to you from a small hotel room in India having just experienced a magical adventure in western India orchestrated by friends at Ker & Downey. I’ve shot thousands of images and countless portraits with the iPhone 8 Plus and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.
    1. I need to up my photo taking skills. 2. You’ll get prompted to sign up to get a free ebook, it’s actually pretty good.

  • Anatomy of a Moral Panic

    On September 18, the British Channel 4 ran a news segment with the headline, ‘Potentially deadly bomb ingredients are ‘frequently bought together’ on Amazon.
    Maybe it’d be better just to have one news outlet, something that would handle all newspapers, radio, TV…

  • Why Glasgow is one of the world’s coolest creative cities

    Duncan refers to the rooftop viewing platform of Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, from which you can enjoy panoramic views over everything from elegant Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed buildings to the gothic spire of Glasgow Cathedral.
    I really REALLY need to make more use of some of these places.

LCD Soundsystem

The Barrowlands is probably my favourite Glasgow gig venue. Large enough to generate a good crowd atmosphere, small enough to feel intimate, and tarnished enough to feel alive, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a gig there that wasn’t good.

Add in a band that has a good live reputation and it was with an intrigued anticipation that I stood and waited through the last couple of tracks of the support act, Hot Chip’s James Goddard, for my first ever LCD Soundsystem gig.

LCD Soundsystem have bounced around my music conscious since they first arrived, I was aware of them but nothing really clicked with me until Sounds of Silver where they started to make sense. That said their tracks increasingly find their way on to my playlists and after catching a little of them at Glastonbury I was keen to see a full show.

They played two nights in Glasgow – apparently they wanted to play more because they only wanted to play at the Barrowlands – and seeing photos and videos of the Tuesday performance only heightened the anticipation. I love live music, I love the way bands can play with a song, I love the altered acoustics, the energy and vitality that can elevate a so-so album track to an uplifting and transendent moment not to be forgotten.

Sometimes those moments are easily forged, if you are seeing a favourite band then it’s a short step to take (for me EVERY Elbow gig is the best ever), but if you are lucky a band can take your impression of them and weave it into something much much more. I had such an experience back in 2007, again in the Barrowlands, with a group that was just about to rocket into the stadium headling stratosphere. I’d listened to both of their albums but, going into that gig, I wasn’t massively convinced that Arcade Fire would be that big a deal…

And so it was last night. A band I know, but wouldn’t make my top 10 (20?) list, took my expectation of at least seeing a good live show, ripped it up, threw it in my face, then spent a couple of hours sonically hugging me whilst bashing me over the head with a ferocity that just isn’t evident anywhere on their albums.

Frontman James Murphy is transformed from a quietly spoken voice to a booming roar, exalting the crowd and pulling us into each moment with him. The songs become all the richer and more powerful as they are rendered into this wonderful communal space, full of passion and energy, which the good denizens of the Barrowlands were more than happy to absorb and reflect back ten times over, and so it continued, through song after song.

Add to all of that a band that were absolutely together (one over-eager drummer moment aside!), a light show that was as simple and effective as it was smart, and at worst this would’ve been a very slick, composed performance. Thankfully the enthusiasm of everyone involved – band and audience – made it so much more than that, and that is where the true amazing joy of this gig was found, a collaboration, a release of emotion, a raw connection.

I’m running out of hyperbole…

At one point last night it suddenly struck me that I was smiling, a great big wide grin, and had been for about an hour. I was utterly engrossed as the setlist lead me through a pitch perfect series of songs that seemed to build and build to the final piano jangling, anthemic chorus where I was bouncing along, hands raised to the skies, singing “where are your friends tonight?”

Answer, right here, all around me. This manic bunch of leaping lunatics, just as lost in the ecstasy of this moment as I was.

Thank you LCD Soundsystem, for bringing us all together for this. Thank you.

AirPods, finally

I’ve held off getting a set off these for some time but as my current ‘commuting’ in-ear headphones (JLabs Epic BT – discontinued) are starting to show their age, both in terms of wear and tear and in how the diminishing battery life is impacting the Bluetooth connectivity. Although admittedly the latter concern is purely based on my perception, but they do seem to drop the connection to my iPhone far more than they used to, even though I logically know that the science behind that thinking is bunkum.

