that was a week, 16 February 2020

I finally started to take apart my brexit food stash this week. Most things still in date, but the plastic wrapped stuff like rice is the first that needs using up. I’ll be leaning heavily on Jack Monroe’s Tin Can Cook.

I was listening to the latest episode of Off Menu where they talk about strawberry sauce being the same as sweet chilli sauce, and I instantly wanted soft serve ice cream with sweet chilli sauce on. Obviously, people being people and the Internet being the Internet, this has been tried this before (with chile crisp and salsa matcha!). Still trying to work out how to either bring chilli sauce to a McDs or get the ice cream home quick enough from somewhere. (update: I am a fool – of course McDs does sweet chilli sauce. Here we go!)

More recent podcast recommendations:

The founders of Honest Burgers talking about how they’ve scaled into a chain without reducing quality

Dave Chang talking to critic Adam Platt – very surprised that no-one mentions service being important to enjoying a meal. Great food is ruined by bad service, ok (even terrible) food can be redeemed by great hospitality and buzz.

Who wouldn’t want to listen to Davina McCall trying KFC for the first time? (be aware, after they try it the podcast gets very heavy very quickly (not the aftermath of the KFC, another topic))

I made Anna Jones’ dal and chutney. It was good (I’ve never had a zingy sour dal before), but I’ve realised why I didn’t get on with her book as much as others – I find some of the instructions oddly tricksy and either far too detailed or not detailed enough. I mean – this is unnecessary: “Once the fat is hot, add the curry leaves, chillies, mustard seeds, fenugreek and garlic, one at a time, pausing for a second between each addition and swirling the pan.” And then being very specific about using different kinds of oils to cook with. But then just saying a thumb sized piece of ginger.

Robin Sloan hit the metaphor on the head about coding and cooking. I’m even less than a programming home cook these days. I can barely microwave a meal. I know what I want at the end but I don’t often recognise the ingredients or the microwave. Whilst cooking methods do change, it’s far slower than how programming has changed (since I did it. for money!).

I am very here for the Wuhan food stans – Robert Sietsema is eating his way round Wuhan cuisine (presumably in NY?), this pancake looks amazing (is it doupi?) and Helen Rosner following up on the epic food post of cooking under lockdown.

Google maps on iOS now has incognito mode. It’s unclear what that means.

I’ve never got into Youtube as entertainment, but it’s nice to see what someone like Matt Haughey watches to replace traditional TV broadcasting.

NYT unpicks how dances and sounds move (or are appropriated) between online communities and apps. It’s maybe a bit inside baseball. I am, however, interested to know if anyone is recording, archiving or cataloguing these things. Less easy to do than, say, knowyourmeme. There also isn’t much coverage or criticism of it, other than when things get massive and leak into the mainstream.

Yet another Clive James postcard, this time from LA. I think I remember watching this one the first time round – from a time (1995) where having a personal trainer or going to the gym as a hobby was weird, or at least niche. Interesting to see what has changed, and what hasn’t.

that was a fortnight, 9 February 2020

Didn’t post last week as I’ve been the CEO of colds for the last fortnight. A particularly long running but pretty low impact cold – hard to justify not being in work (apart from the first few days when I couldn’t think straight), even though I’m pretty hard line on ill people staying away. Anyway it’s left me feeling run down and not in the mood for adventures.

Did go to Margate for a run around the shell grotto and some of Felix’s cocktails. It was particularly windswept and all the men had mustard yellow beanies.

Went to see Leopoldstadt, currently on an extended pre-press night run. It just made me realise how few traditional plays I see and everyone just seemed to be talking at each other in staccato sentences. You’re obviously going to get emotional impact with the subject matter, but there were few other redeeming features.

If you’re not in the Snapchat/Instagram story/TikTok media bubble, you won’t be aware of “things on foreheads” as a new UI/interaction design. I think the best I’ve seen is ‘which Bosch character are you’.

Tiktok remains the best place to find out what life in Wuhan is actually like at the moment (I suspect Douyin may be better, but I haven’t got round to jumping the hoops to install it). This epic post about how to cook in a pandemic is great too.

I don’t like tension in things that I watch, so I’ve avoided Uncut Gems so far, preferring Vera and Inspector Montelbano. Terrible things have happened but there’s absolutely no tension whilst they’re investigated – at best it’s a historical murder with a recent incident just to add some degree of spiciness. My only complaint is recently a lot of the murderers aren’t even mentioned or seen for the first hour, or even until the last 15 minutes.

