1. I managed to find the skate park in Victoria Park but it was too wet to skate, plus my left knee is done for

    Posted September 5, 2018 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    Yesterday at lunch I went to get out from behind our table and my left knee smashed into the table leg. A mundane event. But as the pain from the impact exploded within me I realised that I would probably be remembering it for some time.

    Fast forward to this morning and I had a plan to cycle into work via Victoria Park with my skateboard and do some skating on the skate park there. I’ve never been to that skate park, I’ve only seen photos of it. But the injury in my left knee, which had stayed with me through the night, left me doubtful that I could either cycle or skate.

    When I left the house I saw a bit of dampness on the ground which gave me pause for thought. I just don’t want to skateboard on damp ground, and certainly not on smooth, wet concrete. But maybe it was just morning dew? I set off with the skateboard on my back, hopeful that the skate park would be dry.

    Immediately my left knee had something to say. It didn’t like this bending and unbending business that cycling seemed to involve and it let me know its thoughts on this matter at some length. I considered going home and just walking to the train station instead, but the more I rode the less painful my knee became (although it was still pretty painful).

    Got to Victoria Park and by then it had become clear from the overall dampness of the ground that the skate park was going to be a write-off. But I still wanted to actually see it.

    It turned out that I was completely wrong about where the skate park was so I had to stop and look at my iPad to find out. It’s right in the middle of the park, and when I run or ride through there I’m always going around the main perimeter path. So I cycled to the skate park and, as expected, it was very damp, with puddles at the bottom. No way would anyone want to skate on that. But at least now I know where it is and what it looks like (not as big as I’d been expecting from the photos, to be honest).

    Then I rode into work along CS2 which is always fun, in its way.


  2. I’m only just starting to remember what health feels like

    Posted February 11, 2018 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    The evening after my last run, a 15km circuit around lower Manhattan, I got into bed in my hotel and immediately turned ice cold. No matter how tightly I wrapped myself in the duvet, the shivering wouldn’t stop. I think my teeth were even chattering. Several hours later, having hardly slept at all, I had to accept I’d been hit with a severe illness.

    That was Monday night and I’m writing this the following Sunday evening, so nearly a week has passed, and I’m only just starting to feel like I can imagine what healthiness is like.

    Of course it hasn’t helped that during this period of illness – which I’m quite sure is/was the flu – I was at work for two days, then travelled on an overnight flight from New York to London, then took a Eurostar the next day from London to Amsterdam. I doubt many doctors would suggest these activities as a viable strategy for managing and recovering from the flu, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend them myself. I’d probably have got better more quickly if I’d had the chance to just stay in bed for a few days. Sometimes illness strikes at very inconvenient times.

    This period of illness has involved some memorably awful states of being and I wanted to write about them before I get better and promptly forget all about it (because my ill self has no conception of what it’s like to be healthy, and my healthy self has no conception of what it’s like to be ill):

    • Nausea, dizziness and chills combining to create something akin to constant seasickness for about three or four days
    • Coughing becoming so painful that the initial explosive sound of the cough was immediately followed by an involuntary whimper
    • Having to breathe in a very slow and measured way so as to minimise the risk of coughing
    • Being so dizzy and off-balance that I became seriously concerned about escalators at work and on subway stations, even swaying gently on my feet while waiting at traffic stops
    • Buying a burrito and then being unable to face the challenge of eating the thing; resorting to picking tiny bits out of it with a spoon instead
    • Feeling most of the time like someone with a really severe hangover
    • Ambitions I’d had for doing marathon training runs in New York being abandoned wholesale
    • Eventually, this morning, waking up with a splitting headache and actually feeling positive about that, because it seemed to represent some kind of endgame.

    As I write this the splitting headache is being managed with paracetamol and I’m still quite fatigued but, other than that, the illness is on its way out. I’m so relieved. And I think I’ll be getting a flu shot before next winter too.


