Category Archives: Thoughts

It’s like a sieve, I tell you

So I’d just left work earlier this evening and I suddenly thought of something. It was important; I know it was. I remember saying to myself: “oh, that’s a good point”. I remember that it was too long an idea to type out on my brick phone‘s T9 keypad, so fumbled around in my long-pocketed raincoat for something to write on – I can write a lot faster than I can type on a T9. But unfortunately while I did have an old receipt to write on, I didn’t have a pen. It was a sad day for me – an ex-journalist, having been taught that not having a pen about your person at all times is the most unprofessional act.

But my scumbag brain reassured me that it would retain such a truly noteworthy thought until I got home. All I can remember about it is that:

  • it would have been too long an idea to type out but I could have written (or perhaps have drawn) it; and
  • it was something to do with either work, or computing – most likely both.

It’s completely infuriating that I can speak two languages but I can’t even remember what I wanted to write down. And it turns out I had a pen on me all along. A damn good Stabilo Bionic pen: perfect for writing on even the glossiest of receipts.

→ Why I’m not going near Spotify

James Allworth:

There’s something pretty insidious buried inside music rental models like [Spotify]. Understanding [...] that we consume audio in a fundamentally different way [to the way we consume movies and television] is critical to understanding why, from a consumer point of view, paying a monthly rental fee is a risky way of obtaining music.

Now, I agree with James here – and yes: it’s an article from July – that subscription-based music services effectively lock you in as long as you want to ‘keep’ the music collection you never actually owned in the first place. And also, all that music can’t be good for you.

I do have one major problem with Allworth’s article, however, and that’s the overgeneralisation in the second paragraph that all traffic over the BitTorrent protocol is copyrighted material which should be being shared. Sorry, James, but this isn’t true. BitTorrent and pirating are not synonymous.

Memory and where I dump mine

While doing twenty things at once this afternoon, I realised just how many of my hundreds of ideas a day don’t make it to paper or a keyboard before they disappear. My memory is like a sieve and I require not one but (and I’ve counted them) eight services to hold everything that spews out of my brain somewhere until I can deal with it. I haven’t included Google Calendar or my HTC’s Voice Memos application in that magic figure: Google Calendar is, organisationally, something slightly different; and I’ve begun to use Voice Memos less and less, since the transcription was beginning to piss me off.

Of course, no two ideas are the same; but my ideas tend to be more suited to a specific one of these eight applications or services over all the others. I’m going to show you two of the eight that I use most regularly, Instapaper and Remember the Milk.

Instapaper is something that I abuse constantly. Instapaper is supposed to be about finding an article or post on the Internet but because you don’t have the time there and then to read it, you ‘save it for later’. It’s an amazing service but it comes with one downside: it’s too convenient. While I do use it in its indented fashion 75% of the time, I also use it as a place to store YouTube videos; as a wishlist; or as a list of Wikipedia articles which I’ve found typos on (I really don’t have the less-than-fifteen seconds it takes to click ‘Edit’ and correct the typo; I’m that busy). And so, to Marco Arment, I apologise: this behaviour will stop.

Remember the Milk is a truly awesome task management site. Tasks are, again, a different kind of idea: they don’t require too much work in themselves but everyone needs a reminder now and then. I can input a task in RTM and forget about it; then, every morning, I receive an email (I used to also receive direct messages via Twitter) giving me an overview of what needs to be done. The one problem I have with these emails is that they don’t include overdue tasks.

But even adding tasks can be a task in itself. Because I work a lot in the shell, I don’t just want the ability to type something like:

kevin@computer:~$ rtm "Figure out which of these Smart Add characters need to be escaped ^today !1 #rtm #investigate"

to add a task to Remember the Milk (which can be done by adding this function to your .bashrc); but I want a proper manager for my tasks. If I could get RTM and something like Taskwarrior to communicate, for instance, I’d be a happy happy man.

