BT turned on “Web protect” for me

I checked my email this morning and… surprise! 🎉 BT had decided to enable a feature I didn’t ask for, without asking for my permission. How exciting is this? (Answer: not at all exciting, it is infuriating)

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The cycling experiment: using a TFL bike after years of Brompton

Brompton TFL
Weight ~9 kg ~23 kg
Gears 3 3
Brakes 2 (front and back), pads, immediate action 2 (front and back), drum brakes, not quite immediate
Feels agile, responsive sluggish, leisurely

I normally cycle to the office, but yesterday I had to go somewhere before the office, and that place wouldn’t let me store my foldable bike. So I took the tube. On the way back, determined to not to take the tube and also not to walk because I know I can reduce the time to less than half, I used a TFL bike (also known as “Boris” or “Ken” or “Barclays” or “Santander” bike, depending on who’s perceived as responsible for introducing or sponsoring them).

This was very intentional, so I had brought my helmet and gloves. I was determined to do the same ride home as usual, only using a different bike.

I hadn’t used one of these since 2014, so I didn’t remember where things were, or how heavy and big they are compared to my Brompton. It did feel as if I was wearing somebody’s jacket and I didn’t know where the zipper was, or whether it was not a zipper but concealed buttons.

The other noticeable aspect is how useless the gears are. The first one, marked “start”, is literally useful for a few centimeters only. After you’ve reached a minimum speed, you find yourself frantically pedaling and trying to engage the next gear. Unfortunately it seems I got a slightly defective bike, so the next gear would either not engage or jump directly to gear 3, the longest. Which still felt super short. I’d say it felt like 2.25 and 3 (compared to the 2 and 3 gears on the Brompton).

Apparently this is by design: the bikes are designed to go 22% slower than a “normal” bike of that style and with normal gears would go. This made me feel really stupid going up a bridge, as it is slightly uphill, as most bridges are, but it was very windy yesterday. So if I went to gear 3 it was really hard to pedal, gear 2 would not engage, and gear 1 was evocative of public humiliation as I’d be pedaling like a hamster and barely moving at all–pedestrians were just slightly slower than me.

The gear mechanism is also slightly different from the Brompton’s too, so at the beginning I was expecting the gear to change, but it wouldn’t engage until I had pedaled a bit, whereas the Brompton’s is near instant. Cue some more hamster pedaling!

The brakes also felt quite used. I wasn’t really sure if I was braking at points, as I didn’t feel the very effective “ooomph” and subsequent slow down you get when you brake hard on a “normal bike”, but I was going so slow anyway that I’m sure I could bring myself to a halt by a combination of not pedaling and putting my heel on the floor 😜

Good aspects were that since the wheels are way bigger than my Brompton’s, the potholes, manholes, bumps, holes and any other anomaly in the roads (of which there are many) were less noticeable. I also liked the more upright position, and the fact that the pedals are further away from the road compared with the Brompton’s: I often need to be careful when going near pavements to make sure the pedal is on the higher point on that side, otherwise it’s highly likely to be scratched.

The other good aspect is that other drivers would just see me cycling on this bike, and just assumed I’d be slow as a turtle, and leave me alone on my side of the road. It did feel true that drivers were more careful around me driving a TFL bike 🐢

On telling this story to my partner, I’ve been suggested I get a pin that proclaims:

My other bike is a Brompton

so I can proudly wear it next time I use a TFL bike, and assure everyone I am normally NOT this slow. Maybe I just got the slowest bike in the system! It didn’t even have the laser lights.

We’ll see next time…

A very quiet Saturday

I was overly ambitious with my running a few days ago, and I hurt my ankle, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t stay home Friday and work from there, as I had to go somewhere and walk a lot in between places. By the time I was back home, my ankle hurt way more than in the morning, so yesterday I decided to just stay in and enjoy a quiet, restorative Saturday.

It turned out to be way quieter than I expected, as the internet connection went down for a few hours.

Mind you, it’s not like I was totally disconnected from the world, as I live in an area with 4G coverage and all that, but I am way more conscious of the data consumption when using my phone, so that meant I self-restricted myself to the essentials all the time the connection was down.

I found it very interesting (although not entirely surprising) that I got a lot of things done…

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CSS/JSConf.AU:after

I was going to write this yesterday after dinner, but I happened to find Nadieh (or more appropriately, she found me!) and we had dinner and interesting conversations until late. So the only thing I had time for was packing my bag in preparation for my long trip home.

It was exciting to be back in Melbourne when the weather is warmer. Last year it was so cold just as London was getting warm! The coffees were good, and same for the food.

The audience at CSS/JSConf was really nice to interact with and I think they enjoyed my talk, which was recorded, but I am not sure when it’ll be published, and I want to check it out. Apparently the stenographer was having a field day thanks to my audio glitching experiments:

so I’m curious to relive that.

It was a bit accidented–my browser hung half way when encoding video, which it hadn’t in MONTHS, then the occasional bug that only happened one every twenty times? it also manifested itself. At least the projector played nicely with my laptop. It could have been worse, I say to myself.

Next day I indulged myself and stayed in bed for waayyy longer than was immediately necessary as I am going to spend so many hours in planes and airports this week-end… first an eight hours flight to Hong Kong, then a lay-over, and back to London in a twelve hours flight. It’s upcoming realities like these that make you truly appreciate the beauty of a simple bed on a quiet environment. Where quiet means literally quiet, not artificially induced quietness (via ear plugs etc).

