James Foley

Week in review 2024-20

RSI and split keyboards, Elle goes to Belgium, what the hell is Deep Dip 2?

Notes on the week

An annual tradition at the Piet Zwart Institute is the Fine Art class trip, where the first and second year groups travel somewhere in Europe together for a break right before the end of year assessments. This year they’re gone to a little town just outside of Liege in Belgium, and as I check the news tonight it’s currently experiencing a massive flood! Thankfully they all arrived safe in their little convoy of vans to the beautiful chateau they’re taking over for the weekend. Hopefully the weather will clear up and they’ll have a great time, and whilst Elle is away I get to spend an obnoxious amount of time watching all the formula 1 sessions from this weekend’s race at Imola.


As I’m typing this, I’m feeling a small bit of pain in my right ring finger. This has been a problem for me since my final year in college, I remember it flaring up for the first time typing up my final year project. Considering how much of my professional and private life is spent with two hands on a keyboard I’m surprised it doesn’t flare up more often, but I think I’ve gotten to the point where I need to start listening to the warning signs my body are sending, so I’ve started to research some alternative keyboards. I want to try an ortho-linear board, and one with significantly fewer keys so there is less reaching and stretching. I also want a split keyboard, so that I can rest my hands at a more natural width apart. Combined with my desire to do another ‘hardware’ project after the E-Ink display, I think I’m going to build my own Corne split keyboard. I think the ultra minimal layout and having to learn home row mods and layers will enforce a more deliberate practice when typing, and hopefully force me to unlearn decades of bad habits.


Trackmania is a game that I’ve been aware of for a long time, but have never really spent too much time playing or following. It’s a racing game where the basic premise is that players compete with one another to finish a track as quickly as possible. There are no collisions or overtaking, just the player against the track and the stopwatch. This description doesn’t really do justice to just how challenging some of these tracks can be, the speed and technicality really ramps up quick. A Trackmania player, ‘Wirtual’, has been showing up in my recommended YouTube videos for a little while, and this week I saw a video about something called “Deep Dip 2”.

Deep Dip 2 is a track created by 16 of the most talented track creators in the Trackmania scene, who worked together for over a year to build the ultimate challenge for players, a 16 floor hillclimb that is designed to push players to the absolute limit of their abilities. There is a real world prize pool for the first person to complete the track, and the last time I checked it was around €30,000. Unlike a normal Trackmania competition, where players have a set amount of time to try and set the fastest time on the leaderboards, the challenge here is to become the first person to finish the track. It’s been a week now, and no one has even got close. At the time of writing someone has made it to floor 13 of 16, and out of thousands of participants fewer than 10 have made it further than floor 8. It’s a wild competition to keep an eye on, and watching the progression of the payers as they overcome obstacles that looked to be impossible only a day or two ago. I’ll be keeping watch as the challenge progresses, and I’m rooting for Wirtual to make a big comeback! There are two great sites to track people’s progress through the challenge, one made by (for?) Wirtual here and another made by Loah here


Ireland’s last Basking Shark hunter

A tiny bike pump

Why did our ancestors make art in the dark?

How Cicadas ‘sing’

Whales have an alphabet??

Exploring Japan’s lost heritage on Sakhalin Island

The first planetarium

A quick start guide to the Teenage Engineering KO II

What iPadOS continues to get wrong

Reading

Not much really, hopefully will get through a lot more next week when I’m back home in Kilkenny.

Listening

It’s Billie Eilish album week, and on a first listen it’s a great record. Definitely a departure from her previous work, and lots of fun.

Week in review 2024-19

Aurora’s above Kilkenny, SV Charlois and dinner parties

Notes on the week

I love space. I am fundamentally aligned with the idea that humanity should become an interplanetary species, and that the need to explore the unknown is hard coded into our DNA. I remember when I was very little, being in the back of my parents car driving home from visiting friends, looking up into the night sky and being scared. I couldn’t tell you why for certain, but I was probably beginning to get a grasp for just how tiny our little blue drop in the Universe truly is. Now, many years later and a little bit more informed as to just how infinitesimally small we are, oddly when I look up at the night sky I feel nothing but wonder and awe.

This is all a long winded of saying, when the Space Weather reports forecast a once in a lifetime Coronal Mass Ejection aimed straight at Earth I was raging that I had made my plans to travel home at the end of May, and not the start! The Aurora Borealis, visible above Kilkenny! I have never felt so jealous of, and at the same time so happy for, my family that they got to see it. My sister happened to be home that night and the pictures they got together under the Northern Lights were incredible to see.


I’ve joined a football club. Kind of. SV Charlois is the nearest football club to our new flat, and as part of an attempt to integrate more in the community, get a little fitter and have a bit of fun before my knees truly pack it in, I decided to check out if they have a very ‘amateur’ team. Turns out they have dozens of teams, across all age ranges from kids all the way up to ‘walking football’ for seniors. I went to watch their Sunday morning men’s team play this week, and the standard is exactly what I’m looking for, a little slow on the physical side but fully committed on the competitive end. The season is just coming to an end, so I can’t join properly until June ahead of the next season, but I’m going to go watch more games over the coming weeks.


We had guests for Dinner! Elle invited a couple of the girls from college around to our flat for dinner, and it was really nice! We definitely need more dishes and cutlery if this is going to become a recurring thing, I ate out of a piece of tupperware with a plastic fork (the guests got priority when it came to real dinnerware). The weather here is amazing at the moment, so we had our balcony doors open to let the sun and summer breeze in, and Elle made an amazing pasta dish that went down a treat. We also got asked the ultimate neighbour question, to keep a set of our friends apartment keys in our house in case they ever get locked out. I think we’re properly settled in now.


The book of secret knowledge

Personal Computing paves the way

No Web without Women

India’s AI war rooms during an election year

How do IMEI numbers work

The drinking fountain button is tragically misunderstood

Musical notation using CSS

How to keep fit in Lunar gravity

Losing my hands

Every map of China is a lie

Woodworking as an escape from programming

The Nature of Code

Reading

I’m intentionally taking my time with Wuthering Heights, and just taking a chapter a night before bed. I’m really enjoying it, and doesn’t feel anything like the chore that Moby Dick was. It’s one of Elle’s favourite books so I’m really looking forward to getting deeper into it and chatting with her about it. Before reading the book, I was aware of the name ‘Heathcliff’ but knew literally nothing about him, I wonder where his character goes throughout the novel, but so far he’s not exactly the gentleman that I had in my head.

Listening

The Kendrick/Drake beef is all the music world can talk about right now, but beyond even the tracks released by the artists themselves, the highlight has to be BBL Drizzy, an AI generated song by King Willonius

Week in review 2024-18

The Vision Pro, Elle’s work trip and Adrian Newey shocks the F1 World

Notes on the week

I got to try out Apple’s Vision Pro headset this week. I thought it was going to be a long time before I got to try out the headset, but one of the PixelBar members has one for some of the work he’s doing for his day job, and brought it to the hackerspace for people to try out. After a few minutes using it, I’m convinced that this is the future of computing. Not in it’s current form - it’s far to heavy, bulky and inconvenient - but it feels obvious to me that the augmented reality view of presenting computing as a layer over the physical world feels like the next natural evolution in personal computing. Computers have gone from something we needed massive rooms for, to something we dedicated a space for in our homes, to something we carried in backpacks, to something we cant bear to let out of our sight. Our relationship with technology grows more and more personal over time, and after spending a moment inside the Vision Pro’s pass through spatial computing world I cannot wait to see where this technology goes over the next five to ten years.


Elle is home this week for another gig photographing an exhibition. I’m so proud of her for carving out this niche, a life in the arts is such an uncertain one, and to have a skillset that can be used for paying work on a regular basis and keeps her involved in the art scene at home is just fantastic to see. I might be biased, but I think she is insanely good at documenting exhibition spaces, and curators must agree with me because she’s already been booked for another gig later this year! Whilst she’s away I have the new flat to myself just after settling in, which is a recurring theme for us. Every single time we’ve moved into a new place as a couple, one of us has had to leave within the first week for work. The first time was in Limerick, where Elle started an artist residency in Dublin a couple of days after we moved into a house with our friends from college, then when we arrived in Rotterdam I had to fly home after a few days to finish up a project for Ericsson. I guess if the pattern continues then I’m next to have some urgent work trip when we eventually leave Charlois. I wonder what it will be.


The new office furniture arrived, and just as promised the delivery guys brought it to the front door and no further. For a €15 delivery fee I’m not holding it against them, but I (perhaps somewhat stubbornly) had to drag the desk up to the third floor on my own. I say stubbornly, because I could have spent a little time to disassemble it outside and bring it up piece by piece, but I did the lazy man’s load and lugged it up in one go. If anything had gone wrong, imagine how embarrassing the news article would have been? “Irish man abroad crushed by second hand bureau”,


In F1 Corner, Adrian Newey has decided to leave Red Bull at the end of the 2024 season. This is seismic news. In the 32 years since 1992, a Newey designed car has won 14 World Championships, and is all but certain to add a 15th this year. That’s a remarkable hit rate in a sport that attracts the greatest engineering minds from all around the world, and a huge loss for the Red Bull organisation that seems to be doing everything in it’s power to self destruct internally, despite utter dominance on the track. We don’t know where Newey is going next, but if Fred Vasseur can lure him to Ferrari, after already poaching Lewis Hamilton to the Scuderia for next year, they’ll build statues of the French man in Maranello.

Rooster Teeth founders play Halo for one last time

Remaking Toy Story 2 game in Unreal Engine 5

Details of the Voyager repair performed across the solar system

Bertrand Serlet explains why LLMs work

The rise and fall of the LAN party

Keep a WTF Journal

Reading

Wuthering Heights is next on my list to get through this year, and with zero background knowledge the first few chapters are already ‘spookier’ than I was expecting.

Listening

I’ve been in such a David Bowie mood this week

Week in review 2024-17

Week one in the new house, delivered a week later

Notes on the week

I’ve been remiss in my duty to writing these updates. I’m going to blame moving and no one will argue with me, it’s a stressful thing to do!


We’re up and running in our new home in Charlois, and by we I mean me, because Elle had to travel home this week for a job.She’s shooting another exhibition in Ireland. The place already feels a lot like home, the minimal decoration of the flat when we moved in meant that all our little trinkets and personal stuff really stand out, and I love that. I spent the week working from the kitchen table, as the ‘office’ room is completely unfurnished, but a trip to our favourite charity shop ‘Het Goed’ has solved that. We found a desk, an office chair and a few other bits and pieces that we needed for €80, including delivery.

