Tag Archives: london

And about 500 km later…

The Prudential ride was held last week-end in London. Two years ago I walked past Green Park when the ride was happening, navigating the hordes of people in their bikes in the “Fun Zone” and wondering if I’d ever ride a bike with their ease too.

Fast forward to last Sunday, when I biked for 18 km, just for fun! Not in the race (although it could have been funny to see a Brompton-powered cyclist), but just around London. How different things are now–for the better!

Although I got the bike in late November 2014, I just started to track my rides at the end of March, out of curiosity (how fast am I? how long is my daily ride?). Since then I’ve cycled 445 km, in 66 rides that have taken me about 32 hours total.

I’m quite distrustful of all other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, and the only time I almost got hit by a van was because I trusted them too much–then they “cut a corner” and almost crunched me against the pavement; luckily I was quick to yell at them and jump aside but I still got a very minor bruise on my arm. Still I think it’s a good rate of accidents per kilometer, and I intend to keep it that way.

I am now super fast at unfolding/folding the bike, and also lifting it upstairs. I replaced the front light that the shop sold me initially with a rechargeable USB light which has also WAY more lumens. I’ve also learnt to pump the tires myself and to grease the chain–it’s very relaxing and satisfying! I also got a camera on my helmet–a bit for documental reasons but mostly acting as a deterrent (the red LED on front when recording seems to have put an end to the territorial behaviour of some drivers, it seems). I wish I hadn’t had to get the camera. Ah, if only the police were doing their job… If only the multiple traffic cameras in London were put to a good use… If only…

But other than that, my worst issue right now is that sometimes I’m in too much of a good shape and my muscles are too much for my bike, and so even with the longer speed I am still too fast for these wheels. I keep having to remind myself that this is not a road bike and there’s no need to bike SO FAST. I also wish that my issues are always like this.

In parallel to getting a bike I also kept up with my running, using one of those couch to 10K apps. I started tracking it as well–I’ve run about 240 km since then! And now I do not dread running for buses or planes as I used to. It helped me catch a plane on time on a very tight connection last month. It was worth the effort!

In contrast, the first time I intentionally went running, a little less than two years ago, I barely ran for 100 metres before I got totally out of breath. My lungs hurt. My throat hurt. It was a horrible feeling and I was ashamed to hear the answer to what have I done to my body in the last 20 years?! But now I can run 3 km non stop in a good day, and still walk after that.

I do not want to brag with this post–all the contrary. I want to share my joy and amazement at the fact that even the couchest of potatoes can turn into a somehow fit human.

The trick is to practice and to be persistent.

And not comparing yourself against others, but against yourself. Every improvement is a win, even if small! Last year I’d run 2.4 km on a good day. Nowadays that is less than my fun runs.

Many times I wake up and don’t feel like going anywhere but then I remind myself of that nice exhilarating feeling when I’m running up a hill that I used to have to stop mid-way because it was too steep, and now I run in about three minutes non-stop, and then I put on the sporty clothes and just do it. And if I don’t run, walk or bike on a given day I feel like I’m missing the activity!

Something else that is cool: I don’t mind if it’s rainy or sunny anymore. There’s again something really exhilarating about both aspects. If it’s raining I just love that I don’t care that it’s raining–I just put my hood on and do my thing. Yes, drops get in my face, but I just brush them aside. If it’s sunny, it tends to get pretty warm so I can wear tank tops and that means I get tons of vitamin D! So many people are complimenting my tan this year but… it’s just the English sun! 😉

It also helps if you have an encouraging circle of acquaintances and friends. There’s a ton of people in the office that are into sports and they would always talk about going to the gym or to the climbing centre, or cycling, or… Jen was also a great inspiration when she shared, nonchalantly, that she couldn’t run for more than a few metres before, and now she was running kilometers! And Belén started running as well and shared her progress and tips. Apparently at some point I figured that if they could do it, so could I!

And if I could do it, so can you! 😀

Possible futures, and nodebotting

You might remember that I was sorting out my music collection. This involves having to use iTunes for adding cover art and editing metadata and blah blah because I’m using a Mac and it seems that everyone has given up on making anything (anything!) better than iTunes.

So iTunes is this big huge mass of software that attempts to do everything at the same time and does nothing particularly well, and we’re all using it because there’s not much more else available. Talk about user choice, wooops.

Yesterday I was realising this horrible situation and started a parade of tweets:

  • I never know whether to cry at the immense UI failure that iTunes is or just laugh at it so ironically being the flagship product at Apple
  • When using iTunes I’m afraid to click on buttons because I do not know what havoc will that unravel. Things move around without explanation
  • There are buttons that turn into something else, something elses that act like buttons, data losses, weirdnesses, ugh
  • The worst is: there doesn’t seem to be anything better in Mac? (!?) 😭PLEASE PROVE ME WRONG, I BEG YOU 😭

Someone suggested Vox, which I haven’t tried yet. But seriously–only one suggestion! is that all that there is? I ended up thinking again about writing my own “player”. Except it would not be a player, or at least, not just a player, but I was thinking more about a sort of jukebox with sync. Of course I have other things to do right now so that’s probably not going to happen unless I win the lottery I don’t play.

