You’re reading all articles tagged 'weeknotes'
Busy, busy week! My head has melted.
As part of my work for Resolve to Save Lives, which includes Prevent Epidemics, I’ve been working on Coronavirus related projects this week. As well as creating infographics on how to how limit contact and spread, Brian Suda (my Oxvik partner) and I setup a Coronavirus update page for the Prevent Epidemics website. It takes the existing site functionality, and shows how many international inbound flights there are from countries with confirmed cases, and how prepared they are for dealing with epidemics (called the ‘ReadyScore’).
My binoculars are finally back from being repaired at the Swarovski HQ in Austria! I’ve really missed them, my knackered old bins are no where near as good.
I’ve also given up on my smartphone on the end of a scope hack that I’ve been using to get reference photos. Instead, I’ve picked up a secondhand Nikon P900, a ‘superzoom bridge camera’ (between a compact camera and an SLR) which although heavier, is giving me much better results. I can leave it on ‘birdwatching mode’ and snap away. The photos themselves dont have the quality of a decent SLR, but it costs a tiny fraction of what an SLR body would cost, let alone the telephoto lens. It has an 83x optical zoom, and is definitely good enough as reference images for illustrating from. The photo of a female Pochard above is a good example!
Bombay Bicycle Club
We went to see Bombay Bicycle Club again on Friday, this time in Birmingham, and it was one of the best gigs in a long time. Seeing them live is really incomparable with their recorded material, and the audience was really up for it. When they announced ‘this is out last song’, a booming voice behind me bellowed “Bollocks is it!”.
John and I released another epsiode of Rissington, and we’ll be recording the next one on Monday. We’ve had fun resurrecting the old podcast, but we also want to try and mess around with the format. Instead of the (open source) font and UX technique of the week followed by questions, we’ll just tackle one topic. Inspired by a Brendan Dawes tweet, we’ve chosen socks, and are looking for any sock-related anecdotes, so let us know if you have any. We may try something else entirely for the podcast after that…
It’s been an odd week for web browsers:
- Yet another Chromium browser is released in the form of the new Microsoft Edge, ditching its old rendering engine (EdgeHTML, a fork of Trident which goes all the way back to 1997). The web is less diverse now – browsers are either chromium/webkit or gecko. Speaking of Firefox…
- Mozilla announce 70 layoffs , and the internet shows off it’s best side with the hashtag #MozillaLifeboat” to help those made redundant.
- Then there was a report from Hindenberg Research about Opera moving into some decidedly shady practices to raise revenue. Opera refute this although their reply doesn’t really answer all the claims satisfactorily for me.
To be honest, I loved using Opera, but since leaving them in 2016, it’s felt like something to put behind me and move on. I’m still a Firefox user these days, but occassionally Safari as well. Chrome just annoys me.
In personal news this week:
I’ve been a grumpy sod as my lovely new Swarovksi binoculars (a birthday present from last October) had to be send away for repairs. I loved those binoculars! Fortunately I still have my old pair, but they are terrible in comparison. Apart from the image quality, the focus wheel is very stiff, they’re bigger and heavier, and the field of view smaller. I find I’m missing birds more now – by the time I’ve got them sharp they’ve left. Apparently the repair process takes up to four weeks :(
I went to see the film 1917 and absolutely loved it. The ‘one long shot’ format works so well in making it feel realistic and real-time, and sometimes the building tension was almost too much. One of the best films I’ve seen in ages – incredible!
Finally, last night we went to see Bombay Bicycle Club at the O2 academy in Oxford for the album launch party for ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’. Bombay are one of the few bands that everyone in the family is a fan, so it was nice outing. They are brilliant live (so tight), but dissapointingly after an hour and half wait for them to come on stage, they only played for an hour.
Last week my thoughts were dominated by one thing – the General Election. I never had any doubts that the Conservatives would win, but the landslide victory was a surprise. I’d always thought that a hung parliament was the best I could hope for, but there wasn’t remotely a chance of that.