They’re due to arrive next Monday. They only deliver to the front door though, and with Elle away that means I’m going to have to navigate getting these things up three flights of stairs (no elevator is a pain) on my own. If anyone spots a deranged looking person disassembling a desk on the side of the road in Charlois next week, don’t judge.


The same day that we went to Het Goed to get some furniture, I also got a new bike. During the weekend of moving, my bike was stolen from outside our old flat in Glashaven. The glass half full take here is that it meant one less thing to move?

When we got to Rotterdam we were advised that if we didn’t have indoor storage (we didn’t), don’t buy good bikes. We spent very little on ours, and managed to get a surprisingly long time out of them. They were a bit rough around the edges, and have needed some TLC over the months to keep them going, but two bikes for roughly €100 wasn’t bad! I guess that’s why I don’t feel too bad about mine being robbed, it was either going to let me down mechanically in a way that was too expensive to justify fixing, or get stolen, and I was aware of both eventualities.

One of the great things about our new place is that we have access to a basement. Each apartment has it’s own storage room underground, and honestly it’s pretty big. I think in Dublin you could probably rent the space out for a grand a month. With the security of having somewhere to lock up safely I felt better spending a little more on a little better bike, and on Wednesday went to Mega Bikes, a massive bike shop with locations across the city. I got a second hand city bike in great condition for €250, and it is such an upgrade on my old bike. It’s so much smoother, lighter and faster, and I feel much more comfortable on it.

The added benefit of having the basement room is that if I do need to perform any maintenance or repairs on the bike, I have somewhere to do it that isn’t the side of the road! When Elle gets back we’re going to get her up and running with a new bike too, because if my old bike was hanging on by a thread before it was stolen, hers is held together by hope.


VOYAGER IS BACK IN CONTACT WITH EARTH!

The hardest thing in Computer Science is centering stuff

Pushing Halo 2 and the original xbox into HD

Humans lived in ancient lava tubes

25 years of working in engineering

Why the modern internet is shit

Crazy Charlie

Fabien Sanglard breaks down a SNES cartridge

Equinox, a browser based first person mystery in space

Reading

I’ve finished my journey aboard the Pequod. It took far, far longer than I ever could have expected. Moby Dick is a big book, but not excessively long (especially in comparison to some of the longer fantasy books I’ve read a la Sanderson or Robert Jordan), but it was such a struggle to get through. I described it to friends recently as having prose that was written just recent enough that the english is perfectly understandable, but long enough ago into the past that the structure and phrases are so different to what I’m used to that I really had to take my time to make sure I was getting the correct meaning of each sentence.

Overall, I’m really happy that I stuck with it. I nearly gave up on it many times, but I actually feel a real sense of satisfaction having gotten through it. Ishmael’s meandering narration annoyed me at first, but as the book went on it actually drew me in. In the same way Andy Weir’s The Martian is so compelling as a series of journal entries, Moby Dick feels more like Ishmael’s private thoughts on the topic of whaling rather than a story being told for our pleasure.

Clocking in at an average 1,800 words read per day, it might be the slowest I’ve read a book since I was a child, but on reflection that was kind of a cool experience too, as the tiny slices of narrative I took in every day read like a daily dispatch from Ishmael, rather than a broken up long form piece. For comparison, after I finished I finally got round to reading “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir, which I devoured and finished within 24 hours. 9/10 Book, would highly recommend.

Listening

For whatever reason, last summer I got really into watching the Tour de France with my Dad. Like most people I knew roughly what the Tour was about, a team based cycling race across France, dipping into other countries on occasion before ending with the final stage in Paris, but had no idea of the complexity of strategy employed by the teams to get their riders to the front of the peloton. I looked up some YouTube videos to find out the backstory of the great rivalry we were watching, Pogacar vs Vingegaard, and along the way stumbled across the Lantern Rouge cycling podcast. I learned more over a few days listening to these two guys breakdown the event than I had in a lifetime of casually observing the Tour. I’ve kept up listening to them long after Jonas won his second Tour, and even if I’m not a massive cycling fan, still find it really enjoyable.

Week in review 2024-16

Mission complete: Housing Acquired

Notes on the week

We’ve moved! This Sunday was our last day in our first apartment in Rotterdam. The last few weeks and months have been spent trying to find our next place to live, and thankfully we finally found somewhere. Unsurprisingly it went right down to the wire, with us only signing the lease on Thursday, moving Friday and Saturday, and cleaning our old place Sunday. Our new apartment is in Charlois, in the south of the city and is a little bit out of the city centre, but it’s got two bedrooms (i.e a bedroom and an office), is pretty well kept and is within our budget.

The last apartment we lived in was beautiful, with stunning views overlooking an old harbour and was tastefully decorated. I tend to think about it as being ‘opinionated’ and I guess that makes sense, as we were only ever renting short term and it was someone’s home at the end of the day. Our new place in contrast is a blank canvas. There are only the bare minimum of furnishings and it really feels like somewhere that we can make our own as we settle into it. Already after just a few hours it feel more like a reflection of us than the other place ever did, even though I will never not long for coffee mornings spent looking out over the water.


The logistics of moving were tough. We don’t have a car, and for two people that moved here on a plane, we have a surprisingly large volume of stuff. Thankfully we kept all the boxes from when we shipped over some of our bigger things, and have built up a collection of these small An Post parcel boxes from months of care packages sent from home! Elle did the Lions share of the packing, as I had to work through the week, and so by Friday evening we had all of our stuff more or less ready to go.

I rented a van from Van ’t hart, a recommendation from a colleague at the Pixelbar, and drove the short 10 minute trip from Kralingse to our old flat. I haven’t driven in a few months, and for my first trip to be on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, in a van with no rear-view mirror, in a city I only know as a pedestrian or cyclist, surrounded by other cars and bikes at Rush Hour, was an experience. I managed to survive without hitting anything or anyone, and found a parking spot just across from the flat. Then the boxes. So many boxes, some heavy and some light, some big and some small, all of them on the sixth floor of our building. This is a good time to mention that the elevator in our building only goes to the fifth floor.


Two full loads of the van back and forth across the city, and finally at around 11pm all our stuff was in. Our neighbours must hate us already. The new place is on the 2nd floor, but there is no lift so we had to bring everything up the stairs. I normally take a bit of time at night to fall asleep, I don’t even remember lying down Friday night. I had to be up Saturday morning to return the van for 8am, and spent a bit of time in town picking up some things that we noticed the new place doesn’t have. I’m sure we’ll come across more and more as the weeks go on, but the biggest item right now is a desk. I’ve taken over the dining table for work for the next few days.

Sunday was spent exclusively cleaning, and by the time I left the old apartment I don’t think a surface remained in the flat that you couldn’t sit and seat a three course meal off of. Of course in my tiredness I left a bag over there, and will have to annoy my old landlord next week about collecting, but other than that, we are out. We’re settling into Charlois, figuring out our new routine for getting around, which busses and metros to take, what’s good to eat around here, where the nice walks are, where the bad walks are etc. It was exhausting but it feels really exciting, and I can’t wait for us to be properly settled in.


What if everyone jumped at once?

What is a teenager?

We need to rewind the internet

The deep sea cables that power in the internet, and the ships that repair them

House hunting is a fever dream

AI isn’t useless

The biggest art fraud in US history

Reading

Anything other than Rental Listings! The sheer number of email updates I’ve unsubscribed from is beautiful!

I’m this close to finishing Moby Dick, haven’t got a huge amount of pages done this week as it’s been so busy, but I’m really enjoying the conclusion of this book.

Listening

You’re dead to me” is a comedy podcast that “takes history seriously”. Each episode pairs a historian with a comedian and they discuss a famous figure or period in history. I love laughing whilst I learn

Week in review 2024-15

House hunting enters the final stages

Notes on the week

This week has been dominated with the search for housing. As a recap, our landlord is returning from an extended work trip in the next few days, and we’ve been searching to find a new place to live for the past two months. This has been a pretty challenging experience, with the Netherlands going through a similar housing crisis to what’s happening in Ireland at the moment. Thankfully, in the past few days we’ve received offers for two apartments that we’re happy to accept, but for a minute there it was starting to look rough. With this experience in mind I thought it might be worth outlining a few thoughts on the experience.


There are a number of housing platforms in the market here in the Netherlands. Back home in Ireland my impression is that Daft.ie has the lions share of the traditional market, but here there are at least two major platforms, Funda and Pararius. Beyond those there are smaller players, and the individual estate agent’s websites as well (but those agents tend to post all their listings on one or both of the big platforms). Funda and Pararius are dominated by estate agents, but there is a healthy market for individual landlords as well, with sites like HousingAnywhere and Kamernet having a pretty good supply of houses and apartments.

Anecdotally we have had the most success with Kamernet - it’s where we found the apartment we’re living in right now, and also where one of our two prospects this time round was found. This doesn’t tell the whole story though, as the experience of using Kamernet is atrocious. The design is infuriating, basic features like search filters reset all the time, saved searches don’t save at all (what is the point), the messaging platform that’s built into the app feels like something built in the 90s but less resilient and on top of this they charge a monthly fee.


We’ve probably applied for close to, if not more than, 200 apartments in the past few weeks. Of those applications we were invited to view around 20. The vast majority of the houses that we saw were of a reasonably high standard, and I saw none of the horror stories that I’ve seen shared from home, especially in the Dublin housing market. There is a small amount of selection bias here, as we are not looking at the absolute bottom rung of the housing market, but I am still impressed. I reckon for what we need (2 bedrooms), the houses I’ve seen are all in the bottom 25% of the price range for the market, and none felt like exploitative, low standard housing. There was that one place without a sink in the bathroom, but that was an outlier.


The toughest thing about the whole experience, and what I imagine is a universal truth for those searching for housing at the moment regardless of which city or country, is the ‘always on’ nature of the hunt. It is a full time job, and then some. With the sheer number of people applying for viewings, if you’re not in the first 50 or so people to reply to an ad you’re at nothing. This resulted in us having notifications turned on for any new postings, as well as email summaries being delivered multiple times throughout the day. It’s kind of hard to fully think about anything else, as it’s always on the back of your mind that something might pop up, and you have to be ready to respond.

We have all our documents ready and collated into a single pdf that is easy to share. We have another document that contains our ‘personal statement’, explaining who we are and why we deserve a home, in two different formats as the different sites have different maximum length requirements for this entry. We also have the added benefit of having one of us working full time on a computer all day long, ready to pounce at a moments notice for any new property that matches our requirements.

