When I realised I was walking past it, I went in. It’s all that and more: the good bits of magma, John Lewis, 4D model shop, Paperchase, anywhere crafty. And all carefully but casually laid out. You can have all kinds of material cut to order; there’s a sewing studio. I picked up some very fine whiteboard markers and static-cling post-its.
It made me a little sad – I’d always told myself that something like Tokyu Hands just wouldn’t work in Europe, but here it is, so useful and inspiring.
One thing quickly pulls us back into European reality:
Modulor fail. Printer supplies section closed on Saturdays. WTF.— Boris Anthony (@Bopuc) May 4, 2013
Anyway. When in Berlin, go.
Modulor, Prinzenstr. 85, Berlin. U-bahn Moritzplatz.
email: chris is at anti-mega.com
One of the things I talked about at UX London (which I will write up soon) was a thing called Kindleframe. I realised that every morning I checked on a few apps that did a few things – the weather for the day, how the tubes were running, and my two calendars, work and home. Well, if I remembered I checked. And when I didn’t, I was always caught out by a tube line being out of action or that it would be raining heavily later.
So I wanted something that pulled all of this information together. Initially I thought something by the front door (like Russell’s bikemap) but I realised I didn’t have any useful power sockets near the door. So then it turned into something that could sit on my bedside table.
A Kindle seemed like the perfect display or information radiator. It’s e-ink, so it’s not glowing in the dark. And the hi-res of the screen means that you can fit quite a lot of information in a small space that’s still readable. There are three problems: the first is that the power connector is on the bottom of the device. The second is that it’s not flat on the bottom. To solve both, I turned it upside down (and added a right angle micro USB cable to make it a little less intrusive). The third is the charging light next to the power connector, which needs black insulating tape to solve. I did think about putting it into an actual picture frame, but there’s really no need (and the glass made it harder to read when I tried it). Simply take a cheap picture frame, remove the back with the stand, and use tape, glue or Command strips to stick it to the Kindle’s back.
I used the code from this weather display, but swapped out the SVG renderer with PhantomJS and a simple web page that loads 4 other web pages: TfL information, BBC weather, a page made out of two scripts that minimally render my Google calendars, and a page from github that I could update with freetext. Then I set up a cron job on the server to render a page every 5 minutes, turn it upside down (with imagemagick) and compress it with pngcrush into something the Kindle could display. The pages are mobile-friendly so they render well on the Kindle.
On the Kindle, I jailbreaked it, and installed a script to download (wget) the rendered image from the server and display it (eips -g) every 5 minutes.
Because it’s just the web, it’s easy to update and change URLs to build into the page – e.g. the BBC mobile weather URL changed after a few weeks, and it was easy to update the html page to point to the new URL.
If you want to build something similar, I suggest reading everything (especially the comments) on the original kindle weather display, and then you can grab what extra little code there is from here. Jailbreaking the Kindle is quite infuriating, especially getting login via wi-fi working, so please see the forums if you need help with that.
This is great, partly because it’s rare to see the design/product process in public for such a project, but also because it’s a latent need I’ve seen in every job I’ve had. I’ve mainly worked in large corporations, where teams are all working together but often with others, remotely located; I mean, sometimes on another floor, sometimes in another city, sometimes 8 timezones away. A need that’s never been scratched, with corporate IT providing overbooked, expensive videoconferencing when everyone just wanted to use Skype.
Smart things are often proposed to connect people and teams, but they’re always overwrought and overthought (or wisened and abandoned like most intranets). Just showing what’s going on, elsewhere, elsetime, is what’s needed to connect. So something like Polarbear, on 24/7, gives enough personal and emotional connection to continue conversations and teamwork when physically apart.
Somehow reminds me of the BBC penguins too.
I went up the Shard on Friday, on the first day of public opening. The floors of the viewing galleries, 69 and 72, are the same ones I stood on in 2011, when they had just been poured. Still a great view, best in London.
More cuckoo clocks.
Ramen, then. Whilst burgers go deep into the trough of disillusionment in London (there are 3 burger places opening in Soho just this week), we’re into the hype cycle with ramen. Ittenbari opened a few months ago, then Tonkotsu, and now Bone Daddies and Shoryu.
