James Foley

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


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


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.


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