The whole thing is exhausting. After a few weeks of this, we both sat down the other day and just sighed, it’s overwhelming. I can’t even begin to imagine what this experience must be like for anyone trying to find somewhere to live that also has kids to look after.

A ‘Hello World’ deep dive

Green screen before green screen

Notes on using LLMs in your products

Apple’s researching in ‘Action’ models, or teaching an AI to use an iPhone

A less than glowing insight into working in Apple Retail and it’s fall from grace

A beautiful visualiser of aircrafts ads-b information

Volkswagen, an exploit to pass tests

3 Blue 1 Brown’s video on the inner workings of LLMs

Reading

Every single ad for a two bedroom apartment within 5km of Rotterdam City Centre.

Listening

Chappell Roan has an unusual name, and a brilliant debut album. ‘Pink Pony Club’ and ‘California’ are getting played a lot in the apartment this week.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth came out recently, and I stumbled across this album of chilled out remixes of famous tracks from the FF universe.

Week in review 2024-14

Simulacrum in Amsterdam, visitors round three and summer arrives in April

Notes on the week

On Saturday night I was sat out on our balcony chatting away with Elle, having a beer, and I was wearing a pair of shorts. It was 18 degrees at 9.45pm. At the same time in Ireland my family were winding down after spending the day fixing two damaged roofs after a day of storms and gale force winds. Climate change is real, and very scary, but in the moment it was pretty nice to enjoy a bit of warm weather after a long, wet and dark winter. The whole city seems to have come alive in the last few days, with flowers blooming, trees sprouting bright green leaves and the people flocking to waterside bars and restaurants. We’re moving house soon, but I’m so glad that we got to experience the start of Spring/Summer properly in the harbour, it’s such a beautiful spot in the city.


A friend from college and his recently engaged Fiancé were in town Friday night and Saturday morning. They had been to visit Efteling during the day, and then got the train to us in Rotterdam. We got to hear the full story about their proposal, what the plans are for the wedding and the reception (One is Dutch and one is American, so there is a huge geographical spread between the required guests), and then went for a lovely brunch together on the Saturday morning. They continued on their way back to Groningen after a quick walking tour of central Rotterdam (Cube houses, Markthall, Maritime Museum - I have this down a tee at this stage) and Elle went to Amsterdam for work on an art project.


Sunday we were back in Amsterdam to visit a Simulacrum event. Simulacrum is a publication, and the event was a launch for their latest edition and included some visual arts, performances and readings. The cover artist for the upcoming edition, and one of the artists showing work at the event was one of our friends, Lore, who is doing the MFA with Elle at the Piet Zwart. She does these incredible large scale pencil drawings, and incorporates some sculptural and performance work into her practice as well. We took a little walk through the streets of Amsterdam after the event (it was so sunny it was impossible to not fall in love with the place) and grabbed a burrito before hopping on the train home. We got to ride on one of the new intercity trains, and sat in First Class (Don’t arrest us NS.NL, there were no other seats). The new trains are weird, they feel faster and are very comfortable to be in with decent seats, plugs on all seats etc, but the actual riding experience of the train is weird. It seems to sway a lot more on the tracks, leading to this weird little wobble feeling in your seat as speed. Elle noticed it too, so it’s not just me being picky. They are also a lot louder on the inside, especially during acceleration. 7/10 overall.


We’re still house hunting, but oddly enough as our move out deadline gets closer and closer, I’m more and more confident that we’ll find somewhere. Maybe it’s the denial phase of the stages of grief, but I’ve met one particular agent at so many viewings that we’re now on first name terms, and I think he might be able to help us. Fingers crossed.

The ultimate FPS Controller

April Cools Club

A course to overcome fear of flying

Brazilian special forces fighting deforestation

How to link shell companies to their owners

The XZ attack shell script

The timeline of the XZ attack

The moon should have it’s own time zone

Reading

I’m on the home stretch with my friend Ishmael and his tale of the whale. 80% there and loving it. Not sure if this is Stockholm Syndrome, or just a truly great book. I can’t believe how long I’ve been reading this now, I’ve never read a book so slowly. Going to jump into Andy Weir’s “Project Hail Mary” next for something more aligned with what I’d normally enjoy.

Listening

Ethan Bortnick is a crazy musician that my friend Niall introduced me too. His music is really bipolar, half relaxing and half stress inducing. I love it!

I think he’s aware of this dichotomy as he has also released a chilled out piano version called ‘The Lullabies’ to go alongside his main release “Luna Park”

Week in review 2024-13

More visitors, a trip to the beach, F1 Corner gets competitive and a long weekend

Notes on the week

Following immediately after the departure of my friends from Tipperary, we had friends from work pass through Rotterdam as part of their three week long trip around Europe. Having recovered from the shock of one forgotten set of guests, the second we took in our stride. I met the guys for dinner and drinks, watched the Netherlands play Germany in an international friendly, and gave them a long list of things to check out in the city whilst I was working the next day. Their travels must have caught up to them, because the following night they stayed in at their AirBnB and were too tired to venture out two nights in a row. On the third, we hung out at the apartment, and - as is the way with these things - spent most of the night talking about work. They departed for Denmark, the final leg of their tour, the following day.


Our little F1 chat, “F1 Corner”, has gotten competitive. The two lads at home met up to watch one of the races together recently, and during the time after decided to play the F1 23 game to see who could do the fastest lap around the same track the race had taken place on. On the phone the next day they were sharing their lap times and suggested I try to see if I could beat them. I did exactly that, and not long after what started out as a bit of fun has quickly become a formal challenge we will be taking on as a group for the rest of the season.

Each race week we have until Sunday night to set our fastest lap around the circuit being raced on in real life. We can use any car we want, but the “equal performance” setting must be enabled, we can tweak the setup of the car to our hearts content and we must use no ABS and only the lowest Traction Control setting. There is a google Doc set up to record our laps, and after this marathon 24 race season we’ll see who’s the inaugural F1 Corner Champion. This has gotten so serious, so fast that one of the guys has bought his first game console in over a decade to get involved, and there are not so light hearted jokes about people investing in sim-racing wheels and pedals.


We went to the beach this weekend, this wonderful 4 day long weekend thanks to Easter, and it still blows my mind that we can hop on the Metro in Rotterdam City Centre and arrive at the seaside about 40 minutes later. We spent the afternoon walking up and down the beach, across the dunes, sipping coffees and eating burgers. It was a really nice break to get out of the city for a little while, and although it’s still too cold to go for a swim, Elle at least dipped her toes. I wasn’t quite so brave.


House hunting continues. House hunting always continues. There is nothing but the hunt. Notifications are triggered to send the moment a house is posted, pre-prepared messages are ready to be copied, pasted and sent, viewings go into the calendar and we arrive alongside the rest of the legion of “young professionals”, exhausted from trying to make it look like we’ve all got our shit together for the nth time this week. There is friendly banter, but you know that this is your competition. Someone always tries to be extra chatty with the agent from the rental company but we all know that it’s pointless. The veterans already know what questions to ask, and you lurk nearby to make sure you take note. You do Square Metre per Euro calculations in your head, and try to justify it all. I watched the Hunger Games over Christmas, and now I live it.

An AI powered robot for spotting sick tulips

The McLaren MP4/4 F1 Car dissected

Generating a book from years of iMessages

Ticci’s crazy Vision Pro setup

The Apple Jonathon, the concept computer that never shipped

Reading

The whale and I are friends now. I’m actually loving it. I read on the Moby Dick subreddit that it really picks up after chapter 41 and I tend to agree. I’m even beginning to find Ishmael’s chapters that completely abandon the plot kind of charming.

Listening

“Thoroughly Considered” is a show about product design and small businesses. I love hearing from Myke and the guys from Studio Neat as they chat about design decisions, business decisions and pens. Maybe you will too.

Moby Dick background music. 8 Bit Chiptune versions of sea shanties!

Week in review 2024-12

An astonishingly late update this week. 16mm film scans arrive, as do visitors!

Notes on the week

House viewings continue as House Hunt 2.0 ramps up into full swing. We still have a few weeks to find something, but it’s proving to be pretty tough. Our budget is reasonable, and our requirements are pretty fluid, but the level of demand in Rotterdam, as is the case across most of the world right now, is so high. Fingers crossed that the next few viewings actually trigger some follow up from the agents showing us around.


Elle’s 16mm film scans have arrived! Opening the file was one of the most stressful things I’ve witnessed in person, as the cost (both financial and time) has been so high for her working with this new medium. Thankfully, through a combination of luck and hours researching, it looks like everything went pretty well, and the shots are both exposed correctly and in focus! There is something very strange about watching footage shot in 2024, on a medium from the first half of the last century, there’s some weird mental mismatch going on in my head whenever I watch it back. Like, I know the people in the frame, why are they in the past? As much as the digital supremacist in me hates to admit it, there is a charm and a quality to the images that is very tough to describe, but really nice to watch. I can’t wait to see where she goes with this work.


We went to the art space, Time Window, to see a performance from one of Elle’s college friends and two other artists. The roughly hour or so long piece dealt with impermanence, and started with the audience placing little clay men into cups of water. The performance then went through dance, singing, roller blading, paper airplane making and more, and by the time the show ended our little men had dissolved into the water. It was pretty cool all in all, and we grabbed a drink on the way back home. A really nice evening.


Saturday afternoon we were out in town picking up some bits before Elle visited one of her friends, when I got a text from a friend from home, “We’re on the way!” alongside a picture of the motorway to Dublin. “To the Netherlands?” I replied, half joking - half panicking. They weren’t joking. Turns out a few months ago we had talked about when playing some games together, I had shared hotel recommendations and they had booked their flights. I obviously went to bed that night fully expecting my brain to remember this MAJOR IMPACT on our domestic life and pop it into our shared calendar. Brain did not. Brain did no such thing. Brain completely erased any memory of that conversation, and happily went about day to day life.

The last few days with the lads have been really fun, and the timing of it is spectacular. I had felt the smallest twinge of homesickness on Friday night before bed, and seemingly out of the blue two of my best friends show up on our doorstep. I can’t imagine that it will ever happen again that I’m in literally another country and my friends show up to hang out.

…..except, it happened again. Sunday afternoon I get a text from one of my friends from work, who a few months ago, had told me about a trip himself and some other friends from work were going to be taking through Europe, and how they would be passing through Rotterdam. If this is sounding familiar, refer to the previous tale of important news, filed away mentally to be captured officially later and duly forgotten. They arrive on Monday!

