Year: 2018

Bye bye Weekend Reading

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings– And why the sea is boiling hot– And whether pigs have wings.”

The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

The first Weekend Reading was posted on 16th May 2015; the idea spun out of a series I used to compile for my ‘other’ blog (which has since been closed and rolled into this one), where I would post a list of the most interesting technical communications and design articles I’d read that week. When I closed that blog down, and changed careers, I started finding other sources and articles and it seemed obvious to pick up where I’d left off, just with a more general interest world view (well, my general interests, and my world view, but hey this is my blog!).

I’ve always been a big reader and in the early days of the internet email newsletters were a great way to hear about new sites that had started up and, even though we were all excited about this new fangled thing called weblogging, it turns out the step from IRC groups to common interest newsletters wasn’t much of a leap.

Fast forward many years and my last change of jobs meant a commute as a passenger and, with an extra hour each day, I started to seek out other sources to widen my reading ‘filter’ and stumbled across a few sources that I still read to this day (links below) and which have provided the majority of the links I’ve shared.

Where previously I’d hand-crafted each post for the old blog, starting up Weekend Reading on this site gave me a chance to get my geek on!. I created a little automated workflow that took the articles I added to Pocket, fed them through IFTTT to a text file on Dropbox, with that file picked up by a ‘Workflow’ (now Shortcuts app) routine that would search and replace various HTML tags, before creating a draft post ready for me to add my comments too.

And so it was for the last couple of years; Through the week any articles I wanted to share with you were add to my Pocket account and on a Friday I ran the ‘shortcut’ to populate the list of links, with a placeholder “comment” ready for me to edit. Simple.

3 years and 161 posts later and I think it’s time to admit that this is now more of a chore than I’d like. Sure it’s all automated, but over the past few months I’ve started searching out and filtering what I read knowing that it will appear in these posts, and that’s not why I’m doing it. It isn’t supposed to be a chore, it’s just supposed to be an extension of what I already read, and it no longer is.

As always, this may not be a permanent goodbye, but equally I’m aware that a hiatus can quickly become the norm so, for now, presume there won’t be any more Weekend Reading posts.

To everyone who read them, who commented and replied, I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. And don’t worry, I’m not leaving you high and dry for, without doubt, Weekend Reading would not have existed, nor been as electic, if not for the following websites and newsletters, I heartily recommend you subscribe to them:

And, with that, I will wish you all a wonderful 2019 when it arrives. So long, and thanks for all the fish!

P.S. If you still wanna see what I’m reading, you can follow along via your favourite RSS reader – here’s the link to my Pocket feed. (caveat: I use this to capture all sorts of articles, recipes, gift ideas and more).

Weekend Reading

  • What Was Inside the Glowing Briefcase in Pulp Fiction?
    Before I started making my own web pages, I spent a not-insignificant amount of my time on the Internet trawling the newsgroup for bits of knowledge about Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs.
    Fascinating! (well not really, but still

  • iPad Pro (2018) Impressions
    (to the tune of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer) You know ‘Ticci and Gruber, @panzer and Ritchie… Marco and Jason, Joe and Rosemary… But do you recall, the most famous YouTuber of all? MKB(in)HD, had a very shiny Pro… Um, so, yeah.
    My favourite kind of review is one written by ‘real people’. 
  • In Defence of Hate
    Hate can be valid and powerful, but far often it’s misused and misguided.

  • American Women of the Far Right
    In the run-up to the violence last year around the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a woman named Erika, who is active in the white supremacist group Identity Evropa, was busy posting on Discord, an app originally used by gamers but used at that time by some on the far right.
    Important to remember, that there are all genders involved in this. The men are the figureheads, but there are many other people supporting them.

  • Your City Has a Gender and It’s Male
    Why city designers are increasingly thinking about the female perspective. I have a secret to tell you about my city,” she says. “It has to do with what Eve Ensler calls the feminine cell.” It was the autumn of 2016.
    Rings true for Glasgow.

  • Thanks David Dimbleby. Now maybe Question Time can get with the times
    Imagine the joy of turning to David “Brexit will be a walk in the park” Davis, live on TV, and saying: “Some people might think you ARE the joke about Brexit.” Last night David Dimbleby showed why he has been able to choose his own abdication date.
    Not a show I watch because UGH.

  • Not Here to Dance
    This is the story of the greatest night of my entire life. This is about a moment from the Ballon d’Or ceremony that I will never forget, even if I lived 200 years. It has nothing to do with dancing.
    Yes to this. Sport is so very visible, and men are still such jackasses.
  • How I Quit Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon
    It was just before closing time at a Verizon store in Bushwick, New York last May when I burst through the door, sweaty and exasperated. I had just sprinted—okay I walked, but briskly—from another Verizon outlet a few blocks away in the hopes I’d make it before they closed shop for the night.
    tl:dr; it’s very very hard.