  3. Yes, puritanical societies in the past were renowned for their condemnation of homophobia

    Posted January 19, 2018 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    I can’t get over how dumb this is. Kemi Badenoch, a Conservative MP, is complaining that young people have “puritanical” attitudes to sexual harassment and homophobia:

    Young people are becoming puritanical about sexual harassment and what constitutes a sexual advance, according to Kemi Badenoch, the new Conservative vice-chair in charge of candidate selection.

    The MP, who was elected last year, cited those who think Friends, the 1990s US television series, is transphobic and homophobic as examples of such attitudes, saying “something has gone wrong somewhere”.

    [She] said she thought the younger generation’s view of appropriate sexual behaviour was conservative rather than liberal.

    “In the papers, they were talking about how Friends is now sort of really homophobic, transphobic and so on. That, for me, is a very, very – it’s actually a puritanical position, which I think of as conservative.

    In what parallel universe was it “puritanical” to condemn homophobia and transphobia? A quick look at any conservative or puritanical society, either contemporary or historical, will find that homophobia and transphobia tend to be wholeheartedly embraced, often to the point of people being persecuted and killed over it.

    But here comes this staggeringly ignorant Conservative MP with a new take: namely that these harsh, dogmatic puritans were characterised by a rigid and unwavering condemnation of homophobes, and a draconian insistence on a woman’s right to conduct her life without being pawed and objectified by drooling men. It betrays a complete lack of understanding not only of history but of the contemporary attitudes she’s set out to condemn. What a joke.


  4. The Man Who Forgot He Was A Rap Legend

    Posted October 18, 2017 in ephemera, music  |  No Comments so far

    This article about T La Rock (in GQ, natch) is worth a read.

    T La Rock was attacked on the street in 1994, leaving him with a severe brain injury and near-total memory loss. He had to rebuild an identity for himself in a convalescent home in Coney Island, while at the same time finding out about his past.

    I love how the piece interweaves three key periods in T’s life: his involvement in the explosive dawning of hip hop, the time of his assault, and his rebirth in the Coney Island convalescent home.

    [His mother] brought in a boom box so T could listen to records, including his own music. When T first heard those songs again, it felt like a discovery. “You know what?” he thought. “This is pretty good!” But then he had the strange sensation of hearing himself but not knowing the song. It sounded like someone else was using his voice.

    Read it on GQ.com

     


  5. What Magna Carta symbolises

    Posted June 17, 2015 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    An informative, combative post from Jack of Kent about the Magna Carta, which is supposed to have celebrated its 800th birthday a couple of days ago. Magna Carta plays more of a symbolic than a functional role in English law. But what does it symbolise?

    [It symbolises] not a great English constitutional principle, but the lack of one.  It symbolises the capacity of people to nod-along at being told they have fictional and non-existent rights instead of having rights which can actually be enforced.  It symbolises that people are content with believing in fairy tales.

    Those with political and legal power know this.  It is safe for the government to want you to celebrate Magna Carta, which you cannot rely on in court, whilst it – for example – seeks to repeal the Human Rights Act, which you can.

    Read the whole thing here.


  6. An interview with the actor who played Ziggy in The Wire

    Posted January 21, 2015 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    I enjoyed this interview with James Ransone, who played Ziggy in Season 2 of The Wire.

    As every fan of The Wire knows, the second season was the show’s apogee. It put the larger-than-life characters (Omar, Stringer) to one side and focused instead on the struggles of the working class community around the Baltimore dockyards. But although those struggles might initially seem dull compared with the high-stakes gangland drama of Season 1, the second outing of The Wire is the clear winner in terms of high Shakespearean tragedy.

    The only people who really dislike the second season are white people. People got mad that they moved it out of the hood. And look, there might be an element that the character is annoying, but there’s that feeling of familiarity too. That the blue collar worker might hit a little close to home rather than the projects of East Baltimore. Ziggy is more like a family member you might have; there’s not this cognitive dissonance. You’re much more likely to know someone like Ziggy than to know someone like Omar.

    Ziggy might well be the Jar Jar Binks of The Wire, but he’s a deeply tragic character, and it must have been weird for the actor who played him to only start being recognised on the streets 6 years after the show originally aired.