Ramen hasn’t been totally devoid in London: the secrets of Nagomi at lunchtime, Cocoro, Ramen Seto (RIP) and the once a week ramen at Shochu Lounge were certainly shared in the Japanese community, hoping for a taste of the original. Friends who wouldn’t touch ramen in Tokyo would obsess over eating a London ramen, all fell a little short of the mark.
I’ve been waiting for good ramen places to opening in London for years. I wanted the choice, the exoticness of all the ramens catalogued on Ramen Adventures ; cheese ramen, silent ramen, fatty ramen. I’ve had a few in Japan, eaten my way round the Yokohama Raumen Museum, and Hong Kong’s recent ramen infatuation. I’ve made ramen noodles by hand (it’s very hard work), and cooked the non-trad Japanese-American ramen of Momofuku. I know what I like: overdrive. Salty, over tasty, fatty ramen (in my head I have a fantasy bowl called a foie-grasmen that may kill me). Often, but not always, pork stock. Maybe an added pork cheek on the side to slide in. A soft egg. I’m not hot on mushrooms, nori and menma takes persuading. This is how I feel about ramen:
So I’m lucky. 3 places have opened serving tonkotsu. To be clear: if any of these had opened last year, I would have been deliriously happy. But now there are 3, and that means: time for a tonkotsu-off!
Tonkotsu – a pork bone soup, with ramen noodles, something vegetal, and traditionally a few slices of pork belly. Thick, milky, maybe verging on yellow. Covered in fat. A side of gyoza is acceptable, sushi less so.
One negative of all new London joints – you don’t sit at a ramen bar. Shoryu is all tables, some almost too tiny, Tonkotsu has a few bar tables, but without easy view of the ramen being prepared (it is, however, easily viewed from outside), Bone Daddies is all high tables with stools, but the kitchen is downstairs. Even Ittenbari, that used to have bar seating in its previous incarnation as Ryo, has got rid of this and used it for storage.
To the ramens –
Tonkotsu have been planning their take on ramen for over a year – I went to several of their test events at their sister restaurant, Tsuru. During these, I had a great Tokyo spicy soy ramen, and one time, honestly the best tonkotsu ramen I’ve had in the UK. It was thick and glowing yellow. The current tonkotsu at their Soho retaurant isn’t quite up to that porky craziness, but it’s still a good broth, with the best pork belly of all restaurants and a great soft boiled egg. The noodles were, sadly, on my latest visit slightly overcooked and had the soapy quality that alkali noodles can sometimes have. On the plus side, brilliant gyoza that are worth a trip in themselves and a wide beer range, from the gassy but traditional Asahi on tap to a few perfect pale ales from Kernel. They’re getting a noodle making machine for themselves soon, so they could easily edge over the competition having to import dried noodles. They also do a veggie ramen, which I don’t understand but is useful for those with tree-hugging friends. One day I will get them to hug the pig.
Bone Daddies was rumoured for a while, and finally opened a month ago. An ex-Nobu chef with a modern take on ramen. I’ve eaten there a lot, recently sampling their tonkotsu for the first time – the wide range of ramen styles is a definite plus, including the only tsukemen (or dipping noodles) in London, I think, tantanmen, sweet corn & butter ramens and more. A friend had had the tonkotsu early on, and it was clear that she’d been served a clear chicken-y broth rather than the milky pork broth. None of that problem now, it’s the thickest and tastiest of all broths at the moment. Good noodles, good pork belly, and a great soft boiled egg. You can have a pipette of pork fat to add if you wish – and I wish. There’s free garlic to smash into your ramen, and sesame grinders. If there’s any criticism, it’s that it’s served slightly cooler than a traditionalist would demand (the fat should lock in the heat). There are good, if non-traditional, sides too: cabbage and miso, house-made pickles, soft-shell crab and chicken karaage. It has loud music, which ranges from the terrible to the brilliant, but always at least over 20 years old. It’s fun, very friendly, and open late.
Shoryu is related to the Japan Centre over the road. It’s… the most Japanese. Someone bangs on a drum as you enter, and complains at the table you want to sit at. The menu, unlike the others, is mainly tonkotsu, with a variety of extra toppings, from yuzu to piri piri. The broth is delicate. It reminds me of cream of chicken soup. The soft boiled egg is a double yolker, but hard boiled in my bowl. The pork is scrappy. Loads of beansprouts. So many beansprouts. To counter all this, it has the best cooked, best tasting noodles, imported thin hosomen noodles, cooked on the harder/al dente side. It’s the most traditional and sometimes I’ll want that.