I was in a good mood this morning so I decided to pretend I was funny and laugh at this whole mess with another tweet parade:

  • the year is 2030.
    you can do grocery shopping, pay council tax, vote for your fav eurovision artist and resolve git conflicts with iTunes
  • in 2045 iTunes finally gains sentience and writes the code for you. all commit messages mention titles of U2 songs
  • 2525 it is revealed that iTunes has acquired Skynet (to the tune of Visage’s In the Year 2525 but poignantly sung by Bono)
  • 3001: Frank Poole begs to be killed again by HAL 9000 when he sees iSkynet in action

And instead of sitting back and maliciously grin at the idea of this actually happening and how 2030 is in fact quite close in time and I could be saying “I told you so” in only 15 years, I grabbed my bike to go to Tableflip, the home of Nodebots in London, for a lighterweight NodeBots day.

Good things: it was a gorgeous day (specially compared to yesterday’s where it poured with rain for about 90% of the time), and I got lost in Dulwich which is a beautiful, albeit very adhoc and non-grid at all area, so it’s even a pleasure to get lost and wander around those streets.

Bad things: there was nothing bad about getting lost because there was absolutely no rush at any point during the day.

Oli was a fantastic host and he made us bacon sarnies and coffee. Their space is a-ma-zing. It’s full of tools old and new, and equipment and things and dust from sawing and weird mechanical and chemical smells, and flying things in various sizes and shapes, and there’s some other business where someone is building bikes. BIKES!!! It’s all super cool and I came back very excited about making stuff, even if I just managed to sort of use Johnny Five to control a servo:

Meanwhile, Tom was hacking on his Maschina and making it emit various sounds with JavaScript, Alex was transferring PCB positives onto another surface using an electric iron and two other guys were doing fantastic hacky stuff as well. I also got to hear about Fritzing and it looks really good.

I’m glad I got to use part of the equipment in the Spark core kit I got at JSConf.US 2014 which I still hadn’t had time to use. I’m sad I didn’t get to use the Spark core itself because the nodeschool nodebots workshop is designed for Arduinos and I wanted to see something happen physically and not just emulated, but I am certain I’ll be able to research this before iTunes can also talk to Spark devices via iPay or whatever.

Playing with hardware is fun. I am an almost total newbie in this field. I keep forgetting which pin is the N pin for LEDs (it’s the short one, I just looked it up today). I keep forgetting how to read resistors and how to connect things together. It’s all fine: it’s on the internets, somewhere, or alternatively it comes back to me once I get started. I have absolutely no expectations for what I’ll do and so I can’t let myself down if I forget everything from the last time I played with hardware. It’s OK. It’s a game. It’s fine to forget the rules, you can always re-read them.

And if you haven’t had enough future scenarios, here’s also this very funny article: A horror story that starts with Twitter.

Reading list, 5

13-19th April 2015

  • tableflip dot club by (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻: “We’ve watched mediocre men whiz by us on a glass escalator […] we’re denied opportunities because we aren’t “ready” for them […] It’s time we take our potential elsewhere […] We’re sharing our long memories of all the creeps who’ve hit on us and the cowards who’ve failed to promote us”. Oh wow. This resonates so much with some of my experiences, wow. Yes. More tableflips are in order!
  • Of undocumented Chrome features and unreadable W3C specs by ppk: “this sad state of affairs prevents me from writing tests and reporting their outcome on all these new, exciting technologies”, or why new undocumented APIs without examples are a tragic failure
  • The newly created Web Audio London meetup has published videos with the talks from the first meetup! they are in its YouTube channel
  • There is also a Music Hackspace in London! I haven’t been so I can’t tell how good is it.
  • More music: my pal Andy Lemon made a series of Commodore 64-based covers of 80s tunes
  • Gifsicle – command line animated GIFs. We can always add new tools for our Animated GIF battles. Its website is pretty terse but the GitHub page is more detailed: “it can merge several GIFs into a GIF animation; explode an animation into its component frames; change individual frames in an animation; turn interlacing on and off; add transparency; add delays, disposals, and looping to animations; add and remove comments; flip and rotate; optimize animations for space; change images’ colormaps; and other things”… *swooooooooning*
  • More control over text-decoration by Chris Coyier at CSS-Tricks — where the text-decoration CSS property can be further controlled with three new sub-properties: text-decoration-color, text-decoration-line and text-decoration-style. This is fantastic! I’m going to start using text-decoration-style: wavy everywhere! 😉
  • More CSS! Gradients are sometimes hard to visualise, so Patrick Brosset wrote a tool which would do exactly that. This week, he moved it from codepen to a GitHub repository. Look at it–can you make it better?
  • Despoblados en Huesca – a website that collects all the abandoned towns and smaller settlements in Huesca, an Spanish province. I’m fascinated both by this and by the idea that some people do take over some of these settlements and make them inhabitable again. This notion of self-sufficiency has always intrigued me.
  • DiscoGS – I acquired a Sinology home NAS last week and I have been carefully rearranging and sorting my music collection. This website is a fantastic resource when you really start getting perfectionist and detailed about PROPERLY TAGGING the files.