I do have another pair of bluetooth headphones – my wonderful Jabra Revos – but I prefer in-ear for commuting as they let in enough ambient noise to keep me aware of my surroundings (the Jabras aren’t noise cancelling but are such a good fit they might as well be).

It’s taken me almost a year to get AirPods though. Whilst the Apple fanboy in me was intrigued when Apple announced their new AirPods last year, for once I was sensible and held off as I had a pair of in-ear bluetooth headphones already. Since then I’ve read reviews, some right after the announcement, some after a few weeks of usage, and on the whole they’ve been positive with the main gripe some people had was more around the fit than anything else.

I’ve used the Apple provided in-ear headphones in the past, and carry a set in my bag as a backup, and whilst they aren’t the greatest I know, they fit my ears and perform well enough for a 30 minute commute, but they still have that damn cable…

Fast forward to last week and more intrigue was added by Apple’s announcement that they were planning to add wireless charging (via a new case) for the AirPods. And, while I won’t be upgrading my Apple Watch to a Series 3 any time soon, that little demo of the AirPower (ugh) charging pad, where you plonk your iPhone X, your AirPods in their cases, and your Apple Watch, down on a single charging pad is definitely something I’ll move to in the future; one simple solution, rather than three messy cables, YES PLEASE!

I picked up my AirPods yesterday and after a couple of hours usage I’m was instantly a fan. The complete lack of a cable is the most obvious change, and the sound has definitely improved since I last used Apple provided headphones but the real win was the connectivity. Typically with my previous bluetooth headphones my phone had to be in a pocket on the right of my body (as the main sensor in the headphones was on the right hand side) and many times I’d end up carrying it in my hand as the signal dropped in and out at frustratingly increasing intervals.

These drops of connection only really occur when travelling/walking, where I want to have my iPhone in my pocket. This isn’t an issue when I use them at home, or at my desk at work, where there is nothing to obstruct the signal, but the minute you add a layer of fabric or two and WELC OME TO D ROP OU T CI TY!

Not so with the AirPods. Even when I deliberately tried to get it to drop the connection – I wrapped my iPhone in my hat and stuffed that in my jacket pocket, then swung my bag over that pocket – the AirPods kept on working.

Sound wise they are ok, yet it’s here (hear?) that I’m making a compromise of fidelity of usability. The JLabs Epics sound a lot better, but then they are a different design with soft rubber tips that sit a little deeper in my ear canal and create a better acoustic seal so I’d expect that. And it’s not that the AirPods sound bad at all, just that in a like for like comparison they don’t stack up all that well.

However, when you add in just how easy it is to pair the AirPods with your phone, and more importantly how easy it is to use them throughout the day (they power on/off automatically so no more re-pairing), I’ve yet to find a reasonable reason to criticise them. I COULD possibly complain about the price but then you remember that the Case includes a battery too and it’s hard to fault them.

It’s sometimes hard to judge a product like this without using them. I’d read a lot of good things about AirPods but they are, as many others have already said, a quintessentially Apple product.

They just work.

Weekend Reading

Shorter list this week, largely because I’m presuming everyone is already aware (if they wanna be) of whatever the idiot President of the USA has said/done now, that you’ve already seen/heard enough hurricane horrors, and frankly want a break from the pending nuclear annihilation we might be facing (thanks North Korea!!).

Ummm, so on that… er… cheery note…

  • How Silicon Valley is erasing your individuality

    Until recently, it was easy to define our most widely known corporations. Any third-grader could describe their essence. Exxon sells gas; McDonald’s makes hamburgers; Walmart is a place to buy stuff. This is no longer so. Today’s ascendant monopolies aspire to encompass all of existence.
    If this piqued your interest, I’d suggest heading over to this article by the always wonderful 99% Invisible (listen or read)

  • You can actually be allergic to exercise

    Joe O’Leary went to dinner with his parents at around 8 p.m. one Wednesday in March of 2015. He split a pizza, topped with tomatoes and peppers, with his mom. Then he set out for the gym and hopped on the elliptical. But about a half-hour into the workout, he started feeling weird.
    Allergic is the same as ‘please stop making me do burpees I hate them’, right?

