Dec 03

Boots Blogger Event – Sensationail

Last week I attended a blogger event, pulled together under the auspices of Boots I believe. It was aimed at beauty bloggers, so not 100% sure why I was on the list, but it was a very good event, looking at 2 different devices that use light to help you in the quest for looking and feeling good.

First of these was the more straightforward. It’s Sensationail, a system that provides you with the ability to use gel nail varnish at home. The key component is a light nail dryer. Powered by LED lights, (so it stays reasonably cool), the lamp dries the layers in 60 seconds, so that it easy to create great looking nails.

Sensationail Starter Kit

Sensationail Starter Kit

I like wearing nail varnish, but it is something I don’t do very often. i tend to have 2 major problems. First, getting the varnish on and getting it dried before it smudges and smears. Secondly, keeping it on as I’m prone to too many chips.

The system seems to help me with both problems. The process to paint your nails does take a while, with at least 5 different layers to be added – cleaner, base 1, base 2, polish layer (there can be more than one), then top coat. But with the light system, it dries very quickly, so I never managed to get it smudged.

So far, I have not managed to chip the gel polish. I have, however, managed to flake of sections but this is directly attributed to where I did not finish the application properly, either taking it too far onto skin or not capping the nail. the ones where I managed to get it all right, it sticks on well without chipping. The lesson? I need a LOT more practice!

Two other things I was told that sounds good – you can mix the colours to make your own new ones and it’s great for nail art as you can paint and wipe until it’s right before setting it.

Not my usual post, but it was a great event and I picked up a lot of tips. Perfect for dressing up for the Christmas party this week!

Dec 02

2013 – Week 48

Reading

Doing

  • Took a day off on Monday and used it to wander round London looking at Sir Christopher Wren Churches

    Wren's Churches

  • On the same day had lunch at the Michelin starred Club Gascon. Gorgeous!
  • On Wednesday, attended a blogger event at the May Fair Hotel, where we got to look at the Sensationails gel nail varnish system and the iPulse Smooth Skin System. Had a great talk by a professor of laser physics! Full write up to follow.
  • On Friday, I was at another brand event, this one a pop-up bar for Grey Goose. Gorgeous cocktails and a very, very slick event showcasing the brand. Very impressive dressing and service. I ended up going on to club with some people from the event, having a really good night and a very late finish :-)
  • Saturday was shopping day. Having reached target size, headed out to the Westfield stores to collate the start of the capsule wardrobe, over an above my work jeans/tops. Very successful outing with all the required pieces purchased in a couple of hours!
  • Put the tree up! Yes, it’s early, but I like the lights in an evening!

Training

There as none. A knee injury necessitated taking the week off. I rested, started added some specific strength exercises and bought a knew support. Took a light run on Sunday to test it and so far so good

Nov 28

I met Ben today

Sitting on the bus, a man is helped on. He says he can’t see, although he does not seem to have too much trouble moving around or slapping his Oyster card down. He says he’s disabled, cheerfully, as that’s the armour against the world. He sits down next to me and just starts to talk. the initial reaction is typical London, ignore him. But you can’t. There’s a stream of talk just flowing out, asking me not to be scared. That he’s disabled. That he had a parachute accident and fell, broke everything and was in hospital for 5 years, 3 of them in a coma. Again, a request not to be scared and reassurance that he was not trying to chat me up. At this point you can’t help to engage in the chat.

He’d been a stuntman, he’d worked on Gladiator and Die Another Day. Apparently Pierce Brosnan was very nice and Russell Crowe not so much. He used to instruct in 10 sports. Now he’s disabled. And i shouldn’t be scared. We chatted about how much he loves horses.

He leaves, heading back out into the streets to try and get to his destination. He leaves me with the impression of a very nice man with a scrambled brain, who has stories to tell and wants to share his life with people, a man with a positive outlook despite knowing he’s different. He also leaves me with just a hint of disbelief, was this true? Or was it a story that has been created to make life fun?

A search later on a few facts and up pops this piece from The Guardian asking If He was Happy. Even more relevant was this piece, I’m not Angry , a story of another encounter with Ben that has turned into a collection of stories of the people he has met and how he has touched them. How he has made an impression on everyone he meets by living his life to the full.

Thank you Ben. It was wonderful to meet you today.

Nov 26

The Churches of Sir Christopher Wren

Yesterday, I used up one of my remaining holiday days to play tourist in London. Usually, holidays are used for holidays, somewhere else, but occasionally it’s nice to use one to explore my home town. The plan was made to tour the churches of Sir Christopher Wren. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, he rebuilt 51 of them. Not all of them survive though. Some were pulled down deliberately, other’s were hit by the firebombing in the Blitz and were completely destroyed or ended up being restored. In some cases, only a tower or an outline survives. Yesterday, I visited 27 of them. Some were towers only, others were closed, others still welcome visitors. The main was I didn’t visit was St Paul’s Cathedral, that can wait for another day!

Almost all of them are in the City and it’s perfectly possible to walk your way around them. None of them are huge, so don’t take that much time, so if you have a day spare, it’s well worth taking the effort to do a grand tour.

St Andrew-By-theWardrobe. This seems to be a typical Wren church. A blocky oblong, tall arched windows and the alter background that is common, with Lord’s Prayer, the Credo and the Ten Commandments on it. There are balconies, that were pretty common as well.

Wren's Churches

St Bride’s was one of the more well used churches, the church of Fleet St, with many dedications to journalists and publishers and writers. it also has a dedicated altar set up for journalists killed in action.

Wren's Churches

St Andrew’s Holburn had a modern cross and icons.

Wren's Churches

St Vedast shows the other common characteristic of the churches, the organ over the door.