I’ve been away from home for the last 12 days but it feels way longer due to travelling east, and also further down south. Everything is pretty much shifted for me right now. It’s “summer” here where it’s “winter” in London, and I’m wishing good morning to my people as I get ready to have dinner. It’s all a bit confusing.

I’m looking forward to being back and not having to do things such as putting a ‘please do not disturb’ sign on my door every day, or having to take food decisions every day (versus just buying familiar stuff and cooking it with my familiar kitchen accessories in my kitchen), or taking pills to go to sleep, every day (because I am still not used to the +11 hours shift).

I am glad I brought my own pillow with me this time. I used to think that was such a silly thing to do: I was wrong. There’s nothing like your own pillow to sleep on. Except for one night, I have slept really well during this trip, albeit not enough, as there was always something to prepare, somewhere to be, someone to meet.

And as much as I enjoy exploring new places and trying out new stuff, I am yearning to go back to normality. I found myself daydreaming with tea and toast and listening to BBC radio on a Sunday morning. If that’s not homesickness, I don’t know what that is!

To Singapore! (and other unrelated things)

I have been a bit away from the blog lately as I was working on DevTools stuff, and also preparing my upcoming talks this and next week, but I realised that I do miss a good old-fashioned bit of stream-of-consciousness blogging, so here it goes:

Wish me an upgrade

Writing this at the airport, while I hope a big slide deck that Helen has shared with me finishes downloading with this wi-fi. Which is still going at 300mb/second, which for all my hotel wifi standards is AMAZING, but when I said “big” I really meant “big”!

I have also been asking everyone I’ve talked to today to wish me for a flight upgrade. The last time I flew long distance in this direction I had a very strange experience on the morning: I was going to the park for a run, with my headphones and everything plugged in. Then an old frail woman who was trying to load something onto her car asked me for help. I didn’t hear her initially, but I understood what she meant. I took the headphones out anyway, and started helping her, and she was already thanking me. The stuff was really big and heavy furniture–I don’t really know how she ever thought she could load it on the car herself, but I do not know the full background. Perhaps she had explained in the time it took me to remove the headphones! Anyway, I finished loading that stuff into the car and her gratefulness intensified:

Oh God bless you! BLESS YOU DARLING! THANK YOU SO MUCH! THANK YOU!

I wanted to get going, and I was also a bit overwhelmed with so much gratefulness. I wished her a good day, and left. This had been a bit of an strange experience, I thought. I did my run, went back, eventually got myself to the airport. And checked in. I was wandering around in the airport so I could get myself REALLY tired and then get some sleep when I got in the plane (more about this in my SLEEP travel hacks post), and then I happened to check my boarding pass on the phone to see if the gate had been announced. That wasn’t the case, but my seat was different—I had been upgraded!

Scientifically speaking, I can’t connect the two incidents with a straight face, but sometimes it’s cool to pretend that good acts truly build good karma and good things happen to the enacters.

Obviously I’ve been trying to find chances to do a good act today. I went for an early run in the park, and paid close attention to my surroundings trying to find some elder woman in need of my help, but so far I’ve failed miserably… bah!

Singapore

I’m quite excited to visit Singapore for more than a short layover in Changi Airport, which is my entire experience of Singapore to date. I have heard the Botanical Gardens are a thing of beauty, and since I like green stuff, it’s probably the only thing I’m really keen on going to when I’m done with the talks and conferences.

I will be speaking at CSS Conf Asia in two days, which will feel like one day thanks to the fact that I’ll spend more than half a day in a plane. Excuse me for the jetlag slurred talk already.

Then on Sunday I’ll be joining the Web Audio hack day for a bit before leaving for Melbourne for JSConf.AU—but that’s for a different post!

Last week-end

I was quite offline last week-end. I literally didn’t touch a computer in two days (unless you consider a phone a computer, but hey).

We did one of those “week-ends in the continent” escapes and went to Torino, which I’d never been to before. It was quite an interesting place–not as “fashion-driven” as Milano, but not as “food-focused” as Bologna. I really liked the Lingotto building, and the race track! The Mole Antonelliana is such a weird and surreal experience–cinema museum included. The archeology of cinema exhibition is super interesting: lots of old machinery and the evolution of moving images. Then… a very odd experience / installation which didn’t make much sense, but made sense within the weirdness of the building itself. The whole thing was like being inside a dream. I also liked that the interactives were mostly aimed at adults, not at kids, although the kids could also enjoy them. But it meant that the interactives were not oversimplified!

I also happened to find a book I didn’t buy the last time I was in Italy because I thought I could just buy it when I came back to London, but I was wrong because it was out of stock EVERYWHERE, and had been regretting ever since. Then, I come back to Italy, and… it was as if the book was waiting for me in the first design bookshop I visited. So perfect.

I’m liking Italy more and more each time I visit. I have been learning some Italian as well, which is moderately easy since I know Spanish and Catalan. I am still not really fluent but I can understand most of what I hear–and make myself understood in restaurants and taxis, etc, so I’m really pleased.

The other cool thing of learning Italian is that I can get books in Italian and not have to wait for or look for the English translation! So I also got a Bruno Munari book–he’s such an interesting figure and his advice is still super current nowadays.

PS Ah, the slide deck finished loading! just as I was going to hit POST. Yay!

PS2 Helen just published this post about the new Responsive design view in DevTools! Woot! Apart from also drawing the Internet Mascot

😏