Some more of Clive James’ postcards, that often feel a bit forced in the premise (every episode is weirdly car-centric), vs the equally contrived but very barbed Frankie Boyle’s Scotland travelogue.

Onion platzels from Beigel Bake (the right one, not the wrong one)

The online version of iCloud Notes is now really good (just in time as work have turned off our Apple logins)

Via TikTok I learnt that teenagers are still speaking to complete strangers, via omegle. Terrifying. As a committed introvert that only uses video chat with people I know under extreme force, I can’t imagine why you’d want to do this. Anyway, you go you.

that was a week, 27 January 2020

(consider everything this week NSFW)

Another week down the TikTok meme mines.

Really enjoyed Charlie Shackleton‘s video essay about criticism in the age of TikTok (thanks Kim). The style of in-device movement around apps reminded me of Grosse Fatigue.

There is some criticism on TikTok these days, notably people getting angry at appropriation of foreign language lyrics, where creators are using what it sounds like rather than what it actually means – eg “no I know” versus “não vai não” – or not understanding quite how rude the lyrics they’re dancing to are. The Duet filter/function is a natural mode for in-TikTok criticism.

One of the hardest things to get used to is the American take on what rude words are (b-s and n-s are allowed, but f-s are bleeped), and that most of the dancing is to pretty offensive rap. I realise this is my problem, not theirs – and it’s not like there wasn’t similar music when I was a teenager. But there’s something jarring between the all-white American smiles against descriptions of precisely how, where and who will be gunned down.

Sounds like Tesco have now caught up with TikTok, and forced employees to take down all the videos filmed in Tescos or in uniform (but I haven’t heard of anyone being fired). I think they’ve missed a trick.

There’s a whole other side to TikTok I haven’t engaged with – live broadcasting. It’s the only way for users to directly make money off the app. But it feels like a step too far for me to explore. I’m old enough to be their dads.

Going back to using TikTok for criticism – I’m really surprised no-one is doing, for want of a better word, GoggleTok: clips of TV reaction criticism, given how embedded the Gogglebox format is in UK vernacular. There’s been some posts around Sex Education (eg which characters people like or dislike) but there’s very little reaction to bits of TV, even though a lot of the sound clips people reuse come from TV and film. Given some phones can now record from both front and back cameras at once, it feels like a natural split screen format for TikTok, or an upgrade for the green screen filter that’s one of the most interesting genres on TikTok.

This week’s old person on TikTok who gets it is Max Foster from CNN.

Also, Byte launched – a Vine remake. It’s likely to be popular with a different demographic to TikTok (ok boomers), but there’s a lot of reposting between the two at the moment. It’s currently very stripped down compared to TikTok, and I miss the richness of background sounds, innovative use of titling and filters, and the difference between a few seconds of video and the 60 seconds TikTok now allows.

In non-short-form-video news:

Started watching the Bon Appetit cinematic universe. Not quite hooked yet.

It’s great to hear that the Thomas Cook archives have been kept as a collection and will be properly looked after. Good work by the Business Archives Council.

Sourdough real talk

that was a week, 19 January 2020

Let’s get back on the horse.

I was away for 3 weeks over Christmas and the New Year. It was fun, and I’ll try to write something up, but I didn’t get the weird timeless lull of days doing nothing. Tried to do very little over the last few weekends to recreate some rest.

Finished the second season of Sex Education on Netflix. Maybe a touch more unbelievable than the first series (even set in the hyper world of US education facilities in small town UK). Weird pacing too, with a real lull in the middle and of course the last episode is trying to sort out way too much. Only cried 5 times.

There’s nothing new to say about Netflix’s relentless pushing of the next thing to watch, in audio & video, but some kind of soft landing after a boxset would be really nice. Maybe with the horrible fragmentation of video on demand, viewer’s experience may become more important again.

It’s January, so unlike December, all the supermarkets are full of vegan and plant based meals. The no chicken kiev from M&S is, if anything, better than the original. You’re eating a kiev for the crunch and the garlic, rarely for the chicken. I’m not vegan, or vegetarian, but I don’t see the point in eating meat, if the meat isn’t the point.

Channel 5 ended up doing slow TV better than the BBC – watch the train go from Glasgow to Mallaig.

Two of Clive James’ Postcards series were shown by BBC4. Maybe more withering on the 80s, and class, in retrospect.