Wren's Churches

Bow Church, the one whose bells are the centre of Cockney world, was one of the more ornate ones, with a modern rood screen, bright ceilings and gold adornments. The stained glass, found here and in a few others, would not have been part of Wren’s design, as that was definitely Papist and Wren built in the Protestant tradition.

Wren's Churches

Saying that, he may not have included stained glass, but he was not adverse to prettiness. St Mary Aldermary had one of the most ornate ceilings.

Wren's Churches

St Stephen Walbrook is regarding as one of Wren’s masterpieces and you can see him playing with host first dome.

Wren's Churches

I’ve got a few more to go through, including St Paul’s, but that will be another day.

Nov 26

2013 – Week 47

Winter is definitely here! it’s getting a bit cold out there. Not sure of it’s the cold but it was a very quiet week.

Reading

Not that musch this week.

Doing

The week was very, very quite! The only things of note were watching the Doctor Who 50th anniversary (which I loved) and attending the Brazil BadgerBash, a gathering of F1 fans, to watch the last race of the season. A very good afternoon/evening catching up with Twitter friends.

Training

  • 3.3m at 10:36min/m. Steady lunchtime loop.
  • 4 x 1k intervals, at 8:33 min/mile pace. Did this on the treadmill, probably the best place for doing these kind of intervals
  • 8.23m at 11:06min/mile. Run from Wandsworth town
  • 14.1m at 11:06 min/mile. Got the train/tube to London Bridge, then ran back. A good idea apart from the bit around the Christmas market, which was basically gridlocked!

I’m now taking a couple of days. I’ve picked up a knee injury I think that needs to gets rested!

Nov 24

My Media Consumption

I opened up iTunes this week, sometimes that does not happen too often. There was my full list of all the songs I had bought this year. A grand total of THREE. That’s it, just the 3 songs. When I mentioned this to colleagues, it seems that I’m not alone in my minimal of songs, with some saying they can’t remember the last time they bought something. But there are different reasons for this. For them, it’s because they pay a subscription to services to Spotify and that delivers all their needs. for me, I just don’t do that much music, I don’t have a streaming service and if I need to listen to something, then that’s what the radio is for.

Having looked at iTunes, what other media have I consumed this year. I’ve bought about 6 DVDs, 2 of them the Olympic coverage as a souvenir record, the rest films I’ve missed in the cinema years ago that were on sale. As with music, I don’t have an on-demand subscription for a service such as Netflix. In fact, I haven’t watched anything on demand at all, even the ‘free’ service offered by Sky. I have done catchup TV though, through iPlayer if I have occasionally missed recording something. I do watch online TV, but primarily at work, where it replaces the radio as a background distraction when I’m concentrating on writing documents. Home under the Hammer is definitely a favourite for this!

On the games side, I’ve probably got about a 10 or so games for the phone, usually cheap or free causal games, but most don’t last long for playing. I’ve bought one videogame this year and I’m still working my way through it. I’m slow at games, not very good, so the outlay of £40 or so usually has a good ROI given how long it takes me.

The biggest media consumption by far though for me is books. I’ve bought – and read – 114 books through Amazon this year, most of them on the Kindle. There’s about another 20 or so that I have got in physical form, my regular authors who I usually buy in hardback. That’s where my attention goes to, the books rather than any other way of taking in stories. That’s a lot of books – the major benefit of the Kindle for me is that I now longer have to find the space for the books!

Looking at my gadget consumption, I’m definitely a lot less likely to buy the latest version than 10 or so years ago. I’m running a 2 year old phone that I’ve got no desire to upgrade as it works fine. I upgraded my laptop last year and I’ll run it until it breaks (as I did with the previous one). I don’t own a tablet as I can’t see a usecase for me that justifies the expenditure. And I won’t be upgrading to one of the new games consoles for the same reason, the justifying usecase is not there and the 4 games consoles I own work fine! The only gadgets I have bought this year are my Fitbit and a Garmin watch, both to help drive fitness and life change.

I used to buy a lot more. A lot more games, videos, music, gadgets. The book consumption is about the same, if possibly even higher as it’s easier to by on Kindle. The time is being taken up by work, going places and the internet, when I’m not reading. How about you?

Nov 18

2013 – Week 46

Reading

Doing

  • It was a fairly quiet week. Had a small birthday celebration with a friend, where much wine was consumed and the world put to rights!
  • Went along to a book launch, for Adrian Hon and A History of the Future in 100 Objects. The book is great, inspired byt the BBC/British Museum series of a History of the World in 100 Objects. What could be the defining objects in the future?
    Future in 100 Objects
  • Watched the Scullers Head. A lovely day for it, blue skies and little wind.
    Scullers Head 2013

Training

  • 4.85m at 10:40min/mile. Steady lunch time job where dodging the tourists is still an essential technique
  • Used treadmill for intervals. 1.75m @ 8:49m 1m @8.34
  • A run to work, with 7.19m at 10:47min/mile
  • A steady recovery run at 3m at 12:02 min/mile
  • The Richmond Old Deer Park 10k race. Ran to a plan, which was to stay under 9:10 miles, pushed on in the last half to get a new PB by 3 mins with 56:26 min/mile. Then ran the 4miles home very slowly ;-)
    Old Deer Park 10k. Waiting
  • Predicted Marathon Time. The 10k race gives me a predicted time of 4:24:46, which is 7mins faster than previously.
Nov 11

2013 – Week 45

Reading

  • The Ofsted Report on Hogwarts. This is from earlier in the year and is a lot of fun. What would the regulatory bodies make of a school of Wizardry, especially one with such a high accident rate!
  • Up in Arms (Tufts) A look back at the hstory of the US and how the different areas of settlement led to different attitudes to gun laws. The US is divided into different ‘nations’ based on their pattern of immigration
  • The Innovation of Loneliness. This looks like it is a graduate project and nothing in it appears to be original (I wish sources had been referenced) but it is a video (the equivalent of an infographic) and pulls together nicely some of the ideas around life online.
  • Out of the picture (Verge). Why even great products, such as Everpix, go out of business if they can’t gain traction and users. (via Steve Bridger)
  • Customers in Control. An Australian look at the future of retail and how experiences (rather just price) will keep us coming back. This counts for both in-store and for online, reflecting the changing social desire to get something more than just a bargain. (Via Delia Timms)
  • A farewell to Lou Reed by Laurie Anderson (Rolling Stone). short story of love, life and death. (via Matthew Gidley)