  • The great nutrient collapse

    The atmosphere is literally changing the food we eat, for the worse. And almost nobody is paying attention. Irakli Loladze is a mathematician by training, but he was in a biology lab when he encountered the puzzle that would change his life.
    In one ear I’ve got vegans telling me to stop eating animals, in the other ear ‘all your vegetables are fucked’…

  • The ‘internet of things’ is sending us back to the Middle Ages

    Internet-enabled devices are so common, and so vulnerable, that hackers recently broke into a casino through its fish tank. The tank had internet-connected sensors measuring its temperature and cleanliness.
    Alexa, have you been hacked? Oh god, don’t tell them about that multi-pack of … ahem… never mind!

  • Hipster Demand for Fancy Coffee Is Really Helping Africa’s Farmers

    Your $6 single-origin Yirgacheffe habit is giving the industry new legs. The best vendors, restaurants, and concession stands on the Rockaway peninsula.
    OK, some good news. Except, that means… hipsters are good? DAMMIT

  • Cassini Spacecraft: Top Discoveries

    Our Cassini spacecraft has been exploring Saturn, its stunning rings and its strange and beautiful moons for more than a decade.
    Farewall to the little space probe that could. *sniff*

X or not

We’ve had a couple of days to digest the recent Apple keynote, and a few more days than that to pour over the leaked data that basically outlined all of the announcements and almost reduced the keynote to little more than a series of (mostly) slick product presentations.

Almost, but not quite. There was certainly no hint about the opening video and tribute to Steve Jobs, which was a nice surprise and perfectly handled by an emotional Tim Cook, and it certainly added to the poignancy of the occasion. The new venue certainly looks impressive but I find I’m still stuck between thinking it’s either ‘over indulgent’ and/or ‘inspiring’ but there is no doubt it’s well designed with an incredibly high attention to detail (check the linked article for details on the concrete handrails).

Of course these events are really all about the iPhone and, once we’d gotten some Apple TV (4K and better content availability), and Apple Watch Series 3 (Cellular built in) news, it was on to the stars (plural) of the show.

Actually , I’m doing the Apple Watch a disservice, whilst the ‘appeal’ of making and taking calls on my Watch, and being able to leave my iPhone at home, isn’t really high on the list of my desires, I have to admit that the Apple Watch live demo, if it really was that slick, certainly confirms that there is some damn impressive tech crammed into a tiny wrist computer. Ultimately, the only real reason for me to want to update to a Series 3 Apple Watch would be the new wireless charging option… but more on that later.

On to the iPhones then.

Personally I’ve long since given up any pretence that I WON’T upgrade but knowing that this year they’d be announcing three new models, the question is more about which model I’ll go for, a ‘like for like’ upgrade to an iPhone 8? A ‘go big or go home’ upgrade to an iPhone 8 Plus? Or a ‘GIMME THE NEW SHINY’ upgrade to the iPhone X. And those of you who know me (even a little!) are already probably rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘obviously it’ll be the iPhone X’.

And that was my first reaction too. But I’ve had a little time to step back and apply some non-emotion based thinking (it really does look very pretty and shiny!) and ask myself the quesiton, am I really ready to part with £1000 just to get a nicer screen, FaceID and wireless charging? On the face of it (pun intended) that’s a lot of money for a few features.

Of course it’s not that simple – is it ever? – and there are other things to be considered.

I’ve been an iPhone user for a long time and most of the functionality that I am concerned with is based in the way iOS does (or doesn’t) do things. As much a fanboy as I am, I’m not completely wedded or bought in to the Apple Ecosystem. I use Spotify instead of Apple Music, I have an Amazon Alexa so won’t be getting the Apple equivalent, I use Dropbox over iCloud, etc etc.

Yet there are a few limitations with my current iPhone 7 that are hardware based, namely the camera. I’ve used my iPhone as my main camera for a few years now (I really should sell my Canon EOS) and whilst it has improved version over version, the one irk I have is that whilst I don’t want a phone the size of iPhone Plus I have coveted the additional camera capabilities it has.

Stepping outside of the iPhone X world then, I have a straight choice if I want to upgrade my current phone – which obviously I will because why else would I be on the uprade programme – do I go to iPhone 8 which doesn’t really give me anything all that new in terms of hardware/form functionality (sure it’s faster but at this point am I even gonna notice?), or do I go to iPhone 8 Plus to get the improved camera BUT have to live with a phone that no longer comfortably fits in my pocket.