Was pointed to papicocafe on Instagram, highlighting some old timey Japan. Something to pair with craigmod’s epic essay about pizza toast and kissatens.

Rob Auton’s podcast is good but the novel format (2-5ish minutes daily) doesn’t fit with the created strictures of modern podcasting (30 seconds of bad adverts at the beginning and end).

Was looking for something else on the Ikea website, but found this very cheap plant water sensor. I’m intrigued by the new acoustic panels too.

Keeping an eye on this court case over a piece of light art. It feels really at the edge of art expression, but also involves Chinese product manufacturers advertising how to recreate.

The Guardian’s post on European city museums is good. Lots of gems in the comments, for once.

Mostly I’ve spent a lot of time watching TikTok. Once you get over the initial headspin and general revulsion of the first half an hour it’s both interesting and fun. I know Vine was something similar, but I never really got into that, and the scale of this is massive. It’s different to most social media in that it’s generally watching strangers, and very different to YouTube due to the length of the posts (10-20 seconds of video).

Given it doesn’t know anything about you at the start, its filters start very location specific (UK), but the main page (For You) is completely atemporal. There’s nothing to indicate when the post was from, so even now, I’m getting some posts from before Christmas. It feels like the algo thrashes about, giving you 10 minutes of cat videos before heading off to another data point. It’s very receptive to “full watches” of videos.

The first half an hour was horrible. If you’re used to Instagram, it’s very… ITV1/2/3/4 compared to Instagram’s Channel 4. You’re in a lot of people’s houses, workplaces and schools. There’s a lot of singing and dancing. There’s weirdly specific TikTok lighting for teenager bedrooms. There’s also a lot of privilege on display, from “private school check” to “rich person check” and the inevitable shysters selling drop shipping, cryptocurrencies and forex trading as get rich quick schemes (which if anything lends credence to the platform, as a place where people are and things are happening). And sure, there was some very upfront homophobia – the blocking and reporting tools are pretty meagre but are there. Between some blocking and giving it a few hashtags, people and songs to watch for, it became a far more manageable place.

The flip side to potential abuse is that it’s also got lots of LGBT+ and other minorities finding themselves, and finding others.

It feels like a richer description of humanity than Twitter or Instagram. It’s bored people at work or school or at home – I don’t know if the social media policies of all the large companies hasn’t caught up yet, or if they don’t care. Tesco and McDonalds seem to do pretty well out of it in the UK. Also seeing people reacting to their university and Oxbridge places over the last week has been quite something.

I spent a good half an hour in tears laughing at the “sent these lyrics” thing. With the in-phone green screen effect, it’s people singing and laughing over the text conversation they had. It’s different and new. And funny (and already splintered into several different memes – find the ones where they text old(er) people).

Beverley Knight is really good at it. And can’t quite understand, like all over 25s on the app, famous or not, why she’s not more popular. I don’t want to post any videos on there, but I kinda want to learn the dances just to be able to jump in the back of anyone I see recording.

It’s people having a moment of fun. The kids are alright. It is nice to see people having fun on the Internet, again.

that was a week, w/e 8 December 2019

Not quite a week, but Sunday feels a good time to catch up.

Feel in a rush, as to my mind, Christmas is in a week’s time, as that’s when I finish work to go to HK and Seoul. Sifting 76 CVs didn’t help much.

Intrigued by Seoul but realise it’s a very different culture to any I’ve visited before, especially, for my purposes, in how they view single diners. So quite a lot more prep and reading and making of maps (all in KakaoMap as Google doesn’t really work). Learning a lot from the Netflix category “Korean TV Programmes about Food”, which are mainly sit… coms? dramas? reality? Mainly watching “Let’s Eat“, a drama about a group of single neighbours in Seoul (also Men Are Terrible, Global edition), and “Chef & My Fridge“, a never-ending reality show with random k-celebs and random chefs cooking things. All are impossibly full of customs and seeming rudeness.

Amazing performance of Reich’s Drumming at the Hayward, where it was originally performed 40 years ago, even if the acoustics meant most of the last third on glockenspiels were lost and almost painful (the Riley exhibit is great, but apart from the main room on the top floor, not given any space to breathe).

W3C have funded an online course about web accessibility, but I’ve already received 5 needy emails from the learning platform they’re using for it.

The ‘Christmas special’ of Live at The Apollo features great sets by Ahir Shah and Laura Lexx.