Taiwan is Arrakis

Swinging Pendulum Cryptography

A ride along through Apple Park

Algorithmic Math Art

How to actually use the notes you take

How to make a damn website

Mac Studio meets the Classic Mac with an iPad Screen

Reading

“I try all things, I achieve what I can.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, The Whale

The experience of reading this book is as epic a journey as Ahab’s hunt across the seven seas. I sat bolt upright the other day and proclaimed to Elle that I had just finished the first full chapter of the book that I truly enjoyed. Not three chapter’s later Melville was back to his meandering pondering, describing the many attempts of scholars throughout history to accurately describe and capture the image of a whale. On a few occasions I’ve read entire books in one go, cover to cover. It’s the end of March and I’m just past 50%.

A bonus of having the lads visit this week has been getting a bunch of recommendations for new books to read. I don’t know where I’m going to get the time to fit them in, but I’ll try. And in the middle of it all, Sanderson announced ANOTHER secret project, one that has the entire Cosmere community in a state. Roll on 2025 and The Isles of Emberdark

Listening

Jersey are this hyper energetic electronic two piece. I know very little about them, but I came across this video of them performing in what looks like someone’s patio, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Their EP, “The World I’m Searching For” is a great listen too!

Week in review 2024-11

A little late on the update this week, blame bank holiday laziness

Notes on the week

The e-ink dashboard project is complete! I had really hoped to get it up and running in time for our anniversary as a gift, but it ended up running one day over (the classic trope of software developer timeline estimates). I got a wooden IKEA frame from HetGoed that was about the correct size, and cut the paper mask to suit the the size of the e-ink panel. My last minute adjustments were overseen by some other members of the Pixelbar, and someone made the brilliant suggestion that the whole thing should be in portrait orientation, not landscape. This made much more sense, but added that last little bit of complexity as I had to re-design my UI to take into account the vertical, rather than horizontal, layout.

The final product works pretty well, and I’m really happy with it as a first attempt at making a hardware project. Every 30 minutes it fetches the latest weather information, as well as Elle’s college calendar and updates the display. After 5PM it stops showing Todays events, and switches to displaying items for tomorrow. One little USB cable out the back provides power, and the whole thing actually looks kind of nice. A future revision would be to drop the Raspberry Pi and use an ESP32 microcontroller to really, really cut down on the power draw. I think that it might last well over 6 months on battery in that case, but for the purposes I want to solve, a power cable is no big deal.


We’re going to Finland!

Ellen’s sister and her band are playing at a folk festival in Kaustinen this summer, and we’re going to go. The plan is to start off in Helsinki, travel up through one or more of the national parks, before arriving at the festival to document Maggie’s performances, maybe shoot some video and beyond that just take in the tunes. I can’t wait! Helsinki was one of the cities on the list of possibilities when Elle started looking to do her Masters, so it will be really interesting to take in the city - not just from the perspective of a tourist, but also wondering what our lives there would have looked like.


Ireland won the six nations for the second time in as many years. I went out to the pub here to watch it, but got my times wrong and ended up watching the end of the Italy/Wales match. Italy, the perennial underdogs of the tournament sealed a historic win to cap what was their best six nations in recent memory. I still cant believe that they went within a few inches of beating France (in Paris) a few weeks ago!


As mentioned above, this week marked six years of Elle and I being together. It’s crazy how fast time flies by, and the milestones that keep racking up on this journey that we’ve been on together. Growing up I always saw myself travelling through and living in different countries, taking in what the world has to offer. As I got through my twenties that kind of faded. I couldn’t tell you when, or why, but the breadth of my desire to explore just shrank. Amongst the litany of wonderful things about her, Elle has completely rekindled that sense of adventure, to try to make the most of every opportunity, to say yes more often than say no. I know it’s not exactly the most glamorous city in the world, but the me of only a few years ago would have never considered moving to Rotterdam, and now I’m sitting here wondering how many more stamps can I get on my passport. For this, and a million reasons more, I’m so grateful

There might be hope for Voyager yet

Getting started with Three.js

Why orbit is hard

Messing with your roommate

Working out NYTimes pangrams

Hackintoshes are not long for the world

John von Neumann on surviving technology, 1955

T-Pain taught himself blender and made a music video

Is Caviar a scam?

Why most sofas suck

Cool sand battery tech

Reading

Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology” by Chris Miller was last weeks book, and I’ve followed it up straight away with “The Power Law” by Sebastian Mallaby, which documents the origins and incredible success of Silicon Valley venture capital. These two read back to back make a really interesting pair, documenting the tools that shape our modern world, and the financiers that backed them. The lines between these two worlds really blur, with successful technologists transitioning to the venture world and both authors have done a great job telling the story of the valley.

Meanwhile, in fiction, I’ve been dipping my toe back into Moby Dick. I will, finish, this, book. Like Ahab chasing his white whale, this book will not escape me.

Listening

Can’t share this one publicly as it’s unreleased (for now), but a friend shared a song with me that I’ve been playing over and over and over again. Can’t wait for the rest of you to hear it

I’ve been enjoying The Guardian’s ‘Long Read’ podcast, where they produce an audio version of some of their bigger articles. The recent one o Pakistan’s wooing of western travel ‘influencers’ was really good!

Week in review 2024-10

Notes on the week

I have the apartment to myself this weekend, as Elle is back home for a few days. She’s been asked to be the official photographer for an exhibition, and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s a big deal to get paid for your work in the creative arts, and it serves not only as an external validation of your skills and abilities, but also serves to quieten the little voice inside that can be so quick to belittle and detract from the progress you’ve made. One of the tricks to surviving in the arts seems to be finding a gig adjacent to your practice that can be your ‘money job’, the one that keeps the lights on until you get set up as an ‘established artist’. I think this might be exactly one of those gigs.

On a side note, I have a whole ‘theory’ on success in the arts, and how there are 5 or 6 major filter events that an artist must pass through in order to make a living with their work, I’ll dive into it another time.


I’ve been using Day One a lot again. It’s a journalling app that I find is really nice to use, especially when you lower the expectation on yourself. I’m not forcing myself to write deep reflective pondering on the days events, just a few quick lines about what happened. I think it’s so easy to lose memories, especially of the smaller moments, over time so it’s a good idea to keep track, and remind yourself of them in years to come. I try to make sure that there’s at least one photo is each post though, as the visual really helps jog the memory.


We are two weeks into the F1 season, and the on track action is predictably boring. Red Bull and Max have extended their lead over the rest of the field, and it’s a very real possibility that he will win every single race this year. A dramatic prediction two races in, but the advantage of the Red Bull car, and the lack of challenge from Max’s teammate makes it plausible at the very least.

However, as so often is the case, the most dramatic part of F1 isn’t the on track action, but the off-track. The controversy around Red Bull leader Christian Horner refuses to go away, and after an internal investigation cleared him of any wrong doing, a ‘leak’ of text messages between Horner and the accuser found it’s way onto the internet. From the outside looking in, it appears that a full scale power war is taking place within the team, with factions lining up behind Horner, and others behind Helmut Marko, head of the Red Bull young driver program. Marko’s influence is significantly larger than his role would entail, as he is responsible for Red Bull signing Max, and the Verstappen camp are fiercely loyal to him, with Max going so far as to say that if Helmut was to leave, or be forced out, he would go with him.

None of this is resolved, a million questions hang in the air, and if the racing continues to be dull I hope that this drama at least keeps coming for rest of the year.


The Marvel that is modern chip manufacturing

You are not Late

The rise of fast fashion and the global air freight industry

A single year on Pluto is longer that the history of the USA

The internet is a mall, we need corner shops

Viticci is a mad scientist with the MacPad

Baarle is such a strange Dutch/Belgian town

Seriously, it’s weird!

A journey through folklore in Wexford

Reading

I threw Moby Dick overboard, try as I might I just couldn’t get into it enough to truly enjoy it. It’s been replaced with “Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology” by Chris Miller. It documents the origins, rise , and continued importance of the global semi-conductor industry. It’s fascinating, insightful and a book that couldn’t be more relevant today. If you see Nvidia becoming the hottest company in the world seemingly overnight, and wonder what’s the competitive advantage, or how they can keep such a monopoly on the AI chip market, this book is for you.

Listening

Jacob Collier, who is quite possibly the singularly most talented musician on the planet, has released the final part of his four album “Djesse” project. I adore Jacob’s musicality, but if I had to criticise his work, I just wish that 1% more of his abundant talent had gone towards his songwriting ability. His songs are always technical marvels, but his ability to move a listener emotionally is usually restricted to his interpretations of existing songs. I don’t know if this is the record where he emerges from this, but it’s absolutely a step towards it.

Week in review 2024-09

Sometimes life just hits you with perspective.

Note on the week

When you boil it down, Life is just a bunch of decisions. Some of these will be made by you and others made for you. It’s all just a number of crossroads at a scale that none of us could ever really comprehend. As we make our way through the journey of our lives the scope of these decisions might narrow, and sometimes they might grow. Someone else’s path might cross with yours and all of a sudden you’ve got a co-pilot to help you navigate the cosmic maze that is life.

All we can try to do is try to make the best decisions we can - to choose a path that brings us joy, that brings us safety, that provides for the ones we love, that does the least harm to others. The measure of a life is all these decisions bundled together, and the echos and ripples as they impact others. The beauty of a new life is the blank canvas ahead of us, the potential energy, all the big choices and u-turns, the uncertainty, the mistakes and mishaps and that hope that this time will be different.

It is beyond cruel that sometimes the ultimate decision can be made for someone before they ever even get a chance to make a mark on the canvas. The decisions that you had ahead of you will now hang over the rest of us as questions that will never have answers. What would your favourite colour be? Who would your friends have been? Where would your life take you? Would you have your Dad’s nose? Your Mother’s eyes?

This week two of my friends went through the worst thing a couple can face. They’re going to have these questions, and probably a million more, keeping them up at night for a long, long time. Nothing could ever put your own struggles, your uncertainties or fears into perspective more completely.