Introduction to Web Components

I had the pleasure and honour to be the opening speaker for the first ever London Web Components meetup! Yay!

There was no video recording, but I remembered to record a screencast! It’s a bit messy and noisy, but if you couldn’t attend, this is better than nothing.

It also includes all the Q&A!

Some of the things people are worried about, which I think are interesting if you’re working on Web Components in any way:

  • How can I use them in production reliably?
  • What’s the best way to get started i.e. where do I start? do you migrate the whole thing with a new framework? or do you start little by little?
  • How would them affect SEO and accessibility? the best option is probably to extend existing elements where possible using the is="" idiom so you can add to the existing functionality
  • How do Web Components interact with other libraries? e.g. jQuery or React. Why would one use Web Components instead of Angular directives for example?
  • And if we use jQuery with components aren’t we back to “square one”?
  • What are examples of web components in production we can look at? e.g. the famous GitHub time element custom element.
  • Putting the whole app in just one tag yes/no: verging towards the NO, makes people uneasy
  • How does the hyphen thing work? It’s for preventing people registering existing elements, and also casual namespacing. It’s not perfect and won’t avoid clashes, some idea is to allow a way to delay the registration until the name of the element is provided so you can register it in the same way that you can require() something in node and don’t care what the internal name of such module is.

Only one person in the audience was using Web Components in production (that would be Wilson with Firefox OS, tee hee!) and about 10 or so were using them to play around and experiment, and consistently using Polymer… except Firefox OS, which uses just vanilla JS.

Slides are here and here’s the source code.

I’m really glad that I convinced my awesome colleague Wilson Page to join us too, as he has loads of experience implementing Web Components in Firefox OS and so he could provide lots of interesting commentary. Hopefully he will speak at a future event!

Join the meet-up so you can be informed when there’s a new one happening!

Assorted bits and pieces

As we wrap the year and my brain is kind of hazy with the extra food, and the total shock to the system caused by staying in Spain these days, I thought it would be a splendid moment to collect a few things that I haven’t blogged about yet. So there we go:


In Hacks

We were brainstorming what to close the year with at the Mozilla Hacks blog, and we said: let’s make a best of 2014 post!

For some reason I ended up building a giant list of videos from talks that had an impact on me, whether technical or emotional, or both, and I that thought would be great to share with fellow developers. And then the planets aligned and there was a call to action to help test video playing in Firefox, so we ended up with You can’t go wrong watching JavaScript talks, inviting you to watch these videos AND help test video playing. Two birds with one stone! (but figuratively, we do not want to harm birds, okay? okay!).

Since it is a list I curated, it is full of cool things such as realtime graphics, emoji, Animated GIFs, Web Components, accessibility, healthy community building, web audio and other new and upcoming Web APIs, Firefox OS hardware hacking, and of course, some satire. Go watch them!


And then the videos for some talks I’ve given recently have been published also.

Here’s the one from CMD+R conf, a new conference in London for Mac/iOS developers which was really nice even though I don’t work on that field. The organiser watched my CascadiaJS 2014 talk and liked it, and asked me to repeat it.

I’m quite happy with how it turned out, and I’m even a tad sad that they cut out a bit of the silly chatter from when I jumped on the stage and was sort of adjusting my laptop. I think it was funny. Or maybe it wasn’t and that’s why they cut it out 😛

Then I also spoke at Full Frontal in Brighton, which is not a new conference but has a bit of a legendary aura already, so I was really proud to have been invited to speak there. I gave an introduction to Web Audio which was sort of similar to the Web Audio Hack Day introduction, but better. Everything gets better when you practice and repeat 😉


Potch and me were guests in the episode 20 from The Web Platform, hosted by Erik Isaksen. We discussed Web Components, solving out problems for other developers with Brick, the quests you have to go through when you want to use them today, proper component/code design, and some more topics such as accessibility or using components for fun with Audio Tags.

And finally… meet ups and upcoming talks!

I’m going to be hosting the first Ladies Who Code meetup at London of the year. The date is the 6th of January, and here’s the event/sign up page. Come join us at Mozilla London and hack on stuff with fellow ladies who code! :-)

And then on the 13th of January I’ll be also giving an overview talk about Web Components at the first ever London Web Components meetup. Exciting! Here’s the event page, although I think there is a waiting list already.

Finally for-reals I’ll be speaking at the Mozilla room at FOSDEM about Firefox OS app development with node-firefox, a project that Nicola started when he interned at Mozilla last summer, and which I took over once he left because it was too awesome to let it rust.

Of course “app development with node-firefox” is too bland, so the title of the talk is actually Superturbocharging Firefox OS app development with node-firefox. In my defense I came up with that title while I was jetlagged and incubating a severe cold, so I feel zero guilt about this superhyperbolic title 😛

Merry belated whatevers!