Moved

I haven’t written anything for a while. I’ve used the “I’ve been too busy at work” excuse before so I’m not going to bother to repeat myself. Apart from the downpours and the possibly strained muscles in my torso and left arm, moving was a success on Sunday and I’m proud to be one of the newest residents of Amsterdam-Noord. The idea of sharing a flat with roommates has never bothered my mind and I’m pleased I didn’t go down the “forever alone [when it comes to accommodation]” thinking route. I was in and out of the house on Sunday with getting things done, so I didn’t get to properly introduce myself to Shaun and Robyn until Monday evening. I won’t turn this into some kind of diary entry with comments such as “OMG me and Robyn have the same camera model” but they’re good eggs; that’s what matters. The matter of what I do for a living came up, as it does, and there’s always that moment of actually explaining what it is the company I work for actually does. While I’m by no means ashamed of where I work, there are unfortunately some people on this planet who are disgusted, even offended, by certain practices – even if they have nothing to do with it personally. I work as a designer for a fetish wholesale business operating from Duivendrecht, Amsterdam; a magical and colourful job it is, with output that can be summed up in the words of Matt of Kink Engineering fame:

Not safe for work, unless your work is awesome.

Explaining where I work is always best explained with the catalogue we produce. It’s interesting to judge people’s reactions: more people are curious and intrigued by the content than disgusted but, then again, this is the Netherlands.

Back to LA-born graphic designer Robyn and I’ve noticed I don’t use paragraphs very effectively, if at all. The company she’s currently interning for has – for the last few years – designed a series of “design and architecture [...] yearbooks”. I must say: I knew Germany was at the forefront of such industries but there are a lot of submissions from German students. Germany and the United Kingdom. One entry I’m taking interest in is that of the “pictorial communication language” Picol – I wonder just how complex the art of designing universally- or near-universally-recognisable pictograms is; I assume it takes a hell of a lot of research. Robyn’s off on holiday for the next few weeks to Italy before returning briefly to Amsterdam and then flying back to the United States, which is disappointing to say the least.

My other roommate at the moment is Dundee-born Scottish sweatheart Shaun, who’s finishing an internship with an architectural firm this week. I haven’t really talked to him much; I feel more comfortable conversing with women than men—het homoheid, natuurlijk. On the day both Shaun and Robyn move out, a young Spaniard will be arriving; people moving in and people moving out gradually all this week but I work 09:00–17:30 so I’m not exactly in the house much during the day.

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Insert title using the term ‘town’ incorrectly here

I haven’t blogged much since I started my new job; you’re probably happy with my silence. I suppose I can tell you about my evening though.

I’d like to extend my uttermost gratitude to Bradley Thompson – go follow him on Twitter – for making me understand the importance of a social life. While I don’t claim to be developing one, it’s at least a start in my opinion – even if it does cost me €7,25 for a gin and tonic. Even though I’m not the most social person on the planet meeting-people-and-being-comfortable-at-the-same-time-wise, that’s never going to change if I don’t get out there and meet people. And I live in Amsterdam, so it’s not as if language or a lack of population are hinderences. (Well…) I’ve found myself a little jazz bar in the centre-west of the city and, having gone there on Saturday to listen to the amazing Funk Allstars, I thought I’d go again yesterday evening. I got on the Metro from the station no more than eight-hundred metres from my student flat but the carriages that provide the line 53 service look like New York Subway ‘cars’ to me – with their bare metal panels and the floors soaked and stained from various fluids, and I just wasn’t having any of that. I changed trains at Van der Madeweg but tiredness and general stupidity led me astray. I got on what I thought was a 51 – the sneltram from Amstelveen – but it turns out it was a 50 and over the line to Amsterdam Centraal the flyover carried us. “Oh bother”, I thought; “but I’ll just cross over at Overamstel and get a 51 towards Centraal”. I only realised when the doors wouldn’t open for me at Overamstel station that the 51 doesn’t call at Van der Madeweg at all and that I should have changed at Spaklerweg like I did on Saturday. Anyway, …I muttered “arseholes” when the next set of doors turned its buttons off when I was half-a-metre away and stood there embarrassed as the Metro moved on to Amsterdam RAI. “I know I can get a tram north from h–”, my thought interrupted by the sight of the 4 to Centraal Station moving away from the tram stop beneath the station platforms. I carried onwards to Station Zuid, knowing that I could change to another tram that would take me towards the city centre. Luckily, the 5 goes to the same tram stop I alighted at on Saturday; the stop only a few hundred metres south of the Bourbon Street jazz and blues club – open 22:00–04:00 weekdays and until 05:00 on weekends. Decent, really cosy; not up-its-own-arse like some establishments I’m too tired to mention. The B-Funk Jam were playing on the 2 × 4-metre stage yesterday – I’m not the greatest blues follower but it was certainly a good night out with good music.

