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…

Continue reading “A very quiet Saturday”

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

😏

Three stories about coffee

No more pods

The whole pod coffee revolution seemed to happen overnight while I was happily unaware of them in my tiny island refuge, drinking tea and eating Tunnocks cakes. One day I visited continental Europe, and everyone was raving about the new coffee machine they had bought.

Someone I knew during my university years lived in a newly built duplex and had a little espresso machine with which they made us a couple of foamy cappuccinos to help us go through the exams (or was it to impress us?!). It was incredibly middle class, an utopia next door, or next block, to be more precise.

So there I was years later, imagining this person had just acquired a similar little espresso machine and was perhaps going to tell me about their upcoming duplex move, only to be quickly disappointed when they showed me a Nespresso machine taking over half of their kitchen counter, attached to the one and only power socket and surrounded by metal racks of multicoloured capsules.

“Oh”, I said, trying to conceal my enthusiasm.

Obviously because this was the first time I saw one of these machines, I was totally unaware of how they worked, what the pods were and what happened to the pods once you were done with them. I was looking at the whole thing and wondering where were the levers? Where was the temperature indicator? The pressure dial? And what were those coloured thingies on the rack?

This all just lasted for fractions of a second, because obviously this person was really into the Nespresso machine. They made a demonstration: see, you put the pod here, then clickety clack, put a cup underneath, oh, wait until it’s hot, OK, now… TADA! Coffee!

I tasted it. It was… okay. A step above Nescafe, but certainly not the best coffee I’ve ever drank.

I mean, if your baseline is “instant coffee”, Nespresso is an improvement.

Personally, I had already converted to flat whites, and images of lining up for a Monmouth coffee came to my mind each time I approached Seven Dials in London, so the Nespresso spell didn’t quite have much effect on me.

Later on I learned how much waste the pods generate, and specially, realised how much space the whole implement takes. I was also in between mesmerised and terrified by the queues in the Nespresso shop in one of Barcelona’s big shopping avenues, and how proudly people emerged from them with a huge bag that held a tiny box with pods. And what about maintaining the machines? There is the water tank you need to fill, the water refuse thing you need to empty, the empty pods you need to dispose of… So. much. waste.

I kept loyal to my cafetière and hand grinder. I can put them away when I’m done with them, they can be cleaned thoroughly, and they don’t monopolise my kitchen sockets and counter.

The city of Hamburg has banned coffee pods from state-run buildings to reduce waste. Is this a first step towards the end of coffee pods? Will people change their minds, and what will happen to all those racks and machines? Will artists repurpose them into something nicer, like those artists that made rings out of used pods? We’ll see…

Coffee is as much about the coffee as it is about the process

I think the other aspect I dislike about instant coffee is that it removes the fun preparation side (measuring, grinding, waiting for the brew) and leaves you only with the boring side (cleaning the residue) and an average coffee. I don’t think you save that much time overall, and the amount of pleasure is certainly not comparable. It’s like junk food, but for coffee. Junk coffee. Fast junk coffee.

Last year we were at a conference in Paris, and there was this huge queue during the break to get access to a coffee machine. I said “this is horrible, we cannot accept this, we’re in Paris!” So we left the conference building, walked across the square, and had coffee at one of those stereotypical Parisian outdoors but not really outdoors area, because it was January and we were inside a sort of big plastic hut to protect customers from the sharp continental breeze. The waiter was yelling things to someone else, in French of course, we looked at passers by, and froze every time someone dared unseal the door to get into the cafe. But we were drinking strong coffee in proper ceramic glasses, sitting in proper tables, so it was an acceptable sacrifice.

Meanwhile, people in the conference were in a basement, queueing for bad coffee in plastic cups.

Sigh.

I think I know you

Last Saturday I went into a new-ish coffee shop. I might have been there three or four times by now, since it’s slightly out of my normal whereabouts, and I have never been there at the same time on each visit, so I am not really familiar with the staff yet.

I got in, had some friendly chit chat with the person at the till, placed my order and moved to the other side. I heard “Flat white?” from behind the espresso machine, and thought, “hum, this voice sounds familiar”. I moved aside, so as to better identify the source of the question and…

“Hey, I think I know you? Didn’t you use to work at XYZ?”

“Oh! Yes! Yes, I did! How do you know me?”

“Because I used to go to XYZ too!”

“Ohhh! I spent some time in Europe, and now I’m back. What happened to XYZ? Do you still go there?”

“Very nice! XYZ seem to have changed owners, and all the staff are gone and replaced with other people… they’re OK but they’re boring. Plus they are more expensive now, and changed the fidelity card, so you now need 10 coffees instead of 6… And the worst of all…”

“Yes?”

“They removed the outside bench!”

“Oh no! Although it makes sense because the council complained so much about it, they were always giving us trouble”

“But drinking the coffee outside was the best part… So now I go to ABC which does have an outside bench! Anyway, it was nice to see you again!”

I left the shop in between amused and puzzled. Are there so few baristas that at some point I will know who they all are? Or was that just a coincidence?

Travel hacks: to check in or not to check in luggage

In my previous travel hacks series, I gave my tricks to minimise luggage and thus be able to travel without checking in my luggage. But sometimes checking in your luggage might be advantageous, even if it’s small enough that you could just fit it on the overhead lockers.

When is this?

The short answer is: in certain cases, if you’re going to make a connection.

The long answer also adds: it depends on the connection and where the first port of entry is.

Continue reading “Travel hacks: to check in or not to check in luggage”