If only there was an option for something with the improved camera capabilities that wasn’t as big as an iPhone Plus.

Hmmmmmmm.

OK, so the iPhone X is bigger than the iPhone but not by all that much, and it isn’t as big as the iPhone Plus… so on that basis alone…

OK. I know, I KNOW, this is a long-winded blog post for something you’ve all already figured out. This isn’t a WILL I/WON’T I discussion, this is a WHY CAN’T I GET IT NOW! justification post, I’m well aware of that.

Regardless of all of this waffling justification, the one thing that struck me on watching the keynote was that the iPhone X is interesting, it’s new (enough), it has different things to offer. The iPhone 8 simply isn’t all that exciting and mirrors my increasing ‘meh’ feeling (and that of others). Every keynote we hope for something NEW, something that LEAPS FORWARD, much as the original iPhone did. Sure the iPhone 8 has some improvements, a bump in spec, etc etc but I don’t think I’d see any particular difference given I’m already running iOS 11 on my iPhone 7, and that’s where the day to day changes are manifest.

But a new form factor, a new screen type, a new set of functionality, that is something that appeals, that excites, even if it’s still not a leap forward in any particular way, shape or form.

Of course this is a large part of the problem for tech companies like Apple. The further they hone their products to make them easier and better for users, the further away the amazing technology is hidden. Face ID is a great example, a simple piece of functionality that is powered by some utterly amazing technology (plus the icon is a nice touch). If it works as well as Apple claim it’ll be a nice addition. Plus, who WOULDN’T want an animated talking Poo Animoji message!

I’ll close with a final, personal, piece of justification. I have to admit that whilst it’s not new technology (shut up Samsung owners, I KNOW!) the wireless charging is a nice boon and I know that it’s this type of simpler implementations of things that I enjoy the most; for example, my main use of Alexa is to turn off three lamps in my Living Room at one time, yes it’s lazy but it’s so simple and easy to say a few words as I walk out of the room and leave as the room falls dark. Apply that thinking and wireless charging leaps up the list of ‘simpler is better’ justifications and… hello iPhone X!


If you are so interested you can watch the Keynote here, even if only for the opening few minutes showing the new Steve Jobs Theatre space.

4 beeps in the night

I had gone to bed at a reasonable hour for once and was asleep in no time at all, my weary bones and tired mind happily conceding to the warmth of the bed and the darkness of the night. I fell fast into a deep and comfortable slumber.

So you can imagine my consternation and the enusing ire when, not long after the clock swept past 2am, I was rudely awakened by a short series of loud beeps. Startled awake, my eyes opened to the dark and in my chest the loudest of crashing thumps began as my heart beat the panic drum.

My mind raced to the source; was it the (unset) burglar alarm or one of the smoke detectors? Regardless, after the fourth beep faded and left just the pounding of my heart echoing from my bed, I knew sleep would elude me until I had it figured it out.

Having never heard these beeping noises before I eyed the closed door of the bedroom suspiciously. Was my burglar alarm signalling an attempted entry? Was the bedroom door about to be flung open by a shadowy thug wielding some form of weapon?

WAS MY WORST NIGHTMARE ABOUT TO BE REALISED?

Seconds passed as I lay there, white knuckles gripping the duvet, listening for a sound, any sound, that would signal my doom.

Nothing happened.

I quietly exhaled. Rising from the warmth of my bed, I warily made my way out into the hall. Glancing left and right as I jerked the bedroom door open – all the better to catch an unsuspecting intruder and use surprise to my advantage, oh yes I was ready to pounce into action – but no movement caught my eye, nothing was obviously untoward, the coat stand remained unmoved, the rug that slips easily underfoot was resolutely where I last positioned it.

I walked into the hall, turned towards the front door and, on seeing the locks firmly closed over, removed that as a potential entry point. I flipped open the cover on the alarm system and the display glared at me in the dark, forcing my sleepy eyes in to a squint, yet it had nothing to report. I stood in the dull glow to consider if this lack of information was a good or bad thing? My brain struggled to find reason for either.

I turned and walked back down the hall to the living room, pausing momentarily at the hall cupboard before I grasped the handle firmly and yanked the door open, again hoping that swift action would unsettle any devious fiend hiding in wait. But OHHH how my heart leapt as, in the act of opening the door, I must’ve dislodged the mop placed within, bringing it tipping towards me and only stopping short as the handle caught on the nearest edge of the bucket in which it stood.