Let’s not talk about the banana. It’s kinda sorta maybe not the end of the decade, so here come the lists; like the “best art”.

VR developer update: the weird 3d camera I bought only has an app for the Oculus Go, and not the Quest. You can, after much googling, only upload files to the headset using Android File Transfer if you are *not* in developer mode. Accessing through Dropbox is almost the easiest method.

Anyway, in Venice I took some 3d photos and video to start exploring what works. It’s interesting for vistas with things in close and middle distance, and room sized 3d with some objects around; not got the resolution or the optics for exploring close up objects in detail. Some of the videos really work. More to explore.

Why? It feels like when I discovered the Internet, and the same with mobile phones. The tech now is horrible, expensive, ugly and heavy (and most importantly, antisocial), but there’s a glimpse of something new – it won’t be VR, it’s that AR will creep up on you without you noticing. So some early experiments hopefully puts me 5 minutes ahead of the curve.

If you do have an Oculus Quest, this list of immersive experiences by NoProscenium is great.

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that was a week, w/e 2 December 2019

The Jim Moir programme on video art is good (I know I’m the only person who likes video art). I’ve scribbled “Def II” next to it, so something in it either reminded me of Def II or it said something about how cheap video cameras and production changed everything – Mark Leckey referenced something similar when talking about Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore.

Good Abram Games exhibition at the otherwise profoundly opinionated and depressing National Army Museum (so many shooting gun interactives for kids) – Games describes the design process as “[they] went through agonies to simplify everything”, which is as close to the truth as anything I’ve heard.

Instagram is for no reason showing me a lot of climbing videos recently, impressive but daft, especially these home climbing gyms.

Was in Brussels for a meeting about web accessibility at the EC and whilst it’s a ███████ ███████████, ██’█ ███ ███████ █’██ ████ ██ ███████ ██████ ███ ████████ ███████ ██████. ████ ██ ███ ██████ █ ███ ██, █████ ████ ████████ ████ █-██████████, ███████ ███████ ███ ████ ████ [redacted due to pre-election period]. Anyway, it’s Christmas beer season in Belgium. I do miss European ideas of pubs, with generally seated drinking, table service and mountains of cheese.

The new Stewart Lee double A-side is a barnstormer.

I haven’t watched Reggie in China, but the trailers make it seem as naively wide-eyed as most recent trips by celebrities to Japan – a travelogue trope that hasn’t changed since I was a kid. A little better is Our Guy in Japan – in each episode he goes to help some artisan, who are mainly quite impressed that, as a mechanic, he knows what he’s doing. Also a tour of a Japanese slum is more off kilter than you usually get in these programmes.

60+ applicants for 1 job role we’ve had open. It’s tough out there.

Learnt the hard way about bruchid beetles. Remaining dried beans are now in the freezer. Gardening is a never ending learning curve.

VR developer update: I bought the cable. And managed to get something from Unity on my Mac into the Quest. Just need to learn Unity now.

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that was a week, w/e 23 November

Spent a good chunk of the last 2 weeks interviewing, and it’s about to happen again. This time for a generalist role – common in the civil service, but I’ve never interviewed generalists before. I assume the ones with the necessary skills will become apparent.

They really should teach mortgages, ISAs, pensions, stocks and shares at school. Better general studies than just what the washing label icons mean. After the basics I send people to Checksies.

Design Museum for the Designs of the Year show – much shrugging from me. Didn’t like the walled presentation, apart from the architecture section, which made every entry make a 2 screen film. Great idea but they were art directed into having almost no script (but obsessed about telling you what camera it was filmed on (Blackmagics were popular)). Impossible to tell why the winners won.

Bought the Kenya Hara back catalogue so I can work out what Hurrell’s chatting about.

A trip to Southampton to see the Haroon Mirza show – excellent, Dream Machine is the 2nd most mind bending artwork after Turrell’s Perceptual Cells. Also the Sea City museum – much like every other maritime museum, alas (apart from some decent mapping and storytelling of the many locals who served and died on the Titanic). Best bit was probably getting the volunteers who are digitising the extensive maritime ephemera archive to pick a cabinet’s worth of stuff. Lots of ship menus, obvs.

Never been to a city where everyone who grew up or studied there asked “why?”.

Although it would be an exemplary showcase for bad town planning, since about the 1400s.

Had hkmap.live open most of the week.

My attempt at VR development ended when I needed a USB-C cable.