I despair. A majority of the country has voted for the vilest, most deceitful party I’ve ever known in the UK. The message is:
If you consistently lie, you win.
If you’re openly racist, and embolden nationalist idiots, you win.
If you avoid scrutiny by hiding in a fridge, you win.
If you promise to fix things, despite being in power for almost 10 years, you win.
We live in a consequence-free world it seems.The biggest reason I’m hearing from people is “Ooooh, but I couldn’t vote for Corbyn”. I didn’t always agree with him (my allegiance is with the Green Party), but he would’ve been infinitely better for the country than Johnson. Whatever the reasons, I’m really depressed about it all.
Oddly Amazing Animals
I am immensely proud to have been involved in the book Oddly Amazing Animals, released this week. Back in 2009, Cindy Li and Juliette Melton started making an A-Z childrens’ book together, and it had been an ongoing project ever since. Tragically, they never managed to finish, when Cindy died last October. Her loss was felt globally, and Juliette organised help from Cindy’s many friends, determined to finish the book for her. I submitted illustrations for Dart Frog, Vaux Swift and Xenops.
All proceeds from book will go to Cindy and Matt’s sons, Apollo and Orion.
One of my best ever ‘jobs’ was the year I spent at The Lake District National Park as work placement from college. I loved it, and it gave me a sense that I should give something back in the same way. The difficulty is I’m not really geared up for taking on placement students as it’s just not practical. Our co-working space lacks the physical space for someone to sit, work is often under NDA, and it’s hard to schedule it around workload.
Having said that, on Monday I finally managed to make it work. Our neighbours daughter, who is studying illustration at college, came into our co-working space for work for a day. She clearly has great talent, and I hope I managed to convince her that ‘digital isn’t cheating’ ;)
On Monday evening I took my son Dan to the New Theatre in Oxford to see Jack Whitehall. Not my normal cup of tea, but I know Dan likes him, and he was entertaining. I do wonder how much material he would have if it wasn’t for his Dad though…
Back into Oxford again on Tuesday night, this time to see Ride play at the Oxford Town Hall, a lovely venue that has previously hosted Smashing Conf. We could only get balcony tickets, which wasn’t the best view, and were denied drinks up there! Anyway, the music was wonderful. Supporting were The Soft Cavalry, a new band from Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, and her husband Steve Clarke. I’d seen them only a few weeks before at the Mirrors Festival at Camden’s Roundhouse, but this was a much larger venue and all the better for it.
Ride then played a blinder for a solid two hours, although missing out one of my favourite tracks of 2019, “Clouds of Saint Marie”. It’s a song that screams of summer, so maybe they thought it wasn’t appropriate, but I was a bit miffed.
Hicks Made pottery sale
Leigh’s pottery skills have come so far this year, and our house is starting to overflow with the fruits of her labours. On Thursday she held a sale, ranging from the early learning pieces, right up to her work of ‘now’ which I love. I bought a lovely pot for my desk to keep my Apple Pencil close at hand, and I love how the design reminds me of a rolling landscape.
Finally getting back to some bird illustration
With the darker evenings, I’m finding it easier to sit down and do some personal illustration again. This week I did this painting of a Hen Harrier flying over Otmoor at dusk in Procreate. It was inspired on a photo I saw on the Otmoor Birding blog, and I wanted to to try something looser and with a different kind of light to my normal artwork. I find this kind of low light inspiring to see and very hard to do.
I’ve been in knee-deep in Statamic again this week, setting up a website for one of Resolve to Save Lives projects that currently uses Squarespace. The growth and new content of the site demands more flexibility, and Statamic is my go-to CMS for doing this.I’ve been working part time with Resolve since January, and it’s provided a welcome change. I’ve tended to do mostly do icon and identity projects in recent years, and while I still enjoy them, it’s great to be working on print and web projects again.
