Month: <span>May 2015</span>

A few things that I’ve read this week, you might enjoy them too:

  • How Indie Rock Changed the World
    Two decades before a bunch of geeky American boys messing around on computers created social media, an earlier generation of geeky kids (mostly boys) messing around on guitars created another sort of social network.

  • Body, Soul, and the Elusive Seedbed of Our Identity: Lewis Carroll on the Material and Immaterial Forces of Life, in a Letter to a Little Girl
    The perplexity of why your identity endures even if all the cells in your body are wholly replaced every seven years.

    Many thanks to Marlowe for clarifying that Advocaat is the beverage being referred to in this scene. As it turns out, the “Snowball” is the most widely known cocktail made with Advocaat.

  • The 10 Most Outrageous Theories About What The Shining Really Means
    Underwire The 10 Most Outrageous Theories About What The Shining Really Means

  • Waiting for the Weekend
    A whole two days off from work, in which we can do what we please, has only recently become a near-universal right. What we choose to do looks increasingly like work, and idleness has acquired a bad name. Herein, a history of leisure

  • What Your Morning Coffee Has To Do With Erections
    According to new research from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, men who drink the caffeine equivalent of two to three cups of coffee per day are less likely to have erectile dysfunction.

  • The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, the Experiment That Changed Superheroes Forever
    A reboot is a delicate thing. When a once-profitable franchise of characters becomes stale, outdated, or overly complex, there will always be voices calling for the slate to be wiped clean: to take the characters back to their basics, retell their origin stories, make them contemporary.

  • The Pride of U2
    A free album no one asked for. A massive tour millions will see. A legendary career. An army of haters. To be U2 is to be in contradiction with the culture, while trying to be the culture. Thirty-five years into its existence, what does the band mean now?

  • The Misconception about Money and Motivation · Intense Minimalism
    There’s nothing like an incentive to motivate people. And if you really want to drive them, make it a cash incentive. — “The Merits Of Incentive Prizes For Driving Innovation” on Forbes by Peter H. Diamandis and Jeremy Howard

  • I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How.
    “Slim by Chocolate!” the headlines blared. A team of German researchers had found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day.

  • 7 Bookstores Too Beautiful For Words

Weekend Reading

He sits down and carefully places the cold glass on the table. He squirms on the wooden chair, trying to get comfortable as he slowly looks around, taking in the clientele as some vaguely hip electronica burbles from the speaker above his head. He wonders if he’s chosen the best seat, the window offers a view of the street and the distractions outside.

He takes a sip of beer, he’s on his second already, pulls his phone from his pocket and completes the modern ritual of those who live in this always-on connected world. He disconnects from everyone around him as he checks messages, emails, delving into social media this and status updates that as he whiles away the time which is slowly, ohhhh so slowly, creeping forward.

Bored, listless, he puts the phone down and once again surveys the room. Nothing has changed since he entered.

The music changes and his gaze shifts to the window and the view beyond. He watches a couple, deep in frantic conversation, slowly walking past, a teenager peeks out from beneath her hood as she strides forward, determination on her face and lurid green headphones clamped to her ears, a woman at the end of her working day heads home to her children and inside the pub the man  wonders about the excitement that will bloom on their faces when she arrives at her destination and reveals the contents of that bulging Toys R Us bag.

The door to the bar is pushed open, a figure framed in the frosted glass for a moment. A man enters the bar and across the room a flicker of recognition becomes a smile as his friend rises to greet him once more.


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Your golden brown skin hides so much from me, dry and flaking it repulses me at first, pushes me away, but I know the wonders that lie underneath. Never judge a book by it’s ageing, dead cover.

Inside is where your true meaning is found, your curves offer movement, your sharpness brings me to tears. I love the way you taste, no matter how you arrive on my tongue it is always a moment to be savoured, sweet at times, sour at others.

Sliced through you reveal your heart, wrapped in so many layers of protection, hidden away from the world. A tortured soul deep within. Each layer of your protection grown and cultivated with purpose, keeping your core safe that it may grow again, that you may have the chance to heal and offer up life anew.

In my hands your ageing skin crackles and crumbles, your brown husk falls away to reveal a fresh version of you.

I pause, giving you a final moment of rest, a final feeling of belonging, of completeness. You are whole.

My plans for you are set, as they always are. An age old tradition that we must hold to, strengthening our will in the knowledge of your fulfilment.

The blade you fear is next, slicing you in half, brutally expected. You know it has to be this way and with the first cut made you finally start to realise your true being.

Again and again the knife slashes at you until you are reduced to rubble. You will never be whole again, never be rebuilt. It must be this way.