  • This is What Happens to Kids’ Brains When They Talk To Alexa
    While I bathe my 3-year-old daughter Marty each evening, we use Alexa to play music — usually a head-spinning rotation of her three favorite songs from Frozen.
    Pause for thought. We really don’t know the longer reaching implications for so much of the technology we use these days.
  • The technology that could end traffic jams
    We’ve all been there. Stuck at traffic lights that never seem to change to green. Sitting in queues of cars that stretch on for miles or delayed by a glut of slow traffic that suddenly disappears. Traffic jams are a blight on our modern, fast moving lives.
    A real bugbear, I know this technology exists, let’s use it!
  • Tibet Is Going Crazy for Hoops
    It was within such a village, Zorge Ritoma, that Dugya Bum, a sheep and yak herder from the Golden Stone Clan, took up the sport.
    Zen basketball, see also; Chicago Bulls of the late 80s.

  • The Endurance of A Christmas Carol
    On January 2, 1840, Dickens wrote to his printers, Bradbury and Evans, to thank them for their annual Christmas gift of a turkey. He chose his words with care:
    What’s this, what’s this! A christmas article!

  • Year in Pictures 2018
    It was a year of populist rebellions and political stare-downs. China’s ambitious expansions raised hackles and pollution levels. Trade patterns were upended, and long-standing bans were lifted. Women gained power, and refugees fled violence and starvation.
    A picture tells… etc etc

  • The Rise of Anxiety Baking
    Last winter, a recipe for salted chocolate-chunk shortbread cookies spread through my social circle like a carbohydrate epidemic. One of my friends kept seeing the cookies pop up on Instagram and, relenting to digital peer pressure, eventually made them.
    Makes sense. I do enjoy baking, although mostly the eating part at the end.

  • Real Christmas trees are the greener choice
    A fake Christmas tree has some obvious advantages over the real thing. There’s no sticky sap. No needles shedding everywhere.
    We always had a fake tree. Time to review that choice.

  • Prime and punishment
    Last August, Zac Plansky woke to find that the rifle scopes he was selling on Amazon had received 16 five-star reviews overnight. Usually, that would be a good thing, but the reviews were strange.
    Is Amazon too big to legislate?

  • 12 Reasons To Ditch The Diet Mentality
    It’s the end of the year, which means resolution season is right around the corner.
    Yes to this! Although I may have gone a little too far into the ‘not giving a shit what I eat’ zone…

  • The Story of Dyngo, a War Dog Brought Home From Combat
    It was late—an indistinguishable, bleary-eyed hour. The lamps in the living room glowed against the black spring night. In front of me was a large dog, snapping his jaws so hard that his teeth gave a loud clack with each bark. His eyes were locked on me, desperate for the toy I was holding.
    What is it with stories about dogs… *sniff*

No plans for 2019

I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions. I’m more of a mind to do things as and when I want to do them, knowing that if I try and force a new habit, or a change to my life, based on an arbitrary date it’s more than likely to fail. This is based on previous experiments over many years, hey, I’m a slow learner.

It’s circumstance rather than calendar that has me looking forward to the next few months into 2019 and the changes that I know it will bring, so yes, I have plans and I know they will happen but these are not resolutions. Far from it.

So, in 2019…

  • I plan to get outside more, including tackling my first Munro.
  • I plan to get on my bike more, including doing Pedal for Scotland again.
  • I plan to get to move more (gym, walking, cycling) and take better care of my body (currently fighting ITB issues again).
  • I plan to find a new job as my current contract finishes in April.
  • I plan to go to New York in June.
  • I plan to move as my current flat is too small.

There is also the small matter of my sisters wedding next year, which I’m partly using as a ‘target’ for some of the more health oriented plans.

In the past, I’d already have started planning these things in great detail, falling into my usual habit of doing ALL the research; What walking boots should I buy? Which Munro is best for a first time? What time of year? Do I sign up for a different gym, or different classes? Whereabouts would it best to move? What hidden attractions can I find in New York?

But I’m not and it’s probably the biggest change I’ve noticed within myself this past year, a sign that I’m more relaxed, happier, and content to go with the flow. There are many reasons for this, it’s not all down to me, but I’ve worked hard to get to this point.