I was determined to talk to someone for at least a minute on a subject other than what drink I’d like to purchase – free entry before eleven means they have to make their money someway; hence the insane (though you’ll have to account for the exchange rate) price of a G&T.

When me and Heather Phillips plucked-up the courage to ask other students – students outside of our own class; you have to understand how serious this is(!) – for contributions to I Thought About Writing A Title last year, our first victim was deaf. Out of the few dozen in the room to strike up a conversation with, the Spanish man and his translator didn’t have much to say of interest: John Coltrane, for instance, who was mentioned an awful lot, I don’t find that much of an icon. I can understand why the conversation didn’t get very deep: in my slow learning of Dutch, I found that adjectives are far more of a pain-in-the-arse to learn than (for example) verbs; either this language business is going to be more of a problem here than I thought or these two weren’t into their blues enough to comment on the live music. (I’m sounding mighty Anglophilic today.) The Americans I was planning on “enjoying Amsterdam?”-ing during the interval left during the second song – a strong blues number – and, noöne felt remotely approachable … until I discovered that the fifty-something couple that had been standing next to me for most of the evening were (or at least spoke) English – thank fuck for that Dutch woman and her lust for that bar stool. When the interval came about and after I’d plucked up the courage to smile (but not in a Gordon Brown kind of way) and say “so, enjoy the first set?”, it transpired that they were in fact from Australia and were touring Europe for a month. After a while and with the time approaching midnight, I thanked them for their company and ran for the tram in the distance. I must say that the tram drivers of Amsterdam are a fuck ton more tolerant than the bus drivers in either Cambridge or London when one’s just missed the doors closing.

And that was my night last night. The diagonal lines under my eyes are getting more obvious with every look in the mirror and my jet black hair only accentuates them. I’m sleeping better – much better – than I was during all but one night of my forty-two-night camping ‘experience’ but several years of all-nighters, a poor diet and a lack of self-routine has left my eyes bag-laden and my face scarred. If only I didn’t know how much of a farce those caffeine eye roll-on dingetjes are, I could at least make a comfort purchase.

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Fingers

This was meant to go out yesterday evening (2011-06-22) but what with the stress of moving and having to deal with an aggressive former landlord…

I was bored on the stoptrein earlier this evening so I decided “what the fuck: I’ll go through my mobile contacts and give my British friends the +44 prefix they deserve”.

In its current form, Android’s – or maybe it’s an HTC concoction – dialer application has been designed around one main purpose: calling people. There is a People application on my Desire – again, I don’t know if it’s an HTC application or an Android application – which acts as the phone’s contact manager but I’m only interested in adding +44 to contacts that currently begin with something like 07 or 01. I know these are British numbers because for numbers I put into my phone nowadays, I make sure I add the appropriate dialing code to the beginning. Because I only want to edit certain entries, it makes sense to use the dialer over the contact manager – since the dialer displays an entry’s main phone number in small type under the contact’s name; the People application does not. The dialer does have an ‘edit’ button – or rather a ‘go to contact’ button – but it’s a little small. On occasion, I’ve accidentally started calling someone when all I wanted to do was to go to their contact card. I have to really concentrate to make sure I tap right in the centre of the ‘go to contact’ button without tapping the rest of the entry’s rectangle, which would result in me dialling them (and on a pay-as-you-go phone, an international call is something I want to avoid as much as possible).

I’ve ‘solved’ this problem by enabling Aeroplane Mode: as I said, I’m have a pay-as-you-go account in the Netherlands and mobile internet is costly in such a case – back in the UK where I had unlimited internet with O2, turning on Aeroplane Mode was a different story.

But I’m not writing this to tell you about what I did on the train. I’m wondering …why can’t I have a slightly bigger phone?; why does my phone need to be this small and its screen so narrow I can’t easily push UI elements? And, I know this isn’t going to happen but, in generations-to-come, will we have evolved to have small fingers (or perhaps pointier fingers) to cope with the size of technology?

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