Week in review 2024-08

Electronic components arrive, Film gets posted and pedals fall off

Notes on the week

My E-Ink dashboard project is gathering steam. After a productive chat at the Pixelbar , I ordered some components (which arrived the next day - city living has it’s perks), and spent the following evening assembling them into a very crude representation of the finished project. I used the cardboard box that the e-ink display came is as a ‘case’ to hold everything together as I tested everything. Turns out my software works just fine, and updates the display correctly. The problem I’m facing now is the legibility of the text. Something in the process of converting from HTML to a 2 part bitmap for the display is causing a lot of blur, so I need to dive into that this week. Still though, the first time that everything booted up and watching the display come to life was pretty cool.


We’re patiently waiting for Andec , a film processor in Germany, to send us the digital scans of the 16mm film we shot over the Christmas break. I’m equally excited and terrified to see the results. The ‘one-shot’ nature of film is so intense, you either got the shot or you didn’t, and there’s no way to know for days, weeks or even months after the shoot. Compared to the instant review of digital, shooting on film feels like playing a game on the most extreme difficulty setting. So cross you fingers for us that everything was in the frame, in focus and correctly exposed.


I was cycling to the gym earlier in the week and heard a little rattle, then felt a little wobble under my left foot and then felt, nothing. My pedal, crank and all, had fallen off. I know we got our bikes for next to nothing from a charity shop, but this was not one of the inevitable wear and tear failures I was expecting to experience. I guess it highlights just how little I actually know about bike maintenance, and definitely need to reduce my blindspots around. Thankfully the local bike shop was able to get me sorted pretty quickly, the thread had completely worn through so the crank had to be replaced, but they had a suitable one floating around. It’s just typical that the day after I got a puncture. Riding a bike in a city is amazing, owning a bike is a pain. There’s actually a lot to be said for the multiple bike rental companies that operate in the city.


I visited Zandvoort this weekend, which amazingly is completely open to the public. I was able to walk the grandstands, the paddock and pit lane, the hospitality areas etc. The only place off limits really was the track itself, which was understandable as there were plenty of people ripping around in Porsche 911 turbos. I may not have got to see an F1 driving in anger, but being in the cauldron (empty as it was) was a surreal experience. I know tickets for the Dutch GP in particular are so hard to get, but I’m hoping beyond hope that I’ll be able to get one for the Dutch GP later this year.


On Sunday Elle and I visited Kinderdijk, a sleepy little village a kilometres east of Rotterdam, whose name comes from a folk tale where a child and a cat washed ashore in a cradle. It’s also home to a UNESCO world heritage site that hosts nearly twenty 18th century Dutch windmills.

Getting there, a few kilometres away and on the other side of the Maas river was surprisingly easy. We took the bus, but not a regular bus, a Water Bus! Rotterdam is a city of many, many different forms of transport and the Water Bus might just be my favourite. The boat is incredibly comfortable with big plush red seats, amazing views of the river, lots of space to store bikes and very affordable. Our trip was 40 minutes each way, and cost only €9 each. It was so nice to get out into some nature again, we haven’t really left the urban world in the last two months, and seeing loads of green, lots of birds and not hearing the sounds of the city was really nice. Kinderdijk and the walk/cycleway along the polders is free to the public, and we just spend our afternoon walking and exploring, but there is also a number of museums, exhibits, tours and canal boat trips that you can pay for, and I think the next time our families come to visit we’ll be heading back for the full experience.

A short film about Love, Death and Knitting

Satoshi Emails

A programming exercise for kids, without screens

The Coding Train shows what coding was like on the Apple ii

Voyager 1 is in trouble, and I shouldn’t feel this upset about a piece of metal in space

Man in backyard makes contact with the International Space Station

100 uses for a personal website

A quick VisionOS programming tutorial

Reading

Moby Dick sucks. Well, maybe that’s unfair, the process of reading Moby Dick sucks. The story itself is actually really good, it’s just such a challenging read. I am a fast reader. If I really get into a book I can usually burn through it in a 24 hour period. The whale is putting up a fight though, the prose is so heavy and meandering, and I’m finding it so hard to get into a ‘rhythm’ with it. During our trip to Kinderdijk this weekend I got through 2 chapters, which is a paltry amount. I really enjoyed them, but I had to work for it.

Listening

The BBCs ‘Beyond the Grid’ F1 podcast are running a special series, where they went behind the scenes at Mercedes and Williams in the run up to the 2024 season. I think tomorrow’s episode is going to cover the Hamilton/Ferrari news, and I cannot wait.

Playing

I’ve been playing lots of Risk of Rain 2 with some of the guys from home. It’s a ‘Rogue-like’ shooter with pretty simplistic graphics and a super satisfying gameplay loop. I think our next game as a group is PlateUp, which applies the rogue-like loop to restaurant management, I’m nervous and excited.

Week in review 2024-07

A 5k parkrun, CMAT in Amsterdam and Elle learns chess.

Notes on the week

I woke up at 8am on Saturday morning, threw on some gym clothes and cycled to Kralingse Bos to take part in my first ever 5k, the weekly Rotterdam Parkrun. I made a point last year of making running a part of my life, and whilst it started well with the help of an encouraging partner and the wonderful JustRun app, I just never found it becoming habitual and was always an effort.

One of the many benefits of living in a large city is that there are almost certainly a number of other people with shared interests or goals (see the pixelbar for example). I figured what I need to help me get running was a community, so I signed up for the ParkRun during the week, and just showed up on Saturday without knowing what to expect, and without really doing any training either. The crew (all volunteers I add) were great, welcoming and have all the logistics down to a tee. Around 08:58 they called all the runners (around 110) to the starting line and at 09:00 exactly we were off. In the initial pack before everyone gets strung out, it was great to see so many different people across a huge range of age and ability all coming together for this weekly event.

As noted previously, I have not been training for running, have never been good at running (even when I played sports every day of the week I was only ever dangerous over short distance) and have the cardio vascular fitness of a Jaffa Cake. It wasn’t long at all before the elite runners were disappearing into the distance, and I found myself with the pensioners and pram pushers. Honestly that’s not even fair, because what must have been a late arrival absolutely glided past me about 2km in, pushing a svelte and aerodynamic buggy with a sure-to-be future long distance running champion on board. I finished 99th, just inside the top 100 and just inside the 40 minute mark (39:11). To say I have a lot of work to do is an understatement of Dublin Metro North scale, but I think this way of running is magic. You have camaraderie, friendly competition, a number of metrics to measure yourself against and it happens every, single, week. Ask me again how positive I’m feeling about the whole thing if the weather turns ugly next weekend, but the great thing is whether it’s sunny, stormy, wet or dry, I know I’ll be there. Top 100 to top 90 and beyond, sub 40 minutes to sub 35, then who knows maybe even sub 30.


On Thursday we went to Amsterdam to see CMAT play at the Melkweg. Elle’s been a big fan for a long time now, and has been buzzing to see her play live. We got the train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, about 35 minutes and then a quick tram journey to the venue, without once having to book, or even purchase a ticket for either (you just tap your debit card or phone at the turnstile, or at the door for the tram). Have I mentioned before how good public transport is in this country?

The gig itself was phenomenal. CMAT exudes star quality, and she owned the stage from the moment she stepped out. None of this was in a grandiose manner though, she was self deprecating, funny, full of crowd interaction and really shared the stage (and the spotlight) with the members of her band. I think there are two parts to evaluating a gig - the performance itself, and the crowd’s reaction. The performance was perfect, she really is an incredible vocalist, but the way the crowd hung on to every word really stood out to me. I think the world has been crying out for an artist like CMAT, and for young women especially having someone sing about such relatable things in such a beautiful way is incredible. The guilt of apathy, "And I feel bad ‘cause I didn’t cry when someone I grew up with died", the casual substance use "Shaking my hips and cutting lines , Feels a little passé now, shoulda cherished my wine", one sided relationships "I’m just somе stewardess who feeds your pets ,And does your dishes and pays your rent , And helps you heal from something Heaven-sent" all resonate with people in very real way. I think she’s a breath of fresh air and can’t wait to see what’s next for her.


On Sunday the weather was crap. It rained a lot, but we timed an escape during a predicted break in the rain (thanks buienradar.nl), and cycled to the Library. Elle wants to learn how to play chess, and there’s loads of tables set up for playing in the Rotterdam library. I taught her the pieces, the moves and the objective of the game. I don’t know how someone gets through life without coming into contact with chess, but I was delighted that she hadn’t because the hour or so we spent today together learning about the game, and then playing our first match together was lovely. I hope that we keep it up, I’d love to improve myself, having been on the receiving end of some demolition jobs at the weekly board game night hosted by Library, and even more so I love finding a new activity for us to enjoy together.

Building Vision Pro apps

An excellent retro technology youtube channel

Teaching The Iliad to Chinese Teenagers

Building a raspberry pi webcam with the shell of an old Apple iSight camera

The Web is fantastic

The loneliest photo

How to centre a Div

Apple should get weird

Reading

I cracked the code for reading Moby Dick. Sea Shanties! I was determined this week to back into Ishmael’s adventure, and figured I’d try some ambient music to help get in the zone. I put on the soundtrack to Assasin’s Creed Black Flag, a video game set on the high sea and lo and behold it worked, and I’m now burning through the book. The style of writing is so weird, and reads more like the journal of a slightly deranged ADHD sufferer trying their best to tell a story through intermittent bouts of distraction, but I’m getting there.

Listening

Rob released what I think is the best song (at least available to the public) that I’ve heard from him. It’s massive, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this get picked up for sync in Film or TV this year. Congrats on the release Rob!

Watching

Poor Things’ is a stunning film that captures all the best of Yorgos Lanthimos unique style of film making, and triumphs in spite of some of the worst aspects of his particular style. We went to see it this weekend at Cinerama, and were blown away. Not one for the squeamish or prudish, (it’s a Lanthimos movie and that comes with all the usual baggage), but definitely my favourite of his films so far. Emma Stone not only delivers a 10/10 performance, but was very hands on with the production of this movie and it shows.

Unscheduled post but this episode of Sherlock and Co is too good to not share.

Week in review 2024-06

F1 silly season continues, Open Studios and the in-laws descend upon Rotterdam

Notes on the week

WDKA just had their Open Day for prospective students, and one part of the program of events is the Open Studios. The current crop of MFA students, of which Elle is one, open the doors of their studios spaces to the public to talk about their work, their process, the college and field any other questions that might come up. It’s a really great idea that’s beneficial for both future students (who get to learn more about the college), and for current students (who get to focus their practice, workshop ideas, and tidy their studio spaces!). I helped out in a small way, painting one of the walls in Elle’s studio that was need of a bit of TLC, and setting up my monitor in her space for people to view some video work of hers. It meant that this weekend would be spent without my usual computer setup at home, an inconvenience any other weekend but not this time because….