Doing

  • The London Bloggers’ Meetup was held at Google, where first we listened to Mitch Joel talk about his new book Ctrl-Alt-Delete and then we had a quick panel discussing Google enterprise and blogger products.
  • Watched some fireworks at Chiswick Business Park on the 5th. A long standing local event, there were probably a few thousand people in the park, all crowded together to watch about 15mins worth of fireworks. (there should be a video below, if not it’s on my Flickr)
  • A late planned trip to the O2 arena to watch the ATP tennis. it was a trip with a client and I was a replacement for an ill colleague. In doing so, I missed a party at work that involved a lot of karaoke and a lot of drinking ;-)
    Untitled
  • Went to see Thor at the cinema. Great Saturday afternoon movie, lots of fun.

Training

  • 5.1m at 10:39min/mile
  • 7m at average 10:24min/mile. This was a build run, with each mile supposed to be faster than the next. managed that, with the last one at 8:20. That’s the fastest mile I’ve done!
  • Park Run, at a steady 8:50min.mile
  • 12m steady. Decided to keep it interesting I’d get the train to Waterloo and run back home along the river
Nov 06

2013 – Week 44

Week 44, the last week of October as the year slowly slips away

Reading

Doing

  • Friends and I had one of our irregular Chinese Buffet dinners. Best described as cheap and cheerful from a food perspective, you always know what you are getting as the menu does not change. It’s always good to catch up with friends and hear all the gossip
  • Went for a mid-life checkup. Or rather another trip to the doctors to take all the bloods. Just getting the usual things checked through.
  • Took a trip up to Milton Keynes to see another friend for Saturday lunch and a walk along the canal (a short one!). More gossip, more talk about what’s good and bad at work, more talk about cars.

Training

  • 4.14m (10:24min/m). Run into work, this time from Sloane Square, what you have to do when the trains aren’t running!
  • 4.86 (10:15min/m). Lunchtime run around the bridges.
  • 7.29m (10:37min/mile). This was actually 2 runs. First of all, slow jog to Richmond along the river to get to Park Run. then fast 5k for park Run. the aim of the morning was to see if I could beat my PB after running to the event. And I did! By a whole 12secs, with 27:54. So next time I run it with fresh legs, expect to be faster than that.
  • 9.3m (12:30min/mile). Long slow run to finish the week. Legs were tired after the efforts of the day before.
  • Predicted Marathon Time. I use McMillan Running to predict race times and plan training paces. Using Saturday’s 5k pace, it gives me a predicted time of 4:31:51, which is 12mins faster than my time predicted from my half marathon.
Nov 05

2013 – Week 43

The plan to do weekly blog posts lasted nearly 3 months, so it was a start. Let’s see if I can finish off the end of the year with weekly posts.

Reading

On holiday, I read a lot of books about Japan or by Japanese authors. When looking up what would be good to read, a lot of the recommended books were not available on a Kindle, so did not make it with me, but I plan to find them and buy. So reading there included:

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami By a Japanese author and set in Japan, but not really about Japan. it’s a bit fantasy, a bit ‘novel’ and not really the type of book i would normally read. But strangely satisfying in its weirdness.
  • Lost Japan by Alex Kerr (Lonely Planet). A collection of essays about Japanese life and culture over the last 30 years from the perspective of an American. it’s more a yearning for what has been lost rather than what is there now
  • Shogun, James Clavell. I’ve never read this, but have a vague recollection of watching it on TV. Really food story telling about early 17th century Japan.

Moving away from books, articles I have been catching up on include:

Doing

  • Attended Playful 2013. After last years blogposts, I got asked back to do some liveblogging again for this conference. Post of the posts are already live – there’s a couple more to add though.
  • Saw Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic. With James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. I’ve never seen (or read) this play before so, with nothing to compare against, the casting of an older Benedict and Beatrice was fine with me. Having seen Othello earlier in the year though, it did bring home that women seem to be untrusted when it comes to love and fidelity in these Shakespeare plays.
  • Had a visit from the parents. They brought along some GORGEOUS planting pots to keep my growbag garden out of growbags and a lot more tidy!
    Untitled
  • Saw part of Rhizome’s Seven on Seven London event, after seeing that Naveen, someone I knew from New York would be talking
  • Caught up with Robert Scoble, an old friend from the US, who was over here publicizing his new book, the Age of Context.

Training

I’m adding another category – as I’ve managed to get into the London Marathon, then it think it would be useful to keep track of my activities! This was the first week of my marathon training plan!

  • 3.68miles (10:36min/m)lunchtime jog. First real outing since the half marathon, also first one at lunchtime. Think I’m going to be doing more of these in the winter!
  • 5.17m (11:40min/m) Run into work
  • 3.02m (11:32mim/m) Evening jog, nice and steady
  • 6.58m (10:39min/m) Weekend long run
Oct 25

Playful13 – Nature of Games

Pippin Barr – What are curious games

Pippin is a game designer, artist and critic who has done many wonderful things that you’re probably already too busy cooing over to bother finish reading this. He’s just spent the past month working to create the Digital Marina Abramovich Institute, where visitors can experience exercises designed by Abramovich and view some performance art. He’ll be talking about Curious Games.