My part in Corbyn’s downfall
Our internet provider at the co-working studio sent us a warning email this week. An IP address at our account was being used to launch a Denial of Service (DoS) attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s website. It quickly became clear that my Mac Mini (that was being used as my Plex media server) had been appropriated by hackers. Needless to say, I was horrified to find out that I’ve been part of the problem with all my port forwarding fiddling.
It’s sorted now, but I need to rethink my Plex setup. I’m not keen on having to have the Mac Mini on as well as the drive where everything is stored (a Thunderbay RAID drive). It creates another layer where something can go wrong, and wonder whether I should move to a NAS drive? I also wonder whether it matters to me anymore to run a Plex server. I use it mostly for my music collection, and the ever-expanding library of family photos and videos. I don’t tend to use it so much for Movies and TV shows though – streaming services are so good these days, and it’s pain having to be a ‘server admin’. I did once try a hosted Plex server, which was a great ‘hands-off’ and reliable and fast solution, but also very expensive with a 8TB+ library. I’d love a solution that I could sync/upload to that didn’t require me to maintain a local server.
I’ve become one of THOSE
After 47 years on this planet, I left a (paper) cup of tea on the roof my car and drove off. I’d forgotten about it until I reached a roundabout and had to brake suddenly as someone cut me up. Then the tea fell off and down windscreen, leaving a a nice milky smear everywhere the wipers didn’t reach. I’m impressed that it stayed upright for half a mile though.
As “John”: eludes to in his week notes we had an interesting offer concerning the podcast, that is both scary and exciting (for us anyway). More on that in the New Year!
I can’t stop playing New Hell, the album by “Greet Death”: that I mentioned in last week’s week notes. It’s going to be in my top three of the year, without question.
Looking forward to…
Next week, I’m seeing RIDE and The Soft Cavalry play in Oxford on Tuesday!
- It’s taken a long time to shake off lurgey, but I’m finally feeling alive again!
- Episode 23 of the The Rissington Podcast was released, and judging by Twitter reaction, the Greggs revelation was the most surprising. I’m no food snob, and neither is John. We’re going to try and record a Christmas episode, and John has already planned a Pam Ayres style interlude for it.
- We’ve made a small breakthrough in “getting Leigh’s pottery kiln hard-wired in”, thanks the discovery by an electrician that our garage already has a suitable cabling to the mains. Just needs some small tweaks to make it safe to use. We’ll also need to upgrade the kiln, so that it can get the higher temperatures that are needed.
- Searching for a live page filtering functionality for a client project has led me to Mixitup which worked great. I particularly love the fact that it’s dependency-free (doesn’t even need jquery) and can be installed with npm/bower etc. which is becoming rarer these days. I’ll link to that when it’s live.
- The album that’s been on heavy rotation this week is ‘New Hell’ by Michigan-based trio Greet Death. Shoegazey noisy guitars but with elements of other genres like stoner rock. The title track (which ends the album) and ‘Strange Days’ are my favourites:
(Just like many others, I’m giving the idea of week notes a go)
- The week started well, with a male and female Goldeneye turning up at my local patch at Rushy Common. A rare day of good weather to go birding, then the rest of the week of the week has been a grim deluge. Numbers of wildfowl have been steadily increasing, and a flock of about 300 Tufted Duck flying overhead was a treat (what a noise!)
- John and I met on Monday and Tuesday evening and recorded another episode of the Rissington Podcast, which is now being edited. John’s new minimalist recoding kit makes it really easy and inconspicuous to record in a pub. Very exciting!
- Mid-week I was able to launch a new website for Kezzler, a client in Oslo, which is the first project I’ve built entirely in Statamic. While I don’t see a need to replace Textpattern on this site, Statamic is without doubt what I’ll use for all my client’s sites in future. It feels so flexible and logical – I can build anything they’ll need. There’s still work to do on the design and content, but it feels good to have got this far, and not be using a Wordpress installation with a zillion plugins and all the clutter that creates.
- The rest of the week has been a big struggle with lurgy, and I’ve been more or less wiped out.
- Fortunately, there is an epic new album out by Hammock “Silencia” to relax to. One for the headphones.