The Wallaces were in town! Starting Wednesday, and continuing Thursday and Friday a series of flights landed in the Netherlands carrying Elle’s siblings, plus one partner. It’s important to note that she doesn’t have 696 brothers and sisters (the passenger capacity of four Aer Lingus A320s), but rather her two sisters, one brother, and a sister’s partner were all travelling from different cities. The climate of impact of this weekend was immense, but it was easily exceeded by how good of a time was had. Mandatory visits to the Cube Houses and Markthal were interspersed with Bike rides, Bitterballen, Pints, Movies and the general catching up and good times that can only be had when everyone is in the same room together. The next time we’ll all be together again will be the Summer at the earliest, Christmas at the latest so it was a really precious moment. The fact that the trip lined up with Elle’s Open Studio day was amazing, and it meant we could bring the family to show her work and to meet the new friends we’ve made since moving here.


In my spare time I’ve been working on a little E-Ink dashboard for Elle’s college calendar. Their system is based on MediaWiki, which is for all intents and purposes objectively terrible. You cannot subscribe to the calendar, so you can’t have it sync with your existing iCloud or Google calendars. It has no way to alert you to an update or removal of an event. It is ugly, and honestly is just no fun to use. It is however, completely open to outside internet which means I can write a script to scrape the information (this also means anyone else in the whole world can see the comings and goings of a number of MFA students, but that’s beyond the scope of my ability to change). My goal with this project is to take this information and make a nice little wooden frame that will house an E-Ink display, showing today’s events, the current and predicted weather conditions for the day, and tomorrow’s events.

I’ll make a more detailed breakdown at a later date, but at this point all the code is running, successfully scraping the MediaWiki calendar and parsing out the correct event data, as well as tying into the BuienRadar.nl API to grab weather information. This is all passed into a html template that is laid out in a simple, but hopefully visually pleasing way. Because this information will be rendered on an E-Ink display and running on a very low power cpu, rather than displaying the output of the script as it runs, I convert the html to an image file, which the display will then render. In theory this all works, but the next step is to purchase the physical components and get building. I’ve never really worked with electronics before so this should be lots of frustrating fun!

RSS is pretty great

How to make a self balancing cube

Thoughts after 40 hours with Vision Pro

The Dutch art of doing nothing

The world is awful. The world is better. The world can do much better

Rules for negotiating a job offer

Deepfake video call scams are now a reality

Linux drops support for Floppy Disks

Reading

I think I’ve forgotten how to read. Things are not looking good for 12 classics in 12 months.

Listening

Final Fantasy 7 Remake part two, Rebirth comes out in just a few weeks, a fact that both to my delight and surprise slid under my radar. With the release impending this weeks MacStories Unwind goes into detail into how Federico is preparing, including a quick overview of the first instalment in the Remake series.

F1 Corner

Last week the F1 community was thrown into disarray with the news that Lewis Hamilton will join Ferrari in 2025. In what has already been a tumultuous off-season (Steiner sacked from Haas, Andretti’s bid to create a new team being rejected, Barcelona being replaced with a Madrid street circuit) the Hamilton news felt like the seismic shock to cap the silly season. However, right now as I type this on Friday morning Christian Horner, Team Principal of Red Bull Racing is taking part in an internal hearing into allegations of inappropriate behaviour made against him by a colleague.

There is little to no information out there other than rumours right now, but to say that he very well may be fighting for his career is no overstatement. F1 is not the old boys club that it used to be, and I applaud the Red Bull organisation for taking any allegations this seriously. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, and what information makes its way out from the hearing.

Horner, whether you like him or not, is the beating heart of the Red Bull team and his partnership with Adrian Newey has dragged the Milton Keynes team from a curiosity on the fringes of the grid, to a multiple world championship winning team, and in 2023 the most dominant driver/car pairing in the sports history. If Christian is found to have behaved in a way incompatible with his role as team principal, and must go, it will leave a vacuum of monumental scale within the RB hierarchy.

Week in review 2024-05

Vision Pro launches, Care packages arrive, Lewis goes to Ferrari and house hunt 2.0 begins.

Notes on the week

The news of the week, perhaps the year, is that Lewis Hamilton will be leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari for the 2025 Formula One season. This is Brady leaves the Patriots, Messi leaves Barcelona or the UK leaves the EU levels of bombshell. A hint of a rumour started to float around Wednesday night that something big might be about to hit the paddock, and by Thursday morning those rumours had picked up more credibility as more informed and respected voices started to share what they had heard through the grape vine. My little F1 group chat was giddy, especially when the likes of Adam Cooper started to corroborate the story.

Before any official announcement had been made, we were already busy determining the knock on effects across the paddock, as the seat freed up in Mercedes must be filled, and Carlos Sainz leaving Ferrari will surely stay on the grid? The permutations were debated, with dream scenarios (Alonso to Mercedes), and likely outcomes (Sainz to Sauber ahead of it becoming the works Audi team in 2026) passed back and forth. It was great craic, and within about an hour Sky Sports were reporting on the move as ‘a done deal’. Ferrari and Mercedes both came out later that day to make it ‘official official’, but at this stage the reality was already beginning to sink in. Lewis will be wearing red in 2025.

So what does this mean? First, it backs up a statement by Sebastian Vettel a few years ago, “Everyone is a Ferrari fan. Even the people that say they aren’t, are Ferrari fans”. The most romantic, turbulent, brilliant and infuriating team in the sport’s history, Ferrari has an allure for F1 fans and drivers alike, one that transcends the reality of sporting accomplishment or statistical methodology. Are they the best team in F1? Absolutely not. Does everyone want to drive for them? Absolutely. To win an F1 race is a dream of any driver, to win for the Scuderia goes beyond simple dreaming and is more akin to a religious experience. The Tifosi, the ultra passionate devotees at the alter of the Prancing Horse, have already dubbed Charles LeClerc “The Little Prince”, as if awaiting his inevitable coronation as the World Champion some day, now they have their King.

This driver line up is a win-win for Ferrari. Lewis arrives with nothing to prove, 7 World Titles in the bag, the most wins, the most poles, the most points. If the Little Prince can go toe to toe with the King and hold his own, the future of the realm is healthy, and if the King comes out on top, well thats what a King is supposed to do. In 2025 Ferrari will have the strongest driver pairing on the grid, with Lewis bringing unrivalled experience, mentality, an underrated technical ability in the garage and the personality to forge a team around him, and with Charles they have the outright fastest driver on the grid over one lap. If they can close the gap to Red Bull over the course of 2024, ‘25 could be very, very interesting, and who knows what the competitive order will be after the new regulations come into effect in 2026.

I often refer to F1 as my Soap Opera. The characters are larger than life, the plot lines incredulous and the political subterfuge more potent than any season of Succession. That this drama is all merely the backdrop against which the main event takes place is the icing on top, because for all the gossip, rumours, write ups and emergency podcasts, at some point in March 2025 Lewis will put on a scarlet race suit, climb into the seat of a Ferrari, his Ferrari and put his life on the line for the Scuderia. If the car is competitive, if he’s still sharp and if the dice rolls the right way, the Tifosi will take their yearly pilgrimage to Monza, The Temple of Speed, and maybe, just maybe he’ll win. In Red. In Italy. They have hated him for so long, perhaps begrudgingly respected him in recent years, but once he dons the red they will love him, and if he can win for them, they will immortalise him.



Okay, with F1 Corner out of the way, this past week in Rotterdam was pretty good. I spent a bit of time hacking away getting Elle’s video project running on the CRT TV we bought last week. The connection was a mess of adaptors, HDMI->RCA->SCART, which I was shocked worked straight away and without much strangeness. The only weirdness was the SCART adaptor had a switch to toggle between PAL and NTSC, and for whatever reason I was getting terrible flickering when set to PAL, despite the TV being European. Flicking over to NTSC solved the problem though. I set up a Raspberry Pi to autoplay the video files on startup, without any input so that if the power went it would go straight back into action. This was pretty straightforward, just a little shell script to trigger VLC on boot, with a few arguments to play without and window chrome, on screen controls or video titles.


cvlc --no-osd -fL /home/pi/filename.extension


One of the days this week I was out doing some shopping, and it was cold. Not the bitter chill of winter that we had a few weeks ago, but a more insidious cold. Because the weather has been improving, I wasn’t ‘prepared’ in the same way as a few weeks ago, no leggings, no scarf, hat and gloves. By the time I got home I was freezing, tired and just wanted a cup of tea and a biscuit. When I got up the stairs to our door there was a little An Post package at the door. A care package, from home. Let me tell you, there are precious few things in the world better than coming home to surprise HobNobs, Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and ‘real’ tea bags. The fact that you know in that moment that your people at home are thinking about you, and went to the effort to send a little taste of home is enough to warm you right up, without having to put the kettle on at all.


Apple Vision Pro launched this week (in the US). I am convinced that this is one of those roadmap products that will influence how we think about computing on a global scale, the ramifications of which probably won’t be obvious for at least another ten years. I would give an arm and a leg to test one out, and have been watching and reading every review I can get my hands to learn more about what the experience feels like. Elle hates it.

41 years of UX design

A teeny tiny cyberdeck

A look back on the glory days of iPhone hacking

Tim Cook in Vanity Fair

Big book of keyboards

China, the worlds shopping car

Converting ADB to USB

Siracusa on Spatial Computing

There’s not planet B, for fantasy writers

Listening

Of all the coverage of Lewis going to Ferrari, nothing else quite matched the level of giddy glee and utter bewilderment of Matt on the emergency episode of the P1 Podcast.

An Oldie, but such a goodie. Ahnohni has one of the most unique voices out there, and this album is a masterpiece. Definitely not a happy body of music (The opening lyric to the album is literally “I hope theres someone when I die, who’ll take care of me”), but so beautiful.

week in review 2024-04

Group Crit prep and 17km cycle days

Notes on the week

This week Elle had her first Group Critique of the year, so a lot of time was spent back and forth between the apartment and her studio space in preparation. Without a car, and with a lot of material and equipment to move that meant renting a Bakfiets, which we were able to using a service called BaqMe. For about €2 to secure the rental, and then €0.12 per minute thereafter, you get access to an electric Bakfiets, which is comfortable, powerful and honestly the quickest way to move a reasonable amount of stuff around the city (so long as it’s not raining).