His wife calls the games he makes curious games. Will be talking about a bunch of his games, and reflect what games can do. So what does it all mean? Games allow for interactivity, something that movies do not. You can ask a question and it gives an answer, or asks a question back. A game ai made a few years ago was literal – Guru Quest. You could ask any question, or ask about the meaning of life etc. You would have these conversations. And sometimes it brings values. It’s just a chatbot – but a guru can say anything that may be important, so works well. It can lead ot deep thoughts or adsurbities. Allows player to think about things.

Games allow us to take on interesting roles- what if one of us was God. So the flood story – runs the worlds, gets bored, floods everything and starts again. So ‘Let there be Smite’ to play this role. Play god, so smite or forgive. You get asked. As the population in the game increases, there are more sinners, more dialog boxes. You change behaviour. you don;t think, you just click and to stop the dialog boxes. A moral disintegration of not caring. If there’s too much sin, hit the panic button, flood and kill everyone, start again.

We ask if games are worthwhile. Are we asking if this is fun? Or make a game about whether the game is worthwhile. Made a game about ‘The Artist is Present’ based on Marina Abromovic. So you go to Moma, NY, (in the game) and if it is open (game had same opening hours as real place). You ‘buy’ ticket, you walk through gallerys and find queue. You can wait. And wait. Queue moves every 24mins. So you may bypass the queue, walk to the front to see what is happening. A person sitting in a chair, opposite a woman in a red dress. This was a real installation – and now the game allows you to do this. You need too decide if it is worth waiting in the queue. It can take 5 hours to get through to the front of the queue.

What makes a game what it is. If you change a small piece, if it is the same game or is it something else. SO played with Pong. Made 36 different versions. Called it Pongs. Changes rules. How the paddles move. Left and Right as well as up and down. You can graft something on, so every so often you get answered a trivia question before you can carry on the game – get it right, get more points. You need to be good at more than one thing – game as well as geography for example. You can change the way it looks. The ball is little people, the paddles are flags and it becomes about refugees.

But is it art? Causes controversy, the question, So wanted to make a game, to get player to think about the question. Made Art Game. In B&W as art game. You play as an artist, live in NY, live in studio. You contribute to a group art show. You have to make something..as you paint, it turns into a game of Snake. When you lose…you have a painting. You are trying to fail beautifully to make art. Once you have some, the curator may or may not like the pictures. And some people never get a picture in the show. The you get to see your picture in the ‘museum’.

So what’s wrong with my iPhone? Video games played on hardware. Interested in iphone, it is annoyingly perfect. I wanted to make a game that is the opposite to the ease. It is Snake..but different controls. You can tilt the phone, Or turn the phone. Thrust mode – you thrust the phone in the direction of the snake. All different ways of playing Snake, the phone becomes a different object, it’s a different experience.

So Marina Abromavic emailed him…and he entered into this collaboration. She is creating an institute, where people can go to learn about appreciation of time, space etc. So made digital version. It is the only real version that exists at the moment, as the physical building does not exist (yes). Opened a few days ago. So exercises. Slow motion walk, as slow as possible up the ramp. There are representations of real performance art – climbing naked up and down a ladder. An dit changes – because in the game, it can last forever.

Finally, wanted to make a game about death. Wanted to generate a feeling about this experience. (showed demonstration)

Oct 25

Playful13: Making Mishief

Dani Lurie. Making Mischief

Graphic designer and a writer. Is really highly excitable. Especially about getting people to interact with the world in interesting ways. So that brings us to mischief. It has traditionally been bad. Associated with troublemakers. So why is it good, why worth talking about. When a toddler, her and her brothers had broken the parent’s VCR by feeding it biscuits. That was mischief. Bit it’s about learning, experiencing, Experiential learning is an important developmental process, how we grow

When studying psychology, leaned ot enjoy experiments, developing them. TO allow people to do just enough to shake up the world. Look at the 60s shock experiment (Milbrun), to see how many people would increase the shocks for people, 26 out of 40 administered the full amount – even up to lethal dose. After this, they looked at crowd size. they devised experiment, to get people to point up, to see how many people had to be pointing before others looked up. Increased group size lead to increased behaviour. 1 person gives 40%, then 85% when group was 40 students. It revealed the nature of conformance behaviour, without providing distress. That was one they recreated as psych students/We had been given a licence to mess with the mundane – silliness had a real purpose. And that is mischief.

See it as a way to conduct experiments, to learn by doing. Explore mundane by provoking else. They don’t have to be bad. it is to test and discover and have fun. so positive or purposeful mischief. Last year, Mcdonalds sold fries of all sides for equiv of £1. So students ordered so much fries they brought them out in trays – potato parties. They caused social trouble, but had fun.

We created a magazine, with content about testing and about investigations. We tested hangover cures (not good for writer), we tested ways to juice an orange, from syringe to run over with car. We anted to experiment with things we had only dreamed of doing, with things that had not been done before. Based round one question, what would happen if. If we planted a guerilla garden, made cheese, hold a pen race, walking tour at a music festival.

Some of our favourates. What would happen if you posted a banana. 21m items posted through Royal Mail. Some don;t make it. How far would they go to get items from one place to another. Would they deliver things smelly. We put stamps on items – jeans, biscuits, crisps, DVD. the crisp packet arrived empty, Then we tried items of funny shapes or textures, to outfox auto sorting systems. Scarf, umbrella, clothes peg. Et. For umbrella, we had to distract the clerk to get it into the system, It did make it to the destination (the recipients did not know, and got told off nearly every time). Scarf did not make it. The long thin letter was folded in half. The sponge did not make it (but stamps may have fallen off).

Next a group of suspicious items. Flour in a box, that arrived. The flour in a bag, refused by first postoffice, as it was unwrapped. they told the next that the packaging ws wrapping paper. Had a normal envelope, but stamp upside down – and that is treason…(outdated law). The letter contained the word ‘Treason’. We think it was received..recipient had not confirmed but discussed hate mail so that may have been it. The porn DVD did not arrive.