It is to my eternal embarrassment that I fear my attempts to stifle my cry of fear only resulted in a somewhat high pitched squeaking. Look at me now, what a fool I am, stumbling in the dark, half-asleep, half-naked and still defenceless! I made a mental note to leave some form of defensive implement next to the bed for future and then I lifted the mop from the bucket, lest I enter the living room completely at the mercy of whatever spectre lay beyond, and quietly closed the cupboard door.

I could feel the adrenalin surging as I approached the living room, for if my would-be assailant didn’t enter by the front door then surely a window was the mode of entry! I paused again, listening, before I entered with wilful abandon, the door flung wide, the mop raised in front of me ready for battle.

Nothing.

I admit that by now I was starting to feel more than a little foolish, and so when the kitchen proved to be unsullied by an unwanted guest I retreated and, chastened, returned the mop to the hall cupboard.

As you know, there is no place to hide in the bathroom but I still checked behind the door, knowing full well that any stone left unturned would simply play on my mind later. Closing the bathroom door behind me I look up to the ceiling. In the corner is a sensor for the burglar alarm, and nearby one of three smoke detectors that guard over me while I sleep.

Pushing the thoughts of burglary to the back of my mind I stood, quiet as a mouse, and waited for the next set of beeps. I stood still with one ear to the detector in the hallway, the other in the direction of the living room and adjacent kitchen, lest my beeping foe be situated there.

Whilst waiting for the next tell-tale beeps I tried to gauge how long it had been since I was so briskly roused from my fitful sleep; has it been two minutes? More? Less? My heavy eyes pulled my head forward but I jolted myself upright, what folly it would be to fall asleep again only to be bested by one of those confounded smoke detectors! I will not stand for that.

Yet there I stood. Minutes pass and as I grow cold I wondered if I dreamt these monsterous noises, did I conjure them from my subconscious? I tried to recall what I had been dreaming of but the harder I tried to grasp it the quicker it seemed to evaporate from my memory, smoky wisps in the air.

Silence.

There are no beeps.

Above me, tiny green LEDs glow in the night to confirm that all is well, rest now human, there is no need for worry.

I eventually gave up. I’m not sure how long I stood there but I was glad to go back to bed, back to the cooling embers of the duvet. I closed my eyes and laid still and quiet, my heart beat slowed and my limbs settled beneath me. Eventually sleep returned and called for me once more.

In the cold light of this autumn morning I can admit that I was, perhaps, swept away by the darkness, caught up in the panic that beset me. I know it is not the first time nor will it be the last.

I have added new batteries for the smoke detectors to my shopping list.

Weekend Reading

  • Hogwarts as Never-Never Land: Stephen King on The Goblet of Fire

    “I read the first novel in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, in April 1999 and was only moderately impressed. But in April 1999 I was pretty much all right.”
    Pop culture clash with the ever wonderful Mr. King. Insightful as ever.

  • What Do We Mean When We Say “Toxic Masculinity?”

    This. All of this.

  • ‘It was wonderfully scary’: Tim Curry, Rob Reiner and Kathy Bates on the joy of adapting Stephen King

    Four decades after Carrie, the master horror writer’s It is the latest of his tales to be turned into a film. Actors and directors explain what’s kept the industry hooked Hollywood pounced on Stephen King as soon as his first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974.
    I’ve read the novel, and barely recall watching snippets of the TV Movie, and I don’t like horror movies… but…

  • Alien-Like Blob Found in Lake is Actually a Living Thing

    Sometimes, we are all this blob—a large, gelatinous mound sitting in a lake, begging to be left alone. Recently, one such blob was found near the Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, Vancouver. While it might not look like something from Earth, the Blob is very much alive—and it contains multitudes.
    We are multitudes. Nature is awesome.

  • Sending Summer Off With a Bang: 55-Foot-Tall Sand Castle Snags World Record

    It’s virtually impossible to get a sense of just how large this world-record-smashing sand castle really is until you see a shot that includes crowds of tiny humans gathered around its base.
    Meanwhile I can’t even turn out a castle shaped bucket without losing one of the towers…

  • ‘Ally McBeal’ at 20: Calista Flockhart, David E. Kelley and More on Dancing Babies, Feminism and Robert Downey Jr.