I joined the Pixelbar, a hackerspace in Delfshaven. I visited for the first time on Thursday night, the same night Apple announced their plans to ‘comply’ with the EU’s Digital Markets Act. To be amongst a group of people with shared interests discussing and debating the things that you’re excited about was really nice, and I can see myself getting pretty involved with the group. The space itself is in an old shipyard, that has fallen out of use from a shipping perspective, but is now being used by a number of groups. I saw a gym, restaurants, woodworking groups etc. I’m hoping to make a little E-Ink dashboard for our apartment, and I think the knowledge of the members, and the tools in the space will be a huge help.


We bought a CRT TV. Elle is experimenting a lot with analog video, and recently bought a Bolex 16mm camera. She has an exhibition coming up next week, and wants to show the footage on an old TV, so I spent Saturday riding around Rotterdam to all manner of Charity Shops, Second Hand shops, Antique markets etc to try and find one. It needed to be a CRT, and have at least some form of input. The input could be RCA, SCART or even RF, as we have a digital to analogue video converter, (and I figured I could access a modulator if we needed to go down the RF route).

I found loads of ‘new’ second hand TVs (flat screens), and lots of really old TVs (think wooden frames) that looked great, but nothing that fit the bill. Saddle sore and feeling defeated, I checked MarktPlaats, a dutch craigslist/done-deal equivalent and found exactly what I needed. 20" CRT with working RCA and SCART inputs, only a 20 minute cycle away. I rented another Bakfiets, met the guy selling it and was on my way home within the hour. I just wish he had posted his ad before I did an impromptu cycle tour of the city.


The upside to doing a massive tour of the City is the interesting things you find along the way, and nothing comes close to the Rotterdam Radio Museum, on the top floor of the Correct Electronics store in the north of the city. The two gentlemen I met here were so generous with their time, showed me around many of the exhibits and were even willing to rent me one of their exhibit pieces if I wasn’t able to find a TV for Elle’s exhibition. It’s an incredible place, and whilst it’s mainly focussed on audio equipment, they have a wide variety of historic televisions and computers, the jewel amongst it (in my opinion) being a Twentieth Anniversary Mac in great condition! Check out this video to get a sense of what the place is like.

A movie in 8kb

The story of Crusty the Mac that wouldn’t die

A computer for the rest of us

The Computer History Museum reunites the Mac team for the 40th anniversary

Joz on the enduring appeal of the Mac at 40

How to read a QR code, as a human

The Stanley water bottle craze explained

Flight search tools are letting users filter out certain planes

Why is everything so ugly

Reading

Another poor week, going to write this off as Group Crit week taking up a lot of mental space in the apartment and hit the ground running again today.

Listening

Acquired have an episode on “The Ozempic Company”, Novo Nordisk, and it’s a fascinating deep dive into the economics of disease.

Ham Sandwich are an Irish band that have been going for 20 years now. I remember seeing them at The Stables in UL in 2008 and thinking they were amazing, and just this week a friend sent me a link reminding me of them. The song ‘Words’ off this album is a real standout.

week in review 2024-03

Settling back into life in Rotterdam after the Christmas break.

Notes on the week

The main focus for the next few months is start living like locals, and less like tourists on an extended holiday. That means, for better or for worse, meeting new people. Elle has met some wonderful people in the University, but as I work from home it’s a little harder. Thankfully Rotterdam is a lively city and there are groups across all manner of interests, the problem is actually plucking up the courage to get involved. Maybe it’s a hangover from the pandemic, maybe it’s part of being an adult or maybe it’s just me, but I find the prospect of making new friends pretty daunting. I don’t consider myself a shy person, and in a professional setting I can chat away with just about anyone about just about anything, but for whatever reason meeting a new person with (potentially) no shared interests just feels awkward. Let’s see how it goes.


Escalators here are really cool. Yeah, that’s not sentence I ever thought I’d see either. But genuinely, they’re great! The Central library in Rotterdam is a six story building with escalators that get a lot of use, but rather than moving at a constant speed, they slow to glacial pace when there’s nobody riding . As soon as a person steps foot onto one it ramps back up to a normal speed. My guess is that it takes less energy to drive them at the slower speed, plus it has the added benefit of making it easier to get on.

The escalators at some of the Metro stations take this concept and go one step further, with the entire stairs stopping completely when there’s no one on board. This enables the escalator’s best trick, its not an ‘up’ escalator or a ‘down’ escalator, its Bi-Directional! Sensors at the top and bottom detect when a person is approaching, and will start the escalator travelling in the required direction just in time for them to step on. For intermittent and heavily directional flow of people, like those disembarking a metro, this is amazing, plus it must save a huge amount of energy over the course of the escalators lifetime. It’s little savings like this, both in energy usage and general wear, tear and maintenance that I think we need to be thinking about just as much as we focus on alternative energy production.


I’ve been involved in some discussions this past week in work about role definitions, specifically around defining a new role within our department. It got me thinking about how important these definitions are for some people, and how nebulous they are for others. By setting in stone a definition for a role it provides a sense of security for a newcomer to that role. This document will define what you do, and if you understand everything discussed you should be ok. On the other hand it also can create boundaries and over-prescriptive definitions of done that can be exploited, (but that kind of problem should be filtered out on the way in).

It also reinforces the roles that Job Titles play, and like it or not they are incredibly important to many people. If you don’t think they matter, consider two very similar titles, “Team Leader” and “Team Lead”, which would you prefer, and why? The importance of the role someone performs day to day, and the way that the role is perceived within the organisation can vary massively and this problem is only exacerbated by a poor choice of title. This has knock on effects that can impact recognition, satisfaction and even mobility within the org.


Inside the NewYorkTimes puzzle team

Whats that panel on my wall?

Are genes a blueprint or a guideline?

10 Second Teleportation

Is Issacson actually any good at writing biographies?

Common misconceptions of medieval warfare

Viticci makes the silliest iPad

LeBron James and his total recall

Guided Tour of the Vision Pro

Reading

Very bad week for reading, but hoping to get through a few chapters this weekend.

Listening

RAYE, of ‘Oscar Winning Tears’ fame has an incredible version of her Album “My 21st Century Blues” recorded with the Heritage Orchestra at Albert Hall.

Watching

We’ve started watching “The Great”, a hilarious and unfortunately now cancelled take on the rise of Catherine The Great.

week in review 2024-02

It’s cold in Rotterdam this week and I’m looking out the window here at a light dusting of snow starting to fall. It’s supposed to get as low as minus five!

Notes on the week

We flew back to Rotterdam from Dublin on Sunday last week. We needed to be at the airport around 08:30 and thankfully my parents offered to drive us. It’s bittersweet getting to spend every last possible moment with family before leaving for a few months, there’s just something about airport goodbyes that hit different.

It’s my preference to fly Aer Lingus (even if they seem to exclusively use their oldest A320s) on this route, but booking late meant RyanAir was far more affordable. All the extra legroom seats were gone, and 30" of seat pitch just isn’t enough for someone of my height. A middle seat was just the icing on the cake. A solid 4 out of 10 flight. The more vertically challenged Elle had a very comfortable time though, and a quick spin on the intercity direct train had us back to the apartment with plenty of daylight left. My biggest fear for the apartment was put to rest as we discovered that the plants had somehow survived in our absence.


It was my birthday on Tuesday. I normally don’t like my birthday, there’s always been something about it that feels like a clock ticking down rather than a milestone achieved? I don’t know what’s changed - a fresh perspective, finally growing out of teenage angst or just being in a particularly good head space - but this year’s was perfect. In reality we celebrated twice - first, last week at home with my family over a beautiful meal (my sister’s birthday was only 3 days ago so we doubled up, and our parents and partners were in attendance) , and again this week in Rotterdam.

There was no crazy party or extravagance but just a regular day bookended by a cozy coffee breakfast in a bakery I’ve been wanting to visit and a trip to the Kino cinema for dinner followed by “The Boy and The Heron”. The pastries, coffee, burgers, beers, movie and most of all, the company, were each exquisite.

The fact that my local bike shop did the repair I’d been putting off since before Christmas for free (I didn’t mention the fact that it was my birthday, I swear) was just the cherry on top.


The greatest (and worst) thing about being chronically online, and having been so for the best part of two decades at this stage, is that you build up a significant digital footprint that has followed you around for years. A result of this, is that the link saving tool I’ve used up until last week (Pocket) has entries in it from as early as 2012! I imported all of this into Raindrop, and am really curious about what things I found interesting ten years ago. Some examples that caught my attention:

Matt Gemmel taking about working from home years ahead of the rest of us

GTA V was, and remains the most recent instalment in the series

Google hired Geoffrey Hinton to lead AI work, he resigned from in May 2023

Gruber reviews the iPhone 6 and 6 plus. This year we’ll see iPhone 16


Brief update on the weather, I bought a pair of leggings to wear under my jeans. Absolute game changer, when combined with a good jacket (thank you parents) makes the cold weather completely manageable. Considering we get around Rotterdam completely on foot, bike or public transport, being able to stay dry and warm is vital.

A problem with the Raindrop.io workflow I tried out last week is that the list is dynamic, and any changes I make will be reflected across every post that links to the list. Rather than creating a new collection for every week I think the cleanest (and most robust) is to just export the links and post them as plain text.

First update of the year from my favourite Antartica based blog

Europe’s new wave of Libraries

A door to door Mac repairman

Do You Talk Funny? | David Nihill

How Australia’s ‘Bluey’ conquered children’s entertainment

The engineering of the humble rice cooker

Where is the Fediverse?

Why Platformer is leaving Substack

Reading

Call me Ishmael.

The first book of the 12 classics I’m hoping to get through this year is Moby Dick. Somehow I know next to nothing about it other than the opening line, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in store. I started last night, getting through the opening “Extracts” was a bit of work and reminded me of a character from “A Gentleman in Moscow” and their appreciation for Bread.

Listening

My knowledge of Ancient History is mediocre at best, but “The Ancients” from History Hit is really helping. There are so many “I really should have known that” moments during this show.

The end credits of “The Boy and the Heron” rolled over a song by Kenshi Yonezu, and it immediately brought me back to his amazing “Stray Sheep” album from 2020. Enjoy.

week in review 2024-01

A new year begins and with it all the usual trappings of struggling to slide back into a routine after weeks of living by no schedule other than the serving of dinners and starting of movies.

Notes on the week

Flying back to the Netherlands later this week, I can’t wait to be back in our apartment but am dreading discovering the condition of the rainforest of plants that have been left unattended for weeks. Plus the fridge, God I hope we got everything out of the fridge.