Smelly things. Brie – had been rewrapped. And had changed shape, so not a ‘letter’..so recipient was charged more. Wrapped banana arrived, the unwrapped did not. The vial of ‘urine’ did arrive fine

Sentimental items The flowers arrived fine. The stuffed toy was ok. The hello kitty cup did not make it.

Last we sent valuable items. Keys – arrived. Oyster card arrived fine. Lottery ticket, was fine – although postman advised choice of numbers was not good. The £5 and £10 arrived fine.

Next project – contacting people who share your name. WIth the internet, you have to share it with a lot more people. Her shared name person, was creative, filmmaker, lives in New York. She decided to contact, because she could. Emails led to Skype chat. Very good conversation, a lot of similarities. The NY person had visited home town and stayed with people who knew her family. We tried a few others in the team, a lot morenames

One last project. Playing hide and seek in busy public space. Added a few twists to make it interesting. FIrst play in bookshop or library and you learn a new fact when hiding – the one with best fact wins. Then Halfterm toyshoppocolypse. Play in children’s toyshop a the busiest time. There is no strategy to game, it is terrifying. Only option is to keep moving. Most players found quickly. Last game is Ride and Seek. Playing it on a moving train. You start at the station and need to stay on train, but can move around between carriages at stops. Once hider found, then will follow the seeker.

Oct 25

Playful13: Designing Controllers

George Buckenham – Things that go Squish
George “makes games and things” – often silly (Punch The Custard, A Bastard), often hacking existing things (Proteus Frog mod; Sweareoke Guitar Hero mod) and sometimes just straight up, fiendish games (Hell Is Other People, CUBES). George is going to be talking about videogames and their relationship with the hardware

Makes videogames and other things. Some physical. But you can make more money with videogames.

One thing that goes squish is custard…Punch the Custard. You have to punch your custard more times than the other person! You put one hand on foil and a wire in the custard, then you complete the circuit. And it does not go everywhere, as it goes hard when under pressure, so does not fly out. It’s a fun game..but not a better game than custard you just play with! The game is an excuse to touch custard!

Another game, made controllers for game, boxes with many coloured controllers. When building them, lots of websites that you can buy arcade components. Lots of tech specs to choose from. What response, what kind of dimple do you need on button etc. There is a whole world of choices. And a whole world of people discussing the various specs and the choices to be done.

Controllers have become more standardised, which he feels is shame, (but that’s the market), but there are opportunities to build your own specific ones – but far too expensive! So thinking about it from he controller, the standard. So what works with the existing controllers, what works well ergonomically, what do the controllers represent. Are the 2 triggers on standard controllers like cats paws? What is a game that will feel satisfying with the possible control movements.

A climbing game, where you have to hold down the keyboard keys to ‘grip’ on the climbing wall, So there is physical mapping – tired fingers at the end of it.

He finds it exciting when you can work on a game and decide the controller. You experiment with the form factor. What is the right distance between buttons, how they interact. You can manage the twitchiness, how things react. The connection between control and game adds up to a satisfying experience.

Oct 25

Playful 13: Designing with playfulness

Duncan Fitzimmons. Director at Vitamins

A small and nimble design agency; they work across a wide range of industries and applications and everything is multi-disciplinary.
Look to create a sense of magic and wonder in everything they do. The talk is about how they do that and how playfulness is involved.
Samsung came along; about designing a phone for the elderly market. They were concerned about that, had seen some of the phones, not really what they wanted to do. But how they could make it better. When doing research, the audience gave ‘expected answers’. So they looked to add playfulness to research around Europe. So they gave bananas, with stickers and string etc and got people to design what they wanted using that.

Some of the issues are about how people use the phone and the barriers to using it, how they explored the phone. Some of their ideas, they made sure user manual was clear and engaging. Designed as a hardback book, with step guide into set up. Everything was all in one place – the phone was embedded IN the manual, and you worked through the book as you set it up.

For Battersea performance group, challenged to make a cheap device that makes the audience think their mind is being read. They created something that changed based on galvinistic skin reaction. Some of this transferred to their work on snowboarding/Nokia. They created lots and lots of sensors and just played with them, to understand what could be done. Went to snowdome, did they work on snow? They then knew what was possible, then went to talk to snowboarders, the fans, to find out what people wanted to see in performing etc. Created a set of sensors that could be worn, then streamed data to Nokia phone. Data can be reviewed, can be visualised so that spectators could see what happens. Gave extra insight into the performance; were they confident, how did they feel.

Another project with experimentation, the folding wheel project. look back to 1870s, a patent was filed for the wheelchair as we know it. It has not really changed a lot since then – and there are lots of problems with travelling with them on planes. Use of materials and refined ergonomics. The chair part folds, but the wheel doesn’t. So how do you fold a wheel? You experiment. They played. The structure could fold, but what about the tyre? how can you fold this. The mockup, they develop prototypes. The product went on sale on February. Won transport design of the year.

Latest one they are working on, has had the longest period of playful development. A calendar and project planner they have designed for themselves. To fill gap between large scale software and the low level ones that don’t have enough power. Projects last between 1-3 months, they have 4-12 people. They had no tools. They created a Lego wall planner. They have a view of next 3 months. They can book in time. Easy to tell at glance what is available at the time. To tie it into what they are using, such as shared Google calendars. They can take a photo, send the email and that then uploads the data onto their calendars. They started with lego on wall, added it, a full journey of discovery. They needed to know when key deadlines – so 2 bricks high wall planner. Easy to plan time. You can’t move things into a place where there is brick. By being tangible, it makes it easier to work with.