I know that all of these things will happen next year at some point and while some of them are date specific (Pedal for Scotland, the end of my current contract, the trip to NY) the rest are all down to circumstance and will happen when they happen and hey, if they don’t happen then c’est la vie.

I’m excited for the new year arriving, and no matter what happens I already have a feeling that it will be a good one. Bring it on, 2019!

Weekend Reading

  • 12 Insider Secrets from Restaurant Kitchens (That You Can Use at Home)
    When it comes to top-notch restaurants, head chefs often rack up the attention and acclaim. But ask anyone who has worked behind the scenes in restaurants and they’ll tell you: The cooks are the ones who make the kitchen run.
    A couple I knew, a couple are new. Always learning!
  • The problem with ‘good men,’ according to comedian Hannah Gadsby
    Several celebrities were still milling around when Hannah Gadsby arrived at the microphone, so the Australian comedian — no stranger to letting her audiences wrestle with discomfort — waited a few awkward minutes for everyone to take their seats at the “Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainmen
    Always learning. Hannah has a wonderful way to frame these things. So obvious, so true. (so guilty of this still).
  • Exercise Wins: Fit Seniors Can Have Hearts That Look 30 Years Younger
    We know we need to exercise for our health, but a lifelong exercise habit may also help us feel younger and stay stronger well into our senior years.
    No YOU are making resolutions for 2019…
  • How to Poach an Egg and Leave a Marriage
    If I can poach an egg, maybe I won’t have to leave my marriage. The thought didn’t come to me fully formed. Whether it was an accident or not, the sudden and unbidden urge to poach an egg coincided with the realization I was thinking about divorce.
    Wonderful article. Great advice. Seriously, give it a read.
  • The Race to Understand Antarctica’s Most Terrifying Glacier
    Few places in Antarctica are more difficult to reach than Thwaites Glacier, a Florida-sized hunk of frozen water that meets the Amundsen Sea about 800 miles west of McMurdo.
    Always fascinated by exploration and science. Although this is getting scary. What if…
  • Bao, a Heartwarming Short Film from Pixar
    Bao, a short film by Domee Shi, was shown in front of The Incredibles 2 at theaters this past summer. In “Bao,” an aging Chinese mom suffering from empty nest syndrome gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings springs to life as a lively, giggly dumpling boy.
    Ohhh Pixar. How you make me greet!
  • Marmite sprouts? Why retailers are pushing the boundaries with festive food
    Many readers will find the thought of Christmas tree-flavoured crisps revolting, but Iceland is betting its customers will feel the opposite this festive season.
    I, for one, welcome our Sprout flavoured crisps, but it is starting to get a bit silly, no? I like festive food that is traditional, don’t change it!
  • Showering Has a Dark, Violent History
    The 19th century was a time of great innovation in plumbing. Cities got the first modern sewers, with tunnels that snaked for miles underground. Houses got bathrooms, with ceramic toilets, tubs, and sinks that you would easily recognize today.
    I had a shower this morning. It was NOT like this.
  • Holland Tunnel’s holiday decorations are ‘OCD nightmare’
    ‘Tis the season for obsessing! A frustrated Manhattan driver is on a mission to rearrange the cluttered holiday sign above the Holland Tunnel — which is causing commuters’ OCD to flare up like crazy, he told The Post Tuesday.
    Ha! Oh dear.
  • “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
    Educate yourself on the origins on this song, why it might be a feminist anthem, and why we all maybe need to give history a free pass sometimes. Maybe?
  • Demon Underneath John DeLorean and the Invention of the Future
    Long before Elon Musk, a visionary automaker showed how ugly the American Dream could be. In Zachary DeLorean’s little house on Detroit’s Near East side they speak Rumanian. Zachary is from Bucharest. Zachary has a way with machines but his poor English holds him back.
    I look forward to the day these articles are written about women. (and yes that is a carefully considered comment).
  • Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche
    Draw me your map of utopia and I’ll tell you your tragic flaw.
    Wonderful writing as always. This entire bitcoin ‘thing’ is just a … well I don’t even know what the word is. clusteregofuck?
  • 14 Months, 120 Cities, $2 Billion: There’s Never Been a Company Like Bird. Is the World Ready?
    The first 10 Birds descended on Santa Monica, California, in early September 2017. Within days, this small migration became more like an invasion.
    Not spotted them in Glasgow, yet… this is disruption at a grand scale. Horrific? Inevitable?
  • Meet the Safecracker of Last Resort
    Charlie Santore sees Los Angeles from the inside, by breaking into safes whose owners can no longer unlock them. The house was gone, consumed by the November 2018 Woolsey Fire that left swaths of Los Angeles covered in ash and reduced whole neighborhoods to charcoaled ruins.
    Safe crackers and pick pockets. Both exist in that same odd space for me, wrong, but excitingly magic.
  • Virgin Galactic makes it to space
    Virgin Galactic, the space-tourism company backed by Richard Branson, sent two astronauts into space, the first people to make the trip from American soil since the last Space Shuttle flight in 2011.
    I’ll let you make your own Virgin in space jokes…