If you are a designer, and in any way, non straight/cis, fill in the queer design count.

(no, don’t call this a week note)

9322 7.21 82 59 110 5.55 7 –

obviously

I went on holiday and never came back again.

I did have lots of things faved, but I’ve thought about one of them every day since.

Sorry, not that.

This.

*looks through list of links*

Hmm. Where’s it gone?

*googles for 45 minutes*

It might have been this?

Something similar to this, at least.

Not that I am aphantasic, but I know my mind has certain biases and things it can memorise easier than others.

Actually, maybe it was in a book. Something about old fashioned designers saying there’s one true ‘objective’ way to think about things, leading to one true ‘best’ design. Or maybe it was in one of the many bauhaus exhibitions this year? It’s obviously nonsense.

How can we better design for the different ways people minds really work? With so much difference in mental images and models?

(Good user research can scratch the surface, but I doubt the depth of research needed is ever done across a wide enough group of people to capture different ideas of the mind. And research analysis tends to be reductive.)

things I have faved, #16

More of a list of links than usual. I’m off on holiday. ☀️

The Center for Land Use Interpretation is always great (and in LA is next to maybe the best museum in the world, the Museum of Jurassic Technology) – and they publish a quarterly newsletter. Here’s Winter 2019 – helium, fertiliser production, bombing ranges and targets…

Observer Food Monthly’s top 50 food things right now – obviously PRed and zeitgeisty, but always an interesting list.

I’m currently a bit obsessed with Danny Bowien – he’s featured in the 6th series of Mind Of A Chef, that I was completely oblivious too because it’s on Facebook Watch. I’ve used a lot of TV platforms in my time, and FB Watch is easily the suckiest. I don’t think anyone who made it watches TV or uses Facebook. Maybe find other ways to get it… it’s worth it for the lamb noodle soup in episode 2.

Eater have stepped up to the plate with a great set of articles about eating in Taipei. Some bloggers are where I’ve been to find good recommendations before.

There’s a lazy/cheap music format on BBC4 of two celebrities picking music videos on a theme, which has mainly been a bit shrug, but this episode on vocal greats is magic.

Nice piece on the refreshed MK Gallery in Milton Keynes

Dick Bruna’s book covers

things I have faved, #15

I was lucky enough to get to see the Haroon Mirza (now closed) and Mark Fell shows recently. Both have “extreme” modern sound works, using the new materialities of mass controllable LED lights, for one. Focal Point is always worth a trip to Southend (and see their great ongoing Radical Essex work).

I’m so tempted to head over to Paris for this Vasarely exhibition. Good merch, too.

Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy is a great side salad to the Comedians of the World series. Comedy under extreme conditions – even creating the idea of stand-up in some of the countries.

A Jolibee opened in very west London just before Christmas. I regularly see people on the Jubilee line at Stratford with many massive bags of Jolibee. Does Chickenjoy withstand a reheat?

It emerged that Polpo was struggling against a massive tax bill, and from long-term management malaise. It seems a sad story of bringing in a management team to let the founders go off and do other things (eg Four Seasons) but then losing a lot of the magic that the mini-chain was known for. The first funny smell for me was opening a Spuntino in Heathrow Airport. The owners have a lot of goodwill in the industry, and it’s times like this you really need it. Hopefully they can turn the chain around.

I saw Wagamama advertising on TV. TV ads for restaurant chains (fast food excepted) are pretty rare here compared to, say, the US. It’s hard to know what to focus on, other than that “we still exist”. I get the feeling all the mid market chains are feeling very exposed at the moment, whilst trying to pull themselves out from voucher-driven deals. It’s going to get nasty.

Time Out did a list of best pastries in London – like their recent list of ‘best bakeries’, some great ones are mentioned, but it’s ended up a fairly mixed list, with some massive holes. Their list of international bakeries is more interesting.

Ugly food vs Instagram

The chef at Sheffield’s Rutland Arms, whilst single handedly trying to pull pub-goers away from brown food, has a good list of places to eat

I wish Mexican sandwiches would become London’s next food trend

the infamous Joe Beef restaurateurs sober up

I’m here for fruit watercolour Twitter

Iceberg heist

Barcelona pavilion in lasers

Japanese corporate ambient

Tour an Amazon fulfilment centre (now booking again, includes Tilbury)

Don’t trust apps with anything. or Facebook (another writeup if you can’t find the WSJ. article)