Oct 21

Japan: The Last Days

Japan Last Days: Tokyo

After the touristing of the last 2 weeks, the last 2 days were basically travel. First of all we travelled from Hiroshima back to Tokyo via Shinkansen, the bullet train. We were staying in the Shinjiku area, so wandered along to the park Hyatt (as all the reviews say, made famous by the film Lost in Translation). We were too late for afternoon tea, but had a drink and watched the darkness fall across the city from the 41st floor. Pity the weather was so bad, as I guess it looks wonderful with clear skies!

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Japan Last Days: Tokyo

Then the travel home.Up at 5. train to airport, 12 hour flight. And miracle of miracles, the tubes actually working to take us both back to our respective homes. At the airport we were offered a deal for one of us to be bumped down to economy (for miles or pounds) but the answer was definitely no! I’m guessing somebody said yes at some point – maybe the deal got better, given that the cash offer was less than the premium we had paid!

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Flying across Siberia

That was it. it’s over, we are home. No more travel. We loved Japan, Sofia and I, and want to go back. There’s so much more to see.

Oct 18

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

Today feels like our last full day in Japan – tomorrow is travelling back to Tokyo and getting ready to leave.

We’re still in Hiroshima and the plan today was to walk round the Peace Memorial Park and visit the museum and memorials there.

First was the A-bomb Dome. As a concrete building, it was one of the few remaining standing in the centre of Hiroshima and has been left (after much deliberation over the years) as a permanent reminder. It is preserved in the same state of disrepair as it was after the bombing.

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

Wandering around the rest of the park, there are many more memorials. To students, to Koreans, to all the victims. The cenotaph contains a record of all the people who have died, all those who experienced the bomb, updated every year on 6th August as the aging survivors die.

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

The Children’s Peace Memorial probably had the most activity around it, as large groups of schoolchildren queued up to take their turn. Each class bought paper cranes, 1000s of them, connected and threaded into other shapes. We saw one group line up, the nominated student read from a book to the memorial, then the whole class sang.

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

Finally, they presented their assembly of paper cranes to be added to the collection. After posing for pictures, they left to make way for the next group.

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

The Memorial Hall winds underground, leading to a circular mosaic of tiles, one for each person impacted, making a picture of the flattened city after the blast.

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

This is where the records are kept, the written and video stories and screens show the never-ending scroll of names and pictures.
The Peace Memorial Museum is split into two parts. The first examines the history of Hiroshima, of Japans involvement in the wars in the area and how Hiroshima was a main staging post. It factually goes into the politics and decisions made about why the bomb was used and why Hiroshima was chosen as the target.

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

The second section was the stories of the victims and the survivors. How the city was destroyed, remains and artifacts of the day. One such as these steps from a bank, forever scarred with the shadow of the person who was sitting there at 8.15am on 6th August 1945, waiting for the bank to open. It’s an image that stuck in my mind when I read Hiroshima by John Hersey in the 80s, when the Cold War always meant another nuclear attack was still thought possible and the Protect and Survive information was out there.

Japan Day 14: Hiroshima

That was our visit for the day. A lot to think about, too much. So we had lunch in the sun and discussed other things. Like do Japanese schoolchildren actually spend anytime in school as they always seem to be on trips. At every single location we have been there have been school parties, in lines, in groups, being shouted at my teachers/guides with megaphones or filling in the ubiquitous workbooks. They all want to say ‘hello’ to us foreigners and giggle.

Or how the stereotype of Japanese tourist with the ever-snapping camera is not just behaviour when they’re abroad but it’s magnified here. If we ever thought we could not take a photo, maybe because we were in a shrine, no matter, we just copied the actions of the other Japanese tourists.

Tomorrow, back to Tokyo for the last night then we board the plan for London. Where I believe it’ll be cold and wet!

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr
Day 13 post – Hiroshima and Miyajima : Day 12 post – Nara
Day 11 post – Kyoto : Day 10 post – Kyoto : Day 9 post – Race day at Suzuka : Day 8 post – Sill at Suzuka : Day 7 Post – Suzuka : Day 6 Post – Hakone to Nagoya : Day 5 Post – Hakone : Day 4 Post – Tokyo : Day 3 post – Tokyo : Day 2 post – Tokyo : Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 17

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima and Miyajima

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima

An early start to the day as we headed to the station to catch another Shinkansen, heading further west to Hiroshima. It takes just over 2 hours (discounting the standing at stations) to travel the 224 miles, speeding through the countryside. Except it wasn’t really countryside, as you’d call it in the UK. There’s no rolling fields, it’s all suburban. It seems that except for the mountains, everywhere we have seen has been built up, the trip was an endless strip of city and suburbs. There’s an occasional field, sliced into strips, some with cereal or rice, others cultivated with a variety of plants, like an allotment. In one small section, there were longer sections of fields, but every couple there were groups of 4-5 houses. Japan has a population if 127m, that’s over twice the UK, but a population density nearly 3x as much. And if you can’t build in the many mountains, that means they’re nearly all squeezed into the coastal plains. We saw no real farmland- where do they grow the rice? And definitely no animals in any of the fields. Just houses and more houses.

Arriving on Hiroshima we jumped onto a local tram, dropped the bags off and then nipped back to the station to get a train out to Miyajima island. Well, a train to catch the 10min ferry ride across the sea to the island. We were there to see the floating shrine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t floating today, as we arrived at low tide.It basically stuck up out of the mud.

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima

Before we got there, it was time for me to try the local delicacy – BBQ oysters. Well, grilled oysters as they are called, but they’re basically cooked on a BBQ. Served with a squeeze of line they were great.

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima

We headed onto the beach for a quick paddle and to stare at the torii. This is usually photographed sticking out of the water, we got sand and barnacles.