Dance your cares away

I’m not always in the mood for dancing (sorry Nolan Sisters) but when I am, I do enjoy throwing some shapes, even if they are slightly awkward and inflexible looking ones. The rush of endorphins when a favourite song comes on and you lose yourself to the beats and rhythms never fails to make me happy. It’s the type of thing I don’t do enough of, but whenever I do I promise myself I won’t leave it so long again.

And so last Saturday found me excited to spend the night bopping and shimmying my heart out, along with a couple of hundred other be-headphone people, at the wonder that is the Silent Disco. What a great night it was too, bringing back fond memories of my first encounter with this wonderful type of event, a few years ago at Glastonbury.

~wibbly wobbly timey wimey ~

Glastonbury is a big place, and we had been on our feet most of the day. Exploring on the Thursday is a good way to get the lay of the land, figure out what is where (they move some things around almost every year) and just get into the festival spirit. The mass crowds don’t arrive until early the next morning, so it’s a calmer, less busy time and we’d been enjoying wandering around in the sunshine. By Thursday evening we’d had enough of exploring and decided to meander back to the tent (all the better to prepare ourselves for the long weekend of music and frivolity ahead).

We headed back through the Silver Hayes area and ahead of us, in one of the open sided dance tents, we could see some people dancing away inside. We were a distance away so couldn’t hear any music so it wasn’t until we got closer that we realised there was no music coming from that tent at all. How weird! Peering through the dusk we could see that everyone inside had lights glowing from their heads like some weird alien takeover. Some were green, some were blue, others were red.

Then it struck us, Silent Disco!!

We hustled over, paid our deposits, donned the headphones and wandered into the tent, a little bewildered but already itching to dance.

And ohhhh It was utterly joyous. The false privacy afforded by headphones means you truly are able to dance like no-one is watching (just close your eyes) and any interactions with other people were mostly through gestures. It’s such a simple idea, push a button on the headphones to pick between three channels of DJ and dance your heart out! And so we did, for over 4 hours before we gave up around 2am, exhausted but so happy.

So I was genuinely excited to be going to a silent disco again, and see how well it translated from the sunshine evenings of Glastonbury, to a cold dark winter night in Glasgow. Answer; very well indeed!!

Of course a silent disco is anything but – slipping your headphones off you can hear the cacophony of people singing along – yet it brings a wonderful camaraderie; a shared moment of delight when you and the people dancing next to you have just switched channels and your favourite song has just come on, the bewildering joy of trying to figure out what song THAT person is dancing to, and which song THAT person is singing along to with their head thrown back and arms reaching up to the sky.

Dance like no one is watching, love like you’ve never been hurt; sing like no one is listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth.

And, dear reader, I did and as we roll towards 2019 I’m more determined than ever to continue to do so.

Weekend Reading

  • Meet Alexa: inside the mind of a digital native
    Alexa was choosing a dress for a party. It was taking a while. This always happens, she gets carried away with every little thing.
    Not THAT Alexa…
  • Social Media, Online Accountability, and the Meaning of an Apology
    Still so much to learn about how to ‘be’ online.
  • Bad sex award 2018: the contenders in quotes
    “Empty my tanks,” I’d begged breathlessly, as once more she began drawing me deep inside her pleasure cave. Her vaginal ratchet moved in concertina-like waves, slowly chugging my organ as a boa constrictor swallows its prey.
    So so SO very bad.
  • How to stop your brain’s addiction to bad news
    Turn on the news these days and you’d be forgiven for thinking the world is about to end. From politics to climate change to the economy, negative and bad news surrounds us everywhere we go. The problem isn’t just that there are terrible things happening around the world.
    Worth a thunk. I do some of this already without even realising, self-protection!
  • Patagonia Donates $10 Million Trump Tax Savings to Green Groups
    Outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc. has committed the $10 million it saved from federal tax cuts championed by President Donald Trump to nonprofit groups who work on conservation and climate issues, according to a LinkedIn post by Chief Executive Officer Rose Marcario.
    Wonderful. The more I think about the things I buy, the more I care about the people who make them.
  • 14 Expert Ways To Tell If Clothes Are Well-Made Or Super Cheap
    As per above, care about your clothes.
  • Royal Mail delivers: Postman, can you take this to heaven?
    A 7-year-old Scottish boy who sent a birthday card to his father in heaven has received a heart-warming reply. The Royal Mail’s Sean Milligan wrote back, saying, “This was a difficult challenge avoiding stars and other galactic objects on route to heaven.
    Awwwww bless.
  • Michelle Obama On Lean In: ‘That Shit Doesn’t Work All the Time’ 
    In a December 1 appearance at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to promote her new book, Becoming, Michelle Obama said what we’ve all been thinking about the concept of having it all: it’s a great big lie.
    This woman will not be denied. Can you imagine her as President?

  • Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Percent
    New neuroscience research helps us maintain a work-life balance, handle job stress, increase success and wellbeing, and experience more happiness.
    Hmmm bit of a fake headline (the song was MADE to be this way, and you won’t have heard of it!)
  • The 100 greatest innovations of 2018
    Artificial intelligence mastered a lot of tasks in 2018. There are algorithms that win human debates, book dinners, eliminate checkout lines, tend gardens, spot plumbing leaks, and call for help when we trip and fall. But the machines aren’t completely taking over just yet.
    What the… I did not know a lot of these.
  • Ada Hegerberg: first women’s Ballon d’Or marred as winner is asked to twerk
    Luka Modric ended a decade of dominance by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d’Or but the Croatian’s win was overshadowed when the inaugural winner of the women’s award, Ada Hegerberg, was asked to twerk live on stage by the host DJ, Martin Solveig.
    MEN! FFS, just stop. And why did she have to dance at all?
  • ‘It’s a man’s problem’: Patrick Stewart and the men fighting to end domestic violence
    Patrick Stewart was five years old when his father returned from the second world war to wage his own war on his wife.
    Could not agree more. Domestice violence of any form needs to stop.
  • The Last Curious Man
    Chris Bourdain is searching for a word that he cannot quite find. We’re sitting together in a small café in Grand Central Terminal, drinking table wine and talking about his late older brother, Anthony.
    Now the hubbub about him has quietened a little, some more thoughtful articles are appearing.
  • Do People Who Get Knighted by the Queen Get Anything for It?
    Michael S. asks: Do people get anything when they’re knighted by the Queen?
    Unfortunately yes. But hey, feel free to spend my tax money on this bullshit why don’t ya!
  • Beneath the Surface of Bruce Springsteen
    The first time I meet Bruce Springsteen is backstage at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where he is in the homestretch of performing his one-man show, Springsteen on Broadway.
    Actual legend. Not a massive fan of his music but seems like a genuinely wonderful human.
  • Finally, the Self-Driving Car
    Across Arizona Avenue from Waymo’s self-driving-car showroom sits the Crowne Plaza San Marcos hotel, which is allegedly haunted. According to employees and guests, the ghost can move plates, knock phones off cradles, even—helpfully!—fold clothes.
    And so it begins.
  • 52 things I learned in 2018
    This year I edited another book, worked on fascinating projects at Fluxx, and learned learnings.
    Again with the learning of things I did not know. I love lists like this.
  • The story behind an incredible sky scene in New Hampshire
    Mother Nature must have liked it, because she put five rings on it! This was the surreal scene Saturday morning at Franconia Notch in New Hampshire.
  • Who decides what words mean
    Decades before the rise of social media, polarisation plagued discussions about language. By and large, it still does. Everyone who cares about the topic is officially required to take one of two stances.
    A hot topic if ever I heard one.
  • Big tech has your kid’s data — and you probably gave it to them
    Many parents today enjoy posting about their family on social media. But along with those adorable photos, they are sharing crucial data about their children that big tech companies are harvesting.
    One for the new and soon-to-be parents. Shouldn’t we be letting the kids make that decision when they are old enough?
  • Lunch with M.
    One afternoon last month, a woman in her early thirties, with shoulder-length blond hair and large brown eyes, arrived at Jean Georges, on the ground floor of the Trump International Hotel, in midtown Manhattan.
    I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Michelin starred restaurant. Sounds fun though.

Christmas is coming

It’s December!

For many people, including me, that means Christmas is approaching and with it comes the annual cramming of the calendar with nights out and events, the eating and drinking of all the things, and the subsequent hibernating because, frankly, I think I’ll need a couple of quieter days.

I don’t have that many days off this Christmas, the joys of being a contractor, but those that I do I already have planned with a good mixture of frivolity on the busy days, and sweet F.A. on the quieter ones.

