And we’re live…

I spent a lot of time in TV studios in my yoof. My dad was a sound engineer, and I took any opportunity I could to bunk off school or use the holidays to go and hang out on whatever he was working on.

I’d generally be left alone, because my dad had an actual job to do, so I’d raid the vending machines, chat to bored camera operators, or get given menial jobs to do, like hold a cable for 3 hours or press a button when a light flashed.

But my abiding memory of all this is getting to sit at the back of the outside broadcast truck or the control room during something going live on air.

This was absolutely magic. The energy of it all was absolutely intoxicating. Everyone knew their job. Everyone was a pro. Nothing ever went wrong (not that I’d notice). It’s just like what happens on the TV about the TV.

Later on I gravitated towards TV for a career. I worked at the BBC as a very junior engineer for a bit. But the internet was where the action was at, and where I found my people.

I do love my job. We put a lot of stuff live for a lot of people, all the time. But roadmaps and incremental iterations don’t lend themselves to that feeling of going live on air. And it’s a shame I’ll never be able to take my kids to work in the same way.

Anyway. Fun fact! 11 year old me was an extra in Mr Bean. Spot me in the first 15 seconds of this.

Everyone should have £20 to spend on Facebook Ads

If I was very rich I would give every adult in the country £20 each to spend on Facebook/Instagram Ads.

They could run ads for anything they want, subject to the usual approvals. They have to do it all themselves, in the Facebook Ads manager, no agencies or whatever.

  1. It would be very funny
  2. Everyone would get to learn about how the sausage is really made, which I think they'd find disappointing and terrifying in equal measure
  3. It’d be a nightmare for Facebook, which would also be funny

The downside is that I would be giving £800 million (40 million adults × £20) to Facebook. Anyway, hit me up if you’re rich and bored.

Two good games

I am good at two computer games and two only.

The first is Tekken 3. It's a punching and kicking game, where some of the punches and kicks are extra magical. I usually play as Xiaoyu, Hwoarang or Lei. I can do a mean Yoshimitsu if needed, but I don't enjoy it. I will play as Eddy if someone isn't expecting it, and I do enjoy it.

I used to do the sound and lights for plays at school. Amongst the equipment, behind the stage, we had a small nook where someone hid a knackered Playstation 1 and 14" TV, and we played it every break at school for two years. The combos are deeply, deeply ingrained in my brain. I guess because I learnt them during a very formative period in my life. I picked it up again the other day after more than 20 years off, and pulled off a 9 move combo in the first few mins.

I have a nagging feeling these combos might be the last thing left in my brain as everything else rots around them. The last months of my life spent in a care home, hammering out Phoenix into Wave Crest Power against unsuspecting victims.

The second is Monkey Target 2, which is a party game in Super Monkey Ball 2 on the Gamecube. The objective is to launch your monkey down a ramp and into the air, open the wings, and glide down onto targets of different sizes in the sea below. I am very good at this. I can land this bloody monkey on a tiny speck in the ocean, from miles out, in high winds. This is how people get recruited to be drone operators.

Again: formative years. I played this for hours in a student house on George's Gamecube. I played this again a few years later with Tom and I vaguely remember him crying with laughter at how good I was at it.

I am not good at any other computer games. Do something productive with your 10,000 hours people.

Unpossibles: Shakedry and the PFAS ban

I always find it interesting when technological progress goes backwards. When something becomes unpossible. And I also love a good story in the nexus of manufacturing/fashion/materials science/cycling.

One thing we've taken for granted over the last 30 years is good quality waterproofing. All that Gore-Tex and Hyvent and AquaDash. (Jokes, the last one is a kids' session at our local leisure centre.)

Gore-Tex's best performing material is called Shakedry. Most waterproofing has a 2 or 3 layer construction, but Shakedry gets rid of a layer. That makes it less likely to clog up with sweat and dirt and therefore very breathable and light. I've never stomached the cost, but everyone who has a Shakedry jacket swears by it.

But it turns out the production process for Shakedry (and all the best waterproofing materials from other brands), is incredibly damaging, producing PFCs and and other byproducts that get in the food chain because they don't break down. More and more countries are banning PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), so Gore-Tex have stopped selling Shakedry and there's no replacement.

Manufacturers are trying loads of different stuff. Maybe some of it'll perform as well one day, but there's no simple answer. In the meantime the cycling nerds are hoarding Shakedry.

Anyway. Hi.

2021: week 14

  • A couple of years ago I converted an old Bang & Olufsen CX50 speaker to take a Hifiberry Beocreate DSP amplifier and a Raspberry Pi running Airplay and Spotify Connect.

    The Beocreate board has an active crossover and supports a DSP profile tuned for the CX50, so it sounds great. And I love the design — it’s just a nice object.

    Last week I managed to pick up a second board on eBay to convert the other speaker in the pair, so now we've got synchronised audio in our kitchen and living room.

    I’m very pleased with the result, but I really wish all this stuff was easier and more accessible to more people. I want to live in Walkaway, but instead I live in Github Issues.

  • The world’s largest construction vessel was sitting off our local beach this weekend until it went up the Forth.

  • Big up to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It’s very chill being able to go for a ride, and head up a path that just looks a bit fun without worrying about trespassing. And there’s a lot of paths that look a bit fun.

  • Did you know, most of Edinburgh has the telephone poles at the back of the house/tenament, not on the street? It's just a thing I've noticed, because ours is draped precariously across a neighbours’ tree, almost low enough to hang their washing on. I imagine at some point that will become our problem.

    Is this is the kind of content people put in the subscriber only newsletters?

2021: week 10

  • F cut my hair on Wednesday evening. The next morning L announced that I looked ‘hairyless’ and it's made me chuckle all week.