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima

The shrine is quite small really, bridging across the two sides of the bay. As we reached the middle, we got caught up in what looked like a marriage – the first marriage by interpretive dance I’ve seen. Well, it looked like a marriage party and I assume the ceremony took place elsewhere, but we just say the man in the mask do 10 mins of dance to drums, flutes, kazoos and a broken bagpipe. (I don’t know what the instruments actually were but that is what they sounded like).

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima

More photos, more beach wandering and the ferry took us back to the mainland.

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima

We tried one of the izakayas this evening, a sort of pub that serves a mix of food. This one was the first one we had been too with no English, so it was a matter of point and hope. I ended up with a mixture of rice in stock, chicken cabbage and egg, which I am informed via Twitter was ‘oyako donburi’ . Very nice it was too.

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima

Tomorrow we head to the Atom Bomb dome, as listed on the signs.

Finally, my sign of the day. Everyone needs an emergency Escape Mouth.

Japan Day 13: Hiroshima

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr
Day 12 post – Nara
Day 11 post – Kyoto : Day 10 post – Kyoto : Day 9 post – Race day at Suzuka : Day 8 post – Sill at Suzuka : Day 7 Post – Suzuka : Day 6 Post – Hakone to Nagoya : Day 5 Post – Hakone : Day 4 Post – Tokyo : Day 3 post – Tokyo : Day 2 post – Tokyo : Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 16

Japan Day 12: Nara

There’s so much to do in Kyoto we haven’t even started to scratch the surface. But today, we took the decision to head to Nara, the old capital of Japan. Or should I say older, as it was capital from 710 for 75 years. It’s about an hour SE of Kyoto.

Like most of the towns we’ve seen, the arrival location is never that impressive, but we headed out up the main shopping street through to Nara Park.

Japan Day 12: Nara

First was Kofuku-Ji, transferred from Kyoto in 710. Nothing remains of that time, as with most temples, they’ve been destroyed by fire, earthquake or the Shinto tradition of rebuilding every 20 years. These are still current reasons for changes. Every single temple we have been too has big warnings about smoking and lots and lots of fire extinguishers. When you’re made of old wood, fire is probably enemy number one! The main hall is in midst of being renovated, due to be revealed in 2018.

Japan Day 12: Nara

There are some old elements remaining, this 5 story pagoda was built in 1426.

Japan Day 12: Nara

We carried on through the park, running into the deer that run free across the whole area. Most of the stalls carry deer biscuits and they’re used to being fed – the bolder ones tend to demand it!

Japan Day 12: Nara

Even with the all the people around, they carry on with their lives. It’s obviously mating season and we had to avoid the deer sex and male fights.

Japan Day 12: Nara

The second place we visited was Todai-ji. A large temple complex containing Daibutsu-den, which was until recently the largest wooden building in the world. Rebuilt in 1709, it’s 1/3rd smaller than the hall that stood there before.

Japan Day 12: Nara

And the reason it is so large? It houses the Great Buddha – a statue 16m high, with 437t of bronze and 130kg of gold. It is HUGE! There are other large statues in the building as well, all of whom add up to an overwhelming presence.

Japan Day 12: Nara

It’s not just the statues that are awesome, the building is too. You can’t help wonder how they put it together. But there is something completely unexpected. In one of the back columns, one of the huge columns supporting the roof, is a hole. According to guides, the hole is the same size as one of the nostrils on the big Buddha statue. Apparently you’re supposed to climb through this hole. There’s no sign as to why you should climb through it, but apparently it is to gain enlightenment in the next life! It is very popular with the large groups of school children that visit the hall. However, having taken a look at the hole, i decided that it was probably big enough and I had to have a go!

Japan Day 12: Nara

As you can see, I made it :-)

Whilst there, we also added our names to one of the tiles that will be added to the building. A little bit of permanence and history, at least until they rebuild. It’s hard writing Roman script with the brushes, the Japanese characters looked so more elegant!

Japan Day 12: Nara

A few more temples further up the hill (almost every temple we have visited has been up a hill. We have climbed a LOT of stairs) then we headed back. But not before being waylaid by a Japanese Tv show and asked to smell some mushrooms. They smelt like the deer dung but are allegedly a delicacy. We have no idea if we will make an appearance.

Japan Day 12: Nara

A late lunch was taken, this time a Nara specialty of kamameshi, which is rice, vegetables/meat/seafood cooked in an iron pot. The skill is cooking it so the rice just sticks and gets crispy!

Japan Day 12: Nara

Once back in Kyoto we called into the Japanese equivalent of Poundshop and stocked up on some essentials. No major events this evening, just a repacking of everything to send the cases back to Tokyo whilst we go on to Hiroshima for the last city of the trip.

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr
Day 11 post – Kyoto : Day 10 post – Kyoto : Day 9 post – Race day at Suzuka : Day 8 post – Sill at Suzuka : Day 7 Post – Suzuka : Day 6 Post – Hakone to Nagoya : Day 5 Post – Hakone : Day 4 Post – Tokyo : Day 3 post – Tokyo : Day 2 post – Tokyo : Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 15

Japan Day 11: Kyoto

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

A day in Kyoto. Despite the many, many temples and shrines, World Heritage Sites and Cultural Treasures, the main part of Kyoto is basically ugly, like most cities in Japan it appears. Any charm has been destroyed as buildings are built and rebuilt, modern, flat, grey. Electricity lines snake down streets, not underground but in the air like mad knitting. There’s no space between houses, no gardens, the buildings in the city built tight next to each other, the same pattern repeated as you move to the outskirts. Now and again you get an old building that has survived, but most seems to be as new as possible.