That said, in the lead up to Christmas I already have the following planned:

  • Christmas Market lunch (Glasgow)
  • Christmas Silent Disco
  • Bjorn Again gig
  • Work night out
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Home Alone 1 & 2
  • Escape Room (work team event)
  • Christmas Market afternoon (Edinburgh)
  • Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5 gig
  • Annual Christmas day with friends

I also still have some shopping to do (I’m trying to not buy everything from Amazon this year) and I’ve still to put up my Christmas Tree, I’ve got two flavoured gins to finish off (mulled and Parma Violet), one flavoured vodka (Parma Violet again), presents to wrap, and need to confirm if I need to make a trifle or not (for Boxing Day breakfast, obvs).

Add in all the usual things like going to work, going to the gym, and all that stuff – plus this year I’m coordinating calendars with someone else who is also very busy – and it’s a wonderful juggle.

Of course Christmas isn’t about being busy nor, for me, is it about buying lots of things. No, it’s a time to celebrate how happy I am, a time to celebrate all the love I have in my life, and a time to over-indulge (a little). It is most definitely a time to have tiny marshmallows atop rich dark hot chocolate, whilst watching all the Christmas movies, munching on a Chocolate Orange, before a dinner of leftovers and a nice big Baileys nightcap.

Christmas is what you make it, so if you celebrate it, however you celebrate it, a time to be of good cheer, a time when hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Weekend Reading

  • “Automated Customer Service”
    A short story.
    This day is coming, mark my words!
  • The Simple Joy of “No Phones Allowed”
    A few nights ago I saw Jack White in concert. It was a wonderful night, and a big part of that was due to a new rule he has imposed on all his tour dates: no phones.
    Kate Tempest asked the audience to do this a couple of years ago. Was utterly immersive. These days a few snaps and I’m done.
  • Three Ingredient Oreo Fudge Recipe
    Line the baking tray with aluminium foil, pressing it fi rmly into the corners and sides. Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour in the condensed milk. Microwave on full power for 30 seconds.
    Traybake Tuesday is a new thing at work. Here’s what I ‘made’ this week.
  • The Internet Doesn’t Need Civility, It Needs Ethics
    We know this.
  • 16 Comforting Pasta Recipes You Can Make In Your Slow Cooker
    Everybody knows slow cookers are great for making soups and stews — but what if I told you you can make pasta in a slow cooker?Yep, with the right recipe, you can make delicious pasta completely in a slow cooker! We rounded up recipes that cook the pasta directly in the slow cooker, as well as one
    Pasta in a slow cooker? WHAT? (can you tell it’s winter now?)
  • RIP Ricky Jay, Master of the Sleight of Hand Card Trick
    Ricky Jay died yesterday, aged 72. He was a master magician with a deck of cards, an actor, writer, and historian. The definitive profile of Jay was written by Mark Singer in 1993 for The New Yorker. It begins like this…just try not to read the whole thing:
    I watched a documentary about him last year, amazing skill.
  • Field of dreams: heartbreak and heroics at the World Ploughing Championships
    Some compare it to snooker, others to figure skating. But for those who have given their lives to competitive ploughing, it’s more than a sport, it’s a way of life.
    Sport can be wonderful, in all its weird forms.
  • How To Stop Wasting Time On The Internet
    We all waste a lot of time on the internet these days. And due to mobile devices, we do it everywhere, not just at home.
    Stop reading, and go out and do something less boring instead!
  • Dimming the sun: The answer to global warming?
    Scientists are proposing an ingenious but as-yet-unproven way to tackle climate change: spraying sun-dimming chemicals into the Earth’s atmosphere.
    “It was who scorched the sky…”
  • 10 Magic Tricks That Prove Ricky Jay’s Genius
    For decades, Ricky Jay dazzled audiences with his card tricks, both up close and as far away as he could throw them (a world-record breaking distance, in fact). With his flowing mane and fast hands, the magician quickly became a fan-favorite both for his showmanship and his undeniable talent.
    Mind blowing.
  • Swiss hotels are hiring Instagram “sitters” to post photos for you
    A hotel chain in Switzerland is offering a new service: a “social media sitter” who will take photos of a guest’s Valley cation and post them on Instagram on their behalf. This is the world we are now all living in.
    OK. Enough already.
  • The Insect Apocalypse Is Here
    Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that something about the experience was amiss. Specifically, something was missing. It was summer.
    Now that I think about it, this feels true (or is this article biasing me?)
  • How Restaurants Got So Loud
    Let me describe what I hear as I sit in a coffee shop writing this article. It’s late morning on a Saturday, between the breakfast and lunch rushes. People talk in hushed voices at tables. The staff make pithy jokes amongst themselves, enjoying the downtime.
    More soft furnishings, rug those walls!!
  • Researchers built a smart dress to show how often women are groped at clubs
    For a campaign on behalf of beverage company Schweppes, advertising agency Ogilvy created a touch-sensitive dress that tracked how often—and with what degree of intensity—women in Brazil were groped on an average night out.
    Surprised that Schweppes are behind this. Not surprised at the number. UGH.
  • Even in our digital world, the humble sticky note abides
    E-readers and tablets have us doing more of our reading on screens than ever before. The latter category, including devices such as the iPad Pro and Surface Pro, even offers pens for scribbling notes.
    So true. I still use them!
  • The Mistake I Made with My Grieving Friend
    A good friend of mine lost her dad some years back. I found her sitting alone on a bench outside our workplace, not moving, just staring at the horizon. She was absolutely distraught and I didn’t know what to say to her.
    Best advice I was ever given, you just need to be there, you don’t need to say anything.
  • Inside the Great Electromagnetic Resistance
    I walked past the stage and sat down at the bar, the neon lights illuminating my pink teddy, shadowed eyes, and crimson lips. I ordered my first drink of the night and took inventory of the club.
    I used to laugh at these types of people. These days I’m starting to wonder…