So which is best? It depends what you want, how you’re feeling. To my extravagant, fat-loving brain, it’s currently Bone Daddies. But the ramen x gyoza x kernel combination at Tonkotsu is one of the best meals in Soho. And if wanting something a bit more delicate and contemplative, I’m glad Shoryu exists. Itadakimasu!
Way back in May I gave a talk at NEXT in Berlin – a bit more theoretical than many of my talks, but I wanted to make the point that things like trust and authenticity aren’t binary – these are built slowly, and gained in the minds of people by doing the right thing. Also that the best trust is from just doing your job, and letting your employees & customers tell their stories.
Here’s the video:
and here are the slides:
Spam, spamlets and Spambots by Russell Davies
Enough project: conflict minerals
General Electric tumblr
Iceland wants to be your friend
Curators of Sweden
If I may conclude with a personal hint for increasing the enjoyment of walks—it would be to develop a hobby. One of the best and the most obvious is to train your eye to watching birds, to make at least some mental note of all the species that you see and where you see them ; with longer practice to discover how to recognise them by their songs and calls ; to notice the dates upon which the migrants arrive in the spring. Birds are an endless amusement.
If you have a taste for “records”, the same game can be played with trees and flowers, observing in each year when you first see this flower in bloom, that tree in leaf.
Crops are another entertaining study, especially if from time to time you cross familiar ground and can remember what was grown in each field last year. At the end of a 12-mile walk in summer, have you ever tried to recall what fields of barley, wheat and oats you passed—and not been sure of any? It would be much more amusing to know. There are several kinds of barley, too, each with different uses. It would be much more fun if you knew what they were. Not a case for looking it up in a book. Get a farm-worker to show you.
It doesn’t really matter what subject you choose as your hobby. There must be fifty different kind of fastenings used on farm gates. Some of them are very odd ; some are very silly. Most of them are peculiar to some particular district. They might be a comic collection of devices to observe. Perhaps you don’t think so. Well, windmills may interest you more. But anyway the great thing is not to go for a walk in the country and see nothing at all.
London, July, 1933.
So onto my experience of time – I am sure it is the same for everyone else who gets to my stage in life and it is a cliché that we all know time gets faster. There is only so much time to get all the things that you want to do done and every day that passes there is less of that time. Conclusion – do what you want to do now, do not wait until tomorrow, or for when the time is right, or the weather is better, or you have done your exams. And don’t piss around; keep focussed on what it is you are trying to do, even if part of that is is not quite knowing what it is. Do not wait for someone to give you permission. You do not need to be given permission to make great music, you just make it. Or you die trying. Either way you win.
In 2022, we will think what a weird idea the computer is.
A desktop, certainly odd, tied to its place, bound by electricity, cable and volume.
Even laptops, the physical connection between input, computation and output will seem weird. I work on the thing I am at. I see on the things that I see.
Here’s the talk I gave last week at the (very wonderful) Do Lectures –
A few things I probably didn’t stress enough (and I got known as the DNA guy due to my talk, but there’s more to it than that):
Honestly, if your business isn’t considering how computation changes things, you’re toast – especially those industries that haven’t traditionally been computerised or modernised.
Genetic testing will not be optional very soon in the future – doctors and specialists will need your genetic data to make medical decisions (especially about treatment and drugs). Whether or not you analyse the rest of your results is between you and your doctor.
23andme is a very bare-bones service – it could really do with a layer of genetic counselling or intepretation of your data. Unless you’re pretty conversant with genetics and statistics, the numbers and results are pretty meaningless.
As an individual – if you don’t have literacy with science or technology, you’re at a disadvantage. I may not go quite as far as Program Or Be Programmed, but it’s definitely no longer funny to laugh away lack of technical prowess. Technology directly affects lives every moment and every decision, and unless you understand what and how the technology works, and who and why they are using it, you’re being blindly led.
Anyway. Other news.
Last week I also left Dentsu London (now mcgarrybowen) and this week I started at the Government Digital Service. Big hard problems to solve, working very close to the code. Enjoying it a lot.
Next week, Next 12 in Berlin…