A new year brings with it the usual clamour for new routines and habits. I’ve never really been one to make ‘resolutions’, and the odd time that I have I’ve fell more or less flat on my face. This year though I’m taking a hint from Myke and Grey with a theme. I am incredibly happy in my life, but have felt in the past few months that I have been following along with the twists and turns that arise rather than taking an active role in steering. I guess this can painted as living a reactive life vs a proactive life. The theme of this year is to take a more hands on approach to life, and take stock of where I’m at across personal, professional, fitness etc. The ridiculous name I’ve been toying with is The Year of the Quartermaster.


I started this blog with the intention of ‘running the tap’ with writing until something good came out, but I’m really enjoying the weekly process. Honestly this is more of a little diary to myself without the pressure of daily notifications ala DayOne or Apple’s Journal app. Would I like to pick a topic or theme and make some long form writing? Yes. Will I be happy if this year all I create are these weekly posts? Absolutely.


A friend in work told me about the ‘rules’ of buying gifts for kids, “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read”. I guess I’m a kid in my people’s eyes, between the Netherlands-weather-proof jacket, over-engineered coffee cup and my new most prized possession in the world I’m feeling pretty spoiled.


Posy has an amazing YouTube video talking about a method for ‘motion extraction’ in a video file, and I’ve been playing with the effect on some footage I had. I’ve pushed the time parameter out quite a bit, and you end up with this crazy ghost effect, where the position of the subject in ‘the past’ acts as a mask to reveal the background in ‘the present’.

Testing out using Raindrop.io to manage links this week, and stumbled upon the feature to share a collection from within raindrop as an embeddable list:

Reading

Checking back in after starting the Hunger Games during the break. I finished the series in pretty short order, the first two books especially grabbed me and had that ‘just one more page’ impact. The third got overburdened by the weight of trying to resolve the overarching plot points, as well as tie up the characters development in satisfying ways. I think it fails a bit in this regard, but not so much that it detracts from the overall experience.

As a trilogy I’d give it a solid 8/10, and the individual books 8, 9 and 7 out of 10 respectively. Your mileage may vary, but definitely worth checking out the first at least.

Listening

A History of the World in 100 Objects is fascinating, and now available to purchase as one complete audiobook, but the original podcast series is still available. Take a trip through objects that shaped humanity.

CMAT is one of the breakout Irish artists of the past few years, and her music is equally catchy as it is relatable. One of the firm favourites in our apartment, I can’t wait to see her playing in the Netherlands later this year.

week in review 2023-52

This week has been spent with family and friends eating, drinking, laughing and painting a ceiling. It’s been perfect

week in review 2023-51

Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring because James and Ellen were tearing across the country visiting friends and family and doing last minute shopping before the big day.

Notes on the week

Rest is overdue, and sitting in my parents house in front of the fire with Christmas music playing away in the background is precisely what has been needed. We did a rapid triangle trip across Ireland after arriving home, Roscommon -> Kilkenny -> Cork -> Roscommon, before heading to our families for Christmas itself, and it’s been amazing to catch up with people. Cork is amazing, and every time I visit I leave thinking when we do settle in Ireland, the People’s Republic will be very tempting.


There is a housing crisis, a cost of living crisis, a general air of financial stress and despair in the air, and yet, every retailer I spoke to during the week has said it’s been crazy busy all week, no sign of any penny pinching or belt tightening at the tills. I’d love to know how many families are choosing to go into debt to cover the cost of Christmas rather than adjusting their spending.


My sister is studying for her QFAs, and whilst the image of her in front of the tree wearing Christmas PJs and fluffy slippers surrounded by notebooks, printouts and her laptop is hilarious, I can’t help but be very proud of her. Also learning by osmosis just sitting around and hearing her work on stuff is great!


Successfully bump started a car today! I went to move my sister’s car, which has been sitting up for a while, and the battery was dead. In the back of my head was a bit of trivia from an old Mike Boyd video to get the car going without jump leads, and unbelievably it worked!

52 things learned in 2023

Psychedelic Cryptography

Crown Shyness

Germany hits 80GW of Solar Production

How the 2022 World Championships Changed Classic Tetris Forever

Reading

He did it, because of course he did. Sanderson had another secret book ready to go for the conclusion of the “Year of Sanderson”. After turning the publishing industry upside down with the most successful Kickstarter project in history, Brando Sando rounded out the year by dropping the release date for Stormlight #5, and one last little gift for his readers, the unreleased novella, Long Chills and Dough.

Also, after watching the new Hunger Games prequel movie with Elle and her family, I decided to start reading the books. So far about 20% into Book One and genuinely enjoying it.

Listening

The Vergecast do a holiday special each year on interfaces that define personal computing. In the past they’ve had episodes dedicated to BlueTooth and to HDMI, and this year it’s everyone’s favourite symmetrically shaped but technically inscrutable port, USB-C.


Lankum are Ireland’s premier purveyors of experimental, heartbreaking folk music, and have just won the Guardian’s Album of the Year with their fourth album, ‘False Lankum’. It’s a masterpiece, and they are an absolute must-see if they ever visit a city near you.

week in review 2023-50

Back in Ireland this week for the Christmas break and getting into that end of year wrap-up frame of mind.

Notes on the week

Flew out of Amsterdam a week later than planned due to Elle’s neck injury, thankfully it’s starting to show proper progress and she no longer needs help putting on socks! I’ll never understand the stress people experience in airports, especially people travelling on their own, and it seemed like there were a lot of flustered people that day. The airport wasn’t even that busy, so I don’t know what was going on. Waiting at the gate I spotted a mother and her kid having a meltdown, the kid had insisted on carrying their own boarding card and somewhere along the way had lost it. I could relate to both.


I watched the Ronnie O’Sullivan documentary, “At the Edge of Everything”. Even if you don’t know a thing about Snooker it’s a compelling watch. O’Sullivan is the greatest player in the history of the game, still at the top well into his forties and has battled demons, a tough upbringing and crippling mental health problems throughout his career. I didn’t expect to be moved so deeply by a sports documentary, but this film - the last act especially - is outstanding.


Being home whilst Elle is still in The Netherlands for a few more days means we’ve been talking on the phone a lot more, and this has lead to us encountering the strangest thing. When she calls me, her phone number is different every single time. Not only does the number change, but the country code the call is originating from! So far we’ve had The Netherlands (weird, but at least understandable), The UK, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Czechia and Lithuania! Thankfully due to work I’m fairly well positioned to get to the bottom of any weird telco things. Will have to report back if we ever figure this out.


How mechanical watches work

OMG.LOL - An oasis on the internt

Inside the OpenAI Meltdown

The Star Raker Space Plane

Oobleck

Levy Rosman - aka GothamChess

Making Noisy SVGs

Sci-Fi Interfaces - Hackers (1995)

Reading

I was chatting to my Mother last night about books - she’s the most voracious reader I’ve ever come across - and we got talking about all the great books that we’ve wanted to read but never got around to. Coming out of it, I’ve decided to pick one of the literary greats for each month of 2024 to get through. Maybe she’ll join me (but it might be hard to find a book she hasn’t read) and we can have a little chat every month, should be fun!

Finished ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ tonight too, what fantastic book. Heartwarming, entertaining and dripping in style, I loved every minute spent with Count Rostov and the rest of the cast of the Metropol Hotel.

Listening

Kara is Tech Journalism royalty, so it’s no surprise that her podcast is consistently brilliant, but I’ve been really enjoying it lately. Her coverage (across written and spoken word) of the Sam Altman drama was top-notch.

Laufey is so good and so chill, and I just stumbled across this little Christmas EP she released that features a collaboration with Dodie Clark.

week in review 2023-49

Notes on the week

A stiff neck is no joke, something we learned the hard way this week. Elle pulled a muscle in her neck (after a sneeze) and for the past few days has been pretty much out of action. I was due to fly home but had to postpone until next week and she’s able to put on her own socks again.


Work announced the biggest deal in their corporate history. I’ve seen first hand the incredible effort gone into pulling this off and couldn’t be happier for, nor more proud of, those that dragged this into reality.


My new favourite thing to do to pass a few minutes is to create images using Dall-E. I find that the more detailed and descriptive the prompt you provide, the better the output image is. Instead of spending time coming up a prompt myself, I’ve taken to asking GPT to generate a prompt for Dall-E to create what I want, and then massaging that initial prompt into exactly what I want. Some of the results leave a lot to be desired, but some are delightful, like this Art Deco inspired desktop computer.



My workflow for this weekly notes section is built entirely on Obsidian. I understand that Obsidian isn’t the most approachable piece of software, but after a few tweaks and thanks to it’s incredible collection of community plugins I think I’ve settled on a setup that I love, and most importantly gets out of the way when it’s time to write. Paired with the excellent micro.publish plugin I have everything I need without ever context switching. The appearance is the AnuPpuccin Theme with a few tweaks to the workspace layout made in the Style Settings plugin



Google have released their Gemini Model that promises to meet or exceed the performance of OpenAI’s GPT-4. Most interesting from my point of view is the limitations of this model in Europe, it appears that a lot of the most powerful aspects will not be available in the EU. I value a lot of the customer protections that the EU provide us, but there is a fear that AI is the next great arms race and the EU is woefully behind. It’s taken the EU over a decade to start making progress into breaking some of the monopolistic practices of the larger Tech companies, and with the exponential growth of LLMs and their potential to drive economic growth this is not an area that I’d like to see the entire continent take a backseat on.

Designing the first Mac

A Decade of HaveIBeenPwned

18 Months working at Snap

Obsidian starter pack

Early Computer Art from the 50’s and 60’s

What is a Heat Pump

Reading

After finishing “Legends and Lattes” last week I haven’t spent too much time reading this week, but hope to sink back into “A Gentleman in Moscow” over the weekend. I think I’m going to check out “Project Hail Mary” over Christmas, “The Martian” is one of my favourite books ever and Hail Mary comes highly recommended.

Listening

I’ve decided to expand the listening section here to include podcasts and well as music, and the first item on the list is the wonderful “Sherlock and Co.”. It’s a modern telling of Sherlock Holmes told from the perspective of a Doctor Watson who fancies himself as a budding podcaster. I look forward to every new episode released on Tuesdays. Start from episode one and enjoy a wild ride.


Morning music is a staple in the house, and Fatoumata Diawara’s new album has been getting played a lot lately. It’s the the perfect accompaniment to a big cup of coffee looking out at the sun breaking up the morning fog.