Life is too short

I need to stop making excuses.

Life is too short.

I need to stop over-thinking things.

Life passes too quickly.

A recent and very sudden death has plunged my life into contrast. The sister of my ex-wife passed away unexpectedly, she was 49. She was a loving, fun, smart woman. She brought up four kids on her own, went back to college once they’d grown up and earned a BSc in Nutritional Science, ohhh and she needed at least one coffee in the morning before you could speak to her. She would’ve done anything for you as she valued people over possessions. She was quick to laugh at herself, had little common sense, and for the years I knew her she was the big sister I didn’t have.

Quietly and with humility, she wasn’t one to sing her own praises or make a fuss, she just got on with things. She helped Louise and I when we moved into our first house – painting most of the living room on her own without a break – if you asked for help she always said yes, she put others first, and I don’t think I can recall her ever being angry. These are not words blinkered by grief, she was a good ‘un through and through.

Her funeral was a mark of the impact she’s had on the local community; the seats in the crematorium filled quickly, it was standing room only after that, and many people had to stand outside and listen to the service through the loudspeakers that were set up as the building was beyond capacity.

It’s still hard to believe she’s gone.

Today the life I have in front of me is, suddenly, different. Not in any specific way, there is no specific sign, no specific thing to point at, but the shift has happened, it’s there, I can sense it. The gentle voice in the back of my head repeating that simple mantra, one I’ve said many times in the past but I don’t think I’ve either fully bought into, nor fully realised what it represented. Life is too short.

At the service, Chris, the eldest of the four children spoke to us all. His words captured his mother well, her love of love, how the choices she made enriched her life far more than any amount of money would’ve done.

His message is one I am repeating here, a message I heard through the tears as they streamed down my face.

“Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident, it’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice, choose to live a life that matters.”

The coming year will bring changes to my life, as it always does. Some I already know about and I’m excited for, some I do not but I will deal with them when they arrive. Throughout I hope I can remain mindful to make better choices.

Life is too short.

Weekend Reading

  • I’m Meditating (I’m Just Not Sitting Down)
    For a while, it seemed like everyone was talking about how meditation changed their lives—friends, acquaintances, podcast interviewees and interviewers, authors, even the baristas at the coffee shops I went to. Someone told me about the Headspace app, so I downloaded it.
    Other apps are available – I prefer Buddhify – but yes to this.

  • Re: Hate Mail
    I’ve received 15 emails from my internet stalker in the past four days. It’s like watching an inmate from behind a two-way mirror. He read a short story I wrote once satirically titled “The Greatest Story Ever Written.” It’s about a group of male writers who lose their way.
    One wish for the world: End hate.

  • How coffee protects the brain
    Scientists have now proved that drinking certain types of coffee can be beneficial to brain health, but how does this popular brew support cognitive function? A new study identifies some of the mechanisms that allow coffee to keep mental decline at bay.
    I bet TEA doesn’t do this, stupid tea.

  • Aaaand Now … an Oral History of the Greatest Starting Lineup Introduction in Sports History
    In the annals of the Great American Sports Songbook, a singular tune has reigned for more than three decades as the undisputed heavyweight champion of outré jock jams.
    I think the third CD I ever bought was purely to get this track.

  • A Day in the Life of a Mountain-Bike Trail Builder
    Clayton Woodruff, vice president of Progressive Trail Design (PTD) in Bentonville, Arkansas, misses digging in the dirt.
    Fun job! (But still a job).