    If TV shows had godparents, Ally McBeal’s would have been Melrose Place and The Practice. Without those two series, chances are Fox’s groundbreaking dramedy about a lawyer and her crazed life might never have happened.
    I loved Ally McBeal and… WHOA, 20 years. (Also, Lisa Nicole Carson. Just saying).

  • This music production tool is the reason why all new music sounds the same

    Imagine music as a recipe.
    Yet one more reason I am no longer passionate about ‘chart’ music.

  • The bad news is that fish are eating lots of plastic. Even worse, they may like it.

    As you bite down into a delicious piece of fish, you probably don’t think about what the fish itself ate — but perhaps you should. More than 50 species of fish have been found to consume plastic trash at sea.
    Goes alongside other news this week that our (filtered) water supplies are tainted with plastic too. We are plastic people.

  • Why Freddie Mercury’s Voice Was So Great, As Explained By Science

    Freddie Mercury, the late frontman for the legendary band Queen, died almost 25 years ago. But he’s still regarded as one of the best rock singers ever. What, exactly, made him so great? A research team in Europe wanted to answer that question, so it looked into the science behind his voice.
    Science? SCIENCE? He’s Freddie motherfuckin’ Mercury, that’s all the damn science you need! (Ahem, Queen may be my favourite band, just sayin’)

  • Don’t Call It Pink Chocolate

    Barry Callebaut AG, the world’s largest cocoa processor, has come up with the first new natural color for chocolate since Nestle. A started making bars of white chocolate more than 80 years ago.
    I’m waiting on the first ‘but where is the blue chocolate for boys’ idiot to show up.

  • Celery Was the Avocado Toast of the Victorian Era

    Though it’s the crucial third component of a mirepoix, cooked celery is one of the most universally hated vegetables.
    Further proof that trends are not a new… er… trend… ?

  • Wild dog packs count sneezes to vote democratically

    Wild dogs aren’t totally wild, it turns out. As in any society, there are complex rules in their packs, plus powerful types who disproportionately influence the group. Yet the will of the many does at times prevail.
    All those who want this instituted in Parliament, SNEEZE TWICE!

  • You Are the Product

    At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had hit a new level: two billion monthly active users. That number, the company’s preferred ‘metric’ when measuring its own size, means two billion different people used Facebook in the preceding month.
    We the people. Etc etc. Sheesh.

  • Why Happy People Cheat

    “Most descriptions of troubled marriages don’t seem to fit my situation,” Priya insists. “Colin and I have a wonderful relationship. Great kids, no financial stresses, careers we love, great friends.
    There are other options people. It takes hard work and complete honest.

  • Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man

    Growing up, the author joked she was the perfect son: intelligent, ambitious, independent. How different might her life have been? When I was very young, some gay friends of mine threw a cross-dressing party.
    Wonderful, thought provoking, article.

  • iOS 11 Almost Turns an iPad in to a MacBook

    Next Tuesday Apple will be hosting an event where we expect to see the unveil of their latest iPhone. As it’s the 10th anniversary of the game-changing device, expectations are high for a significant new design.
    I’ve been playing with iOS 11 Beta releases, the muscle memory isn’t quite there yet but it’s a massive improvement for iPad users.

  • You’ll Be Happier If You Let Yourself Feel Bad

    There’s a moment in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray when the title character declares war on his feelings: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions,” Dorian says. “I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
    I’ve worked on exactly this. Learning how to step back and accept how things are, regardless of your emotional state isn’t easy but very worthwhile (when it works, it doesn’t always).

  • The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice

    When my mother went into a nursing home not long before she died, my wife and I were told that, for a modest increase in the monthly fee, the staff would provide a few extra services to improve her quality of life. We gladly paid, grateful that we could afford it.
    Recent family events (my Uncle passed away) brings this sort of thing into sharp relief.

  • The Literary Allure of Edinburgh, Explained

    Edinburgh is a Gothic mystery. There is fiction and horror, death and, on occasion, romance. There are things that go bump in the night. It’s the kind of place that makes you think witches – the Hansel and Gretel type, not Sabrina, The Teenage Witch – are real.
    I really need to explore Edinburgh more, even though it’s only the second best city in Scotland (after Glasgow).