The blade is slick with your juices, its work is done.

I gently bring your pieces back together but I cannot reshape you. In cupped hands I lift the these pieces of you, a final touch, cool and moist on my palm, your innards as colourless as your core, a beguiling transulency soon to be realised.

I raise you up for your final journey, offering you to the heavens before I tip you into the waiting depths below, the fiery pit, your final resting place.

Add butter and crushed garlic, fry until soft.

Idea from 642 Things to Write About


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A few things that I’ve read this week, you might enjoy them too:

  • Playground Purgatory
    ANNA: Is that your little guy over there? SARA: Yeah, that’s Sebastian.
  • B.B. King’s Best Songs: A Playlist
    B.B. King, who died Thursday night at age 89, was a famous blues star in an age that had mostly forgotten about the blues. But King’s talent was too large to remain confined in a niche music genre.
  • B.B. King: The Big Life of a Blues Giant
    B.B. King was, in every sense, a giant figure in blues, intimately connected with the origins of the form, crucial to its development, and instrumental in its increasing mainstream popularity.
  • ‘Am I Womansplaining To You?’: An Interview With Jessica Hopper
    Appropriately enough, when I call her for our interview, Jessica Hopper is trying to find a box that fits.
  • I Stole A Pen From Douglas Adams’ Grave
    I like going to cemeteries when I travel. For one thing, it’s interesting to stumble across famous people’s graves. (Two-hit wonder and Austrian darling Falco, whose grave I discovered while in Vienna, is resting under a near life-size portrait printed on clear Plexiglas.
  • Meeting Ireland’s polyamory community: ‘If you have the time you can be in love with lots of people’
    Barbara McCarthy talks to members of a polyamory group after a reality TV contestant explained why she can’t be monogamous.
  • The only way is down: 18 notes on the UK election
    So, good morning. I’m afraid it’s true: that nightmare you had, it wasn’t a dream. Let yourself feel the shock, the rawness of disappointment sharpened by sleep deprivation.
  • The Untold Story of ILM, a Titan That Forever Changed Film
    No one wanted Star Wars when George Lucas started shopping it to studios in the mid-1970s. It was the era of Taxi Driver and Network and Serpico; Hollywood was hot for authenticity and edgy drama, not popcorn space epics. But that was only part of the problem.
  • The Night the Ali-Liston Fight Came to Lewiston
    LEWISTON, Me. — A couple of times each month, with the rate accelerating during summer, a car will pull into the parking lot of a small, quaint multipurpose arena on Birch Street in this once-thriving mill city along the banks of the Androscoggin River.
  • Turn your brain off and get to sleep
    I know sleep is important, and when I get enough I am amazingly productive. The problem is getting enough.
  • A Hero’s Just A Sandwich
    We all spend at least a few thoughts on our place in the world. We worry whether we are being perceived as we intend by our friends, co-workers, maybe even our families.
  • The Cuteness Matrix // Jealousy, Polyamory, Femininity
    I’ve done a lot of thinking and praying and struggling and writing and reflecting and work on jealousy. I kind of just want to write jealousyjealousyjealousy all over everything, all over my face.
  • The Sliding Scale of Giving a Fuck
    During my first big project at Etsy, completely overhauling our Item Reviews system, I was paired with Andrew Morrison, an incredibly talented engineer (and now a very good friend).
  • Barbapapa at 45: bon anniversaire to much-loved French cartoon clan
    Barbapapa, the splodgy pink cartoon character beloved by French schoolchildren and translated into 30 languages, has reached middle age.
  • How Eddie Van Halen Hacks a Guitar
    If it was movable, or turnable, or anything that resembled something that could go up or down, I would mess with it to make the amp run hotter. I opened the amp up and saw this thing. I found out later it was a bias control, which controls the power to the output tubes.
  • Monkey day care
    As a toddler in 1981 and 1982, I attended a day care with monkeys. Or, perhaps more precisely, I was part of a study in the form of a day care that involved monkeys. I was two, then three. I remember nothing. I know about it because my dad liked to tease me about it.
  • Sisyu: The Japanese Calligraphy Artist Who Created the Kanji for Pixar’s Inside Out
    As Pixar plans the release of their latest film ‘Inside Out,’ slated to hit the big screen in the U.S. on June 17th, so too turns the Japanese marketing engine, albeit in a different direction.
  • Searching for happiness
    Meet Bob. Bob is an average guy. He has a decent job and works normal hours. He makes enough money to pay his bills, and even puts a few dollars into a savings account most months.

Weekend Reading

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It’s been over a year since I last mentioned my podcast listening habits, since then I’ve changed what app I use and the list of my subscriptions has changed too.