  • Why Don’t We Forget How to Ride a Bike?
    Most of us learn how to ride a bike during childhood. But as we grow older, many of us stop riding and put those once-beloved bikes in storage. Years later, when we discover these relics and hop on, it’s as if we never stopped biking.
    Why don’t I forget song lyrics from 20 years ago but can’t remember what I did last week?

  • Tired of Pasted Text Messing Up Your Formatting? Try This
    You paste text into a document and for some dumb reason the formatting comes with. Gah! Here’s how to stop that.
    Mac users (posting ahead of potential new MacBook purchase…)

  • I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It.
    I n my office, I have a coffee mug from Stanich’s in Portland, Oregon. Under the restaurant name, it says “Great hamburgers since 1949.
    Screw you internet!!

  • Does cutting carbs really help keep weight off? The big new diet study, explained.
    It’s probably the most contentious question in the dieting wars: How much do carbs really matter when it comes to weight loss?
    Another week, another sciencing of what we eat.

  • This mobile laundry gives homeless people free showers and washes their clothes
    Set up in 2014 by two friends, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, the Orange Sky Laundry started life as a van that had been fitted out with a washing machine and dryer. There are now 27 Orange Sky vans in Australia, which are operated by a team of volunteers.
    This is wonderful!!

  • The remote UK community living off-grid
    On a remote peninsula in the north-west Highlands of Scotland is the small off-grid community of Scoraig. Accessible only by boat or a five-mile walk, the residents of Scoraig live in relative isolation, partly powering their homes and school with wind power.

  • The Wrong Pair
    Dr. Alvarez furrowed his brow, crouching to view my right breast head-on, inscribing something on it with a dark blue marker — a map for his scalpel.
    Men have it so so easy.

  • How to Control a Machine with Your Brain
    For eighteen years, Jan Scheuermann has been paralyzed from the neck down. She is six feet tall, and she spends all day and all night in a sophisticated, battery-powered wheelchair that cradles her—half sitting, half reclining—from head to toe.
    The upside of all those scary Boston Robotics and AI videos? This. Life changing.

  • The Fax Is Not Yet Obsolete
    Nicole Follmann arrived at the Brooklyn House of Detention last spring to post bail by fax. This is how it works: You can post someone’s bail from any jail or courthouse, but you have to send a fax to wherever the person is housed.
    BEEEEEoooooooo ksshshhhshshhshhh BEEooeEEOOOOOE Jahsajhjahajshjkkkkk (sorry, you don’t speak fax?)

  • Rape survivors are clear on the distress of a ‘not proven’ verdict
    1878 rapes and attempted rapes reported to the police, but only 251 prosecutions and 98 convictions. Just 39% of cases which are prosecuted lead to a conviction. This is the lowest conviction rate for any crime. Nearly 30% of acquittals were not proven, compared with 17% for all crimes and offences.
    This has to change. Come on Scotland, we are better than this.

  • In Defense of Puns
    Once upon a time—in 382 C.E., to be exact—Eve bit into an apple. Seeing it was good, she offered the apple to Adam, and he also took a bite. Whereupon Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked.
    I love a pun, I tried a number of puns here but none worked; no pun in ten did.

  • 24 Amazing, Homemade Dungeons & Dragons Maps
    Last week we asked Atlas Obscura readers to send us their greatest DIY Dungeons & Dragons maps. It was a critical success. We received dozens of fantasy adventure maps illustrating the amazing worlds in our readers’ imaginations.
    Wow. Never ‘got’ D&D but some of these are epic.

  • New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit
    For two years, observers have speculated that the June, 2016, Brexit campaign in the U.K. served as a petri dish for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign in the United States. Now there is new evidence that it did.
    But of course.

  • The Mystery of the Havana Syndrome
    In the winter of 2017, the American Embassy in Havana was in a precarious state.
    A fascinating insight into Cuba and the CIA.

  • A dark, handsome rival plans to muscle in on Nutella
    It’s being called the jar wars. For decades, the Italian spread known as Nutella has sat placidly upon its throne—the undisputed queen of the chocolate (and chocolate-hazelnut) spreads, with 54% of global market share. Now there’s a pretender looming in the wings.
    Just posting here. For reasons.

  • Why Scientists Are Rushing to Catalog the World’s Poop
    If a group of scientists is successful, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will be getting a cousin—one that may initially sound rather strange. Instead of gathering seeds to preserve plant species, this project involves gathering fecal samples from people all over the globe.
    I really must stop complaining about MY job…