  7. Trial by PowerPoint

    Posted January 1, 2015 in ephemera, visualisation  |  No Comments so far

    John Naughton linked to this fascinating piece about the use of PowerPoint in American courtrooms.

    Just like Naughton, I didn’t know that American prosecutors were allowed to deliver rebuttals with accompanying PowerPoint decks. Nor did I know that they resort to such manipulative, tabloid-esque techniques in the slides they create – techniques that can, in some cases, result in mistrials.

    The prosecutor had dressed up her closing argument to the jury with a series of slides, complete with “sound effects and animation,” the appellate court wrote. On one slide, footprints materialized across the bottom of the screen. Other slides exhibited “concentric rings of a target,” with each ring corresponding to an item of evidence; the defendant’s name, Sergey Fedoruk, was in the bull’s-eye. The prosecution’s final slide, the pièce de résistance, opened with a header that said “Murder 2.” Then, under the header, a single word flashed, in all capital letters, in 96-point red type: GUILTY

    Defendants are not forced to attend court wearing prison garb, because this would create an association of guilt in the minds of the jury and taint the trial. Prosecutors often use PowerPoint to get around this by using mugshots and shifty-looking CCTV footage of defendants and then plastering the word “GUILTY”, in red text, all over their faces. Very subtle.

    Read the full piece over at the Marshall Project.


  8. “If Everyone Jumped Off a Cliff…” — A New Perspective

    Posted October 3, 2014 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    In late 2012 I appeared on one of those comedy-panel quiz TV programmes. It didn’t get commissioned, thank god, so you won’t have heard of it. In front of the studio audience, Sara Cox cracked a joke about the graphics I’d made for my tube seat strategy post of 2011. The good news, dear reader, is that I managed to come up with a witty and suitably risqué retort. But the bad news is that it only came to me in the summer of 2014, approximately eighteen months too late.

    In the early 1980s I was in junior school. Something happened—I forget what it was—which prompted a teacher to say to me, “if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?”

    She didn’t expect an answer, of course, and I didn’t offer one. But last night, fully thirty years after she posed this rhetorical question to me, I finally thought of a retort. Here it is.

    “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, and I decided not to, what kind of world would be left for me, an eight-year-old child, to live in? After all, everyone else would have jumped off a cliff: my loved ones, my friends, the adults I rely on for food, wisdom and emotional support—not to mention all those others who keep society’s wheels turning.

    Yes, I might go home and, for a time, enjoy the unbounded access to toys and property offered by a landscape newly bereft of a human civilisation which had recently chosen to jump, en masse, off a cliff. But before long starvation, depression and insanity would surely begin to take their toll. How long would I last? And how lonely and drawn-out would the end be for me, when it finally came? Perhaps, then, to have jumped off that cliff, along with everyone else, might have been the best thing after all.”

    I’m sure you’ll agree that my teacher would have struggled for a comeback if my eight-year-old self had come up with that. It’s a shame it took so long to think of though. Compared to that, my Sara Cox retort was lightning fast.


  9. Possibly the most enigmatic wayfinding device ever

    Posted September 28, 2014 in ephemera  |  1 Comment so far

    While walking around my new office the other day I came across this mysterious wayfinding device.

    "You can go in one of two directions"

    “You can go in one of two directions”

    You can go left and you can also go right. But what will you find?

    Ah, now that would ruin the surprise.


  10. The worst yes/no dialog ever

    Posted September 8, 2014 in ephemera, user centred design  |  No Comments so far

    If I was better organised and had more time to spare, I’d collect pictures of dodgy dialog boxes and probably set up a tumblr for them.

    As it is, I only take these pictures when I come across a particularly dodgy example. Here’s one.

    "Yes to abort, No to continue"

    “Yes to abort, No to continue”

    It appeared when trying to buy petrol from a self-service machine. You’re quite stressed in those situations as you sometimes have a queue of cars waiting for you to get on with it. The last thing you need is a woeful piece of design like this that forces you to lay aside your preconceived notions of what “Yes,” “No” and big red X’s actually mean.