Over not Down

When I started using Downcast it was largely because it was available as both iOS and OSX apps, and sync’d well between my devices.

It’s a good app but I soon realised that I rarely, if ever, listen to podcasts when I’m sitting at my computer, they are something to listen to when I’m on the go (and if I really want to listen to them at home I can use AirPlay).

These days I use Overcast because it’s the nicest one to use. It has clever features like Smart Speed and Voice Boost but mostly it’s because it does what I want and feels nice to use. I offer no more rationale than that because I don’t need to.

Sidenote: I’m much more relaxed about my tech choices these days. There will ALWAYS be something better, something newer, so I’m forcing myself to make my peace with that and finding that I’m much more persuaded by my emotional brain than my practical brain on these matters. Design over function, desire over need (within limits).


As for the podcasts I listen to, below is an update to the list I published previously. I’ve left the links for the ones I no longer subscribe to because they might be of interest to others but mostly I am just trying to keep my own list manageable, can’t listen to everything!

I’m still not a heavy podcast listener, instead I tend to listen to a few episodes in a row if I find I have the time, a bit like bingeing on Netflix boxsets.

* My favourite, 30 odd mins of random facts and chat from the QI Elves’.

Media Tech

A welcome cliché.

Tourists mingle with the eclectic mix of locals; students revel in their dishevelment, bleary eyed passers-by, shoppers planning their raids, hipsters hiding behind headphones and signal red socks.

The air is every sense. Rich bitter coffee, sweet cakes and savoury pastries, reflections from the pavement puddles and the cloud scrolled light, Sound upon winding sound; the gentle rolling chatter, the little black boxes providing the melody of a slow acoustic guitar song, the occasional clink of cup on saucer, the sudden punctuation of an unexpected laugh.

Large glass panes frame the rest of the universe, far outside this cosy place. Cars drive by in their own cocoons, people with bags walking to the next shop, a curious dog enjoys an incident free daytime.

People leave.

People enter.

Each movement of the door adds and detracts, subtle changes to the air, to the sound, to the culture, to the mood. A constant flow, ebbs, tides.

There are groups and couples here, enjoying their own company, discussing the world in over heard snippets. Pieced together they offer an image of a bizarre land, a fabulous place of nonsense, where weekends are sautéed mushroom, new books are made from purple sand, and television is nothing but a wipe-able surface.

A few of us sit alone. A woman sitting on a stool at the window, gym bag at her feet, idly swings her legs as she watches the couple across the road dreaming into an Estate Agent window. Beside me a younger man addresses his laptop with a glare and a sigh before resuming his furious pecking.

I sit in these places from time to time but never feel part of them. I guess that’s the point. Transitory places, strangers thrown together, a ragtag crew that will drift away like wood on the tide.

The door opens and in from the rain more faces appear. A mother and daughter laugh at a shared moment and both clear their suddenly steamy spectacles. An elderly couple guide each other with a familiar love to the vacant seats within.

I order another coffee and wait for the scene to change once more, wondering what sense will fill the air before I too float away into the pavement tides.

Life Writing

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A few things that I’ve read this week, you might enjoy them too:

  • Why One Life Hack Can Change Everything.
    The Way We Do Anything is the Way We Do Everything. When I first heard this phrase 17 years ago, it took a few moments to really sink in. I thought to myself: that makes no sense; I’m totally together when it comes to my relationships, and my business is thriving. And then it hit me.
  • Tomorrow’s Advance Man
    On a bright October morning, Suhail Doshi drove to Silicon Valley in his parents’ Honda Civic, carrying a laptop with a twelve-slide presentation that was surely worth at least fifty million dollars. Doshi, the twenty-six-year-old C.E.O.
  • What Was Gay?
    I follow his gaze toward the massive tangerine-on-yellow She-Ra painting that anchors one end of the room—a tough lady if there ever was one. Then, over to the poster for Pedro Almodóvar’s Todo Sobre Mi Madre—the madre here a primary-colored, Picasso-lite Cecilia Roth—on the opposite wall.
  • A peek inside my overseas wallet – a nerd’s guide to what to take abroad
    I invite you to take a peek inside my overseas wallet. This is no apocryphal journalistic device, I genuinely have a second wallet I pick up when I go abroad.
  • Yogi Berra > Quotes
    Yogi Berra quotes (showing 1-30 of 60) “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours. 
  • Jamie xx Is All Ears
    As a child, Jamie Smith periodically traveled to the United States from his native London to visit his grandfather, a minimalist printmaker who ran a giant glue factory in New Jersey.
  • Upon This Wrist
    It is on my wrist. Do I wish it to be? Not really. Did I crave it? No. Well, maybe a little. I am human. And it is new. And it contains media. And itself may be new media. And it is good to know about these things. So it is on my wrist. This thing, black like crude oil upon Daniel Day Lewis’ brow.
  • The Last Day of Her Life
    Sandy Bem, a Cornell psychology professor one month shy of her 65th birthday, was alone in her bedroom one night in May 2009, watching an HBO documentary called “The Alzheimer’s Project.
  • Yoko Ono and the Myth That Deserves to Die
    In Tokyo, in 1964, the 31-year-old conceptual artist Yoko Ono organized a happening in which she screened a Hollywood film and gave the audience a simple instruction: Do not look at Rock Hudson, look only at Doris Day.
  • 10 Writing Tips from Legendary Writing Teacher William Zinsser, May He Rest in Peace
    Author William Zinsser died at his Manhattan home on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. The 92-year-old left behind one of the classics of writing instruction manuals as his legacy, On Writing Well.