  • I’ve been enjoying S and A playing Knights and Bikes on the PS4. It’s the first game that A has got into, and it's nice that it’s a co-op with her older brother. Fun fact: Rex, one of the makers, did the original Newspaper Club logo person.

  • I rode out to a castle yesterday. They’re bloody everywhere. The countryside is littered with them.

  • I went for a walk with S in early March last year, when it was becoming obvious what was going to happen. It felt like a moment. We (mostly me) talked about how things like this - big shared experiences, with lasting impacts - don’t happen very often and it’ll be a memorable moment in his life.

    Like all meaningful chats with a 7 year old boy, he mostly shrugged, before asking when we could have a snack. C’est la vie.

  • Edd did a very good pub quiz for us on Friday afternoon, with an entire round dedicated to guessing prominent dates from the pre-history of Breakroom, based on his archaeology of our GitHub account. I was almost an entire year off guessing when we retired one of our early products. An entire year! Startup time is weird. Thankfully we avoided any questions about my git history.

2021: week 8

  • The weather was nice this weekend so I finally got out on a bike ride out of Edinburgh. I don't really know where I'm going, so I did Two Houses from Ronde Cycling Club. It was great!

    The route went through two massive car free estates (thanks Right to Roam!) right by the sea. Little bit of jeopardy with sheep sauntering across the road on fast descent. Perfect.

  • We also rode around Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. At Dunsapie Loch we spotted an (the?) otter just hanging out having a splash. Sorry (not sorry) to everyone who got overtaken on the hill up by 3 kids screaming “OVERTAKE! OVERTAKE! OVERTAKE!“.

  • This week I received 3 calls and texts from people concerned about our missing cat, including a carer calling on behalf of her client, a man who was very concerned. All were relieved to hear he returned safely.

  • We’ve been watching Dark. It is, as a friend would say, absolute bobbins.

  • When asked how old she was, L replied that she was "one and a tortoise". It took a while, through lots of laughter, but eventually we worked out she meant "and a quarter". Actually, she’s nearly 3.

  • I managed to touch my toes briefly.

2021: week 7

  • Bit late this week. Standards are slipping already.

  • It has been very snowy here. Proper snow, that sticks and stays. I took an impromptu morning off on Thursday to go sledging with the kids. Best decision I made all week.

  • On Satuday morning we got a cat flap installed. I attempted to teach the cats to use said cat flap. Big cat: totally fine. Little cat: not fine. Absolutely terrified, he does a runner down the end of the garden, back again, and then over a wall into next door and gone.

    The rest of Saturday was spent trying to decide how much to worry.

    Sunday was spent worrying and leafleting our street. The gardens behind our house opened up to let us have a look around. We posted on a few local Facebook groups.

    The neighbours got in on the action, with excited reports of footsteps sighted in the snow and other minor disturbances.

    Some time in early hours of Sunday he returned. Where did you go little cat? What did you see? He's giving nothing away.

  • In retrospect, Cat Shit Gate might have had some lasting impacts.

  • S and A will now go down the road and buy our croissants for Saturday morning coffee. We get a little push notification on Monzo when the transaction is made, so we know they've not been child murdered.

  • I went to the same cafe during the week and asked for a bacon roll. They were out of rolls, but very politely I was asked if I could pop over to the corner shop over the road to pick some more. Briefly, this completely threw me before I realised it was a very reasonable request.

  • That it's. That's the week note.

2021: week 6

  • Like Tom, I've been trying to touch my toes. Doing so has revealed a litany of issues, so I've been doing some Yoga with Adriene in the mornings. It's free, she's not too hippy, and sometimes her dog comes and sits on her and we all have a laugh about it.

  • Sometime in November I was pulling away from a junction on my bike, when I looked down to discover the frame had snapped. One of the lugs on the 1970s FW Evans frame had rusted through, irreparably, leaving me to perform an emergency glide-to-a-halt on Homerton Road.

    Thankfully I'm blessed with an array of other bikes to choose from, but it's useful having a looks-knackered-but-is-actually-nice city bike, and I missed it.

    This weekend I finally managed to finish building up a late 80s Dawes Galaxy, in a royal blue. (Along with overhauling a new-to-him Islabike for S.)

    I really loved the Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub gear on the Evans. 3 speeds is all you need for living in most parts of London, but it's not very practical for Edinburgh’s vertical cobbles. So the Galaxy has a MEGARANGE rear casette and very wide double at the front. I think we're going to get on just fine.

    My father-in-law is planning to turn the Evans frame into windchimes.

  • We need to replace a couple of the single glazed windows in our new place with double glazing. The man, a glazier, who came round to look said he didn't believe in double glazing and that it was all a lie.

    Which reminds me of the damp specialist who didn't believe in damp. Something about how the English invented it, and nowhere else in the world has damp and it was all just condensation. I don't really understand, but I think about it a lot.

  • There's a special machine that shakes oranges off trees into a big hopper, and they use it in Valencia. I miss Valencia.

2021: week 5

  • I've adjusted to Edinburgh absolutely fine by wearing an extra layer at all times.

  • We're doing the 7 hills, one a week. First up was Calton Hill. Getting the cargo bike to the top might have given the kids the wrong idea.

  • My bike route planning brain needs an upgrade to handle a third dimension, and an extra boolean flag for cobbles.

  • I love forums where the really famous people from that community also hang out. Tao Geoghegan Hart popping into LFGSS to say thanks to everyone congratulating him on winning the Giro is a great example.

  • The kids are starting to be better than me at things, which is a both a joy and a harrowing reminder of my limited utility. This week, Dobble, in which it's clear my pattern-matching-to-vocalising pathways have degraded further than I'd hoped.