To get any idea of what it may have been once, you need to get to the outskirts. We went to Arashiyama this morning and houses in their own plots, tidy, organised gardens, single stories are what you find there. Totally different to anything we have seen so far, in the cities or from the train. We went to visit Tenryu-Ji, a temple that was established in 1339.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

All the buildings are modern (ish) but the gardens date back to the 14th century, designed to work with the background mountains, called ‘shakkei’ or ‘borrowed-landscape’. This is the first real sculptured gardens we have seen so far. We sat and contemplated the view for a while.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

Next, a walk along the edge of the mountain, through the famous bamboo grove. Gorgeous towering bamboo trees reach up to the sky and you walk through the green-tinged light.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

Back into the village, a quick meal of noodles from a roadside stall and then train and bus to the complete opposite side of the city, the other mountains.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

Here we visited Kitomizu-dera, another ancient temple, established in 798 but with most buildings dated from 1633. If the morning was about contemplation of nature, this was definitely the interactive temple. We climbed up and up, through the graveyards before hitting the forecourt, full of people, especially schoolparties.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

Into the main hall, with a verandah jutting over the hillside supported by huge pillars and a view over the city.
You could go down under a building, into the pitch dark, following a guideline to the magic stone, figuratively entering the womb of a female budhisvatta. At the heart, there’s a stone that you can turn either way and make a wish. I’m guessing there’s some pretty slick ball bearings under the stone to allow it to do that!

Up to the main interactive section, a shrine or action for everyone. You could rub the statue for luck. You could write your sorrows on paper and dissolve them away, wish a curse on your enemies.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

Or you could walk the 18m between the two love stones with your eyes closed. Make it and hit the second stone, you would find true love.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

You could also be terrified by the love messenger bunny, in bronze or red-eyed furry glory.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto
Japan Day 11: Koyoto

The final activity was to reach out and catch the water from the spring, wash and drink it and make a wish. This place is all about the wishes.

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

We headed back to change as tonight we were off out to treat ourselves. As we’re in Japan, we have to try Kobe beef and the Itoh Dining by Nobu seemed to be a good place. The 7 courses that followed were definitely worth it! (and we finally saw a real geisha on our way to the restaurant)

Japan Day 11: Koyoto

Most people we’ve seen so far seem to obey the walk/don’t walk signs, they wait, even if a small road and no-one is heading your way. They often have a count down so you can tell how long you have to wait. When they do turn green, they start making a noise and I have no idea what defines the noise they make, as it does not seem to be connected with the type of sign. There are two main noises. One goes cuckoo, cuckoo. The other goes pew, pew-pew. Today I heard a third, going cuc-cuckoo.

Tomorrow we head out of the city for a visit to Nara, the previous capital.

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 10 post: Kyoto : Day 9 post – Race day at Suzuka : Day 8 post – Sill at Suzuka : Day 7 Post – Suzuka : Day 6 Post – Hakone to Nagoya : Day 5 Post – Hakone : Day 4 Post – Tokyo : Day 3 post – Tokyo : Day 2 post – Tokyo : Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 14

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

A new city! Today we travelled from Nagoya to Kyoto, to continue with out sightseeing touristy part of the trip. We boarded the Shinkansen for the 40min trip. We had intended to forward the luggage, but it turns out, that it takes 24 hrs, so we took them with us. Somehow, despite not really buying a lot, both suitcases seem to have got a LOT heavier!

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Luggage left at hotel, we headed out into town. First of all, we wandered along the row of Nishiki market. It’s like Borough Market, except mainly fish!

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

I thought about it, but in the end wasn’t tempted by the octopus on a stick.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Then across the river through Gion, taking a look at Shimbashi, one of the really old style streets. Some lovely old houses along streets that looked pretty quiet.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

We headed on to Chion-in, a temple at the base of the mountain. It’s an active temple, the centre of Pure Land Buddha teaching. Plenty of different buildings, trails through the forest, burial grounds. They have a 47t bell up a hill. How did they get it there?!

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

The main building is currently being restored, with a completely new building been put around it. It’s going to take until 2019 to finish it.You can walk through the different buildings and shrines, some of which are connected together with ‘nightingale’ floors, that creak and squeal like the sound of birds when you walk across them. In the main working area, we watched people line up for private services, where they sat and preyed whilst the monk/priest sang and banged a variety of percussion.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Back down the hill, through the park. It’s a national holiday today so it was pretty busy. Then to Yatsuka-Jinja, regarded as the guardian shrine of Gion. very colourful buildings and a place where we encountered lots of kimono wearing women,

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Somewhere, there’s a service that dresses them up for the day, and they then wander round for the photo opportunities.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Finally the main bit of the Gion district, first in daylight and then returning after dark Old wooden buildings, lots of tourists, quaint streets, but not that much else to see.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

Dinner this evening was sushi, at a lovely place called Hisagi Sushi. Well, sushi for me, definitely not one of Sofia’s favourite foods.

On the favourite subject of toilets, our hotel this time has a remote control, so you don’t have to turn sideways to activate the various spraying elements. The basic Japanese squat toilet requires too much flexibility to be comfortable but I’m don’t prefer the ones that you’d need an electrician to fix if it went wrong! And it may just be me, but having a toilet that plugs in, even if it does give you a warm seat, just feels odd!

Favourite sign of the day – all about Beautification Enforcement areas.

Japan Day 10: Kyoto

And on the favourite subject of toilets, our hotel this time has a remote control, so you don’t have to turn sideways to activate the various spraying elements. The basic Japanese squat toilet requires too much flexibility to be comfortable but I’m don’t prefer the ones that you’d need an electrician to fix if it went wrong! And it may just be me, but having a toilet that plugs in, even if it does give you a warm seat, just feels odd!

Now our feet and legs are tired. Time to retire before hitting more sights tomorrow.

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 9 post – Race day at Suzuka : Day 8 post – Sill at Suzuka : Day 7 Post – Suzuka : Day 6 Post – Hakone to Nagoya : Day 5 Post – Hakone : Day 4 Post – Tokyo : Day 3 post – Tokyo : Day 2 post – Tokyo : Day 1 post – Tokyo