I’ll fess up and say that I’ve been pondering doing something like this for a while; I used to do one on my (now closed) professional blog. I changed my reading habits a little at the start of the year, I find myself more drawn to these types of posts as good route to discovery, and as I’ve really enjoyed picking up articles and links from various other blogs and newsletters in the past few months, I thought I’d offer up my own findings.

Weekend Reading

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There he goes, walking through the Final Portal, leaving me here in this office again.

I always get a little flashback ss the doors swing shut, back to my Delivery Day which feels so long ago now, the day I said goodbye to the Transporter – a large and kind van that wished everyone well whether they were arriving or departing – and entered my Place of Destination.

I’m getting older and those memories are starting to fade now so sometimes I have to concentrate really hard to recall what life used to be like beyond the Final Portal, remembering how nervous I was as we all huddled together in the Great Birth House of Ware, listening to rumours of where we might go, what might happen to us, and the perils of the journey ahead; beware the Idiot Who Drops.

I can remember parts my journey, hazy images shimmer, a bright warm glowing light falling on my surfaces. I can see that light now as I look at the where the Uprights go but I must have upset it as it doesn’t even look my way any more. I miss the way it felt, warm on my metal and wood.

More Uprights leave and the evening chatter begins. From the other end of the room I can hear Matilda complaining about the third cup of tea that she’s had spilled on her. I feel sorry for her, her companion Up and Downer, Gareth, is never very sympathetic. I think he misses Federico, I’m still not sure why they were separated but the Uprights never seem to think about these things. I’m glad I’m not on wheels.

We never really know how long our companions will be with us, nor who our neighbours will be; the Uprights like to move us around sometimes, oblivious to our feelings and friendships. They can be such selfish, thoughtless things.

That said I guess I’m lucky, my companion and I have been together for many years now, and my Upright likes to keep me tidy and rarely spills anything on me. Some of my neighbours aren’t as lucky though, and every night I look over and see them covered in bits of paper and cold coffee cups, the detritus of the working day left to rot overnight.

Ahhh, here comes the Bright Mover, keys jangling on his belt. He is a very different kind of Upright, at least as far as I can tell. Solitary and slow, he likes to look us over as he passes, moving the Bright Circle he casts slowly back and forth. I think he must like us as he does this a few times every night. I watch as he wanders off again through the Final Portal, the doors gently flick-flacking to a close.

As the night passes we chat quietly about this and that. Mostly we talk about the things we’ve seen that day and, as the night deepens, the older ones regale our newer friends with the things we have seen. And then everyone moans as Peppa the Curved starts to drift off into her usual worrisome thoughts about the day she will once again pass through the Final Portal on her way to the death fields of Take it to the Dump.

I feel sorry for Peppa, she’s seen so many of her type go that way, she stands alone amongst the Straight Edges, a matriarch out of time. Sometimes I think about the death fields and have to admit it scares me. No-one really knows what happens there, I’ve never heard of anyone coming back, unless you believe the old story we were all told as children; The Tale of Old Oak. As the legend goes, there is one of us who made it back from the death fields and back to new Place of Destination but every time I’ve heard the story the details change slightly so I don’t really believe it. It’s still scary though. I hope Peppa shuts up soon.

Thankfully the light is brightening so soon we will be joined by the Uprights again. These Uprights are the ones we all secretly like the most, with their tickly feathers and cloths, and we all love to see Henry each morning, he’s always so cheery and genuinely happy. I think he’s a bit simple but you can’t help but smile when he’s around.

And then, before long, my Upright is walking back through the Final Portal, rolls my companion back, gently places his laptop on me, and the day begins once more.

Idea from 642 Things to Write About


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