And summer ends once again…

And so this time rolls around again where I forget all those things that I’m supposed to be doing and end up just enjoying the moment. Summer. But even that had to end. And maybe the best way of describing that which has ended, and that which is about to come is through Salter. A man whose lofty words and sparse prose I can only admire:

September. It seems these luminous days will never end. The city, which was almost empty during August, now is filling up again. It is being replenished.

And so now I can go back to those little things that I intensely enjoy, and bury my head in their intricacies. Reading. Drinking coffee. Developing film. McPhee’s Coming Into The Country exemplifies this beautifully:

…men who have labored hard in a quiet way to satisfy the craving for individual independence and have gained through hardship something that is worthwhile even if their hopes are not yet realized.

A Neat Mobile Gaming Infographic

For all those interested in gaming and cool infographics, here is an great one about the Rise of Mobile Gaming., a mobile casino, reports that gaming and mobile gaming in general has seen a massive raise in popularity since 1997 and with the increasing number of smart phone users and the increasing improvement in smart phone technology there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. See for yourself in this exciting infographic:


(A Strategy For) Making Better LinkedIn Connections

So LinkedIn is all about establishing great and useful professional connections with people. You joined LinkedIn so you could forge some great business contacts and find some interesting and influential leaders in your field. Yet all you seem to get are requests from headhunters or people you don’t really know (but somehow have your email, and have used this in the gmail/hotmail/yahoomail search feature to auto-add you). What do you do?

At this stage it’s easy to admit your ignorance of the system. You’re new to it, everyone’s new to it, and there’s a whole new set of social rules of play applied to this medium. But c’mon people, this isn’t Facebook – you can’t just add people you met on a study abroad programme four years ago. If you want LinkedIn to work for you, you have to make sure that you’re crafting meaningful relationships. So why not start off correctly – make sure you’re accepting new (and potentially unknown) connections to your network for a reason. What will you add to their professional network, and what could they add to yours?

There’s different ways of ensuring this, and making sure it all works, but this is the way I do it. I have the same little message that I send out to people that add me. It politely asks if I know them, and then inquires what they think that they will add to each of our networks by making this connection. Most of the time, I get a nice little reply saying that no, in fact, we have not met, but they are interested in abc which I have been involved in, or that we should discuss xyz. They’re also normally pleasantly surprised too that they get such a message and maybe even ask themselves why more people don’t do this. All in all it’s a good thing. And those people who choose not to reply, well, if they choose not to craft meaningful professional relationships, that’s their problem, and I’m not sure I want to connect with them.

So this is the script I use:


I may be totally wrong, but I’m not sure that we’ve met. Before I accept your invitation, may I ask why you think we should connect on LinkedIn and what we could bring to each other’s professional networks?

Thanks very much.


At the end of the day I figured that if I want to craft strong networks, and have them work (and be beneficial) to both them and for me, then I need to put in a little work in making them great. This is my little strategy to make sure that it gets off on the right foot. Feel free to use it, and let me know how it gets on.

A New Project for May

I’ve been projectless for a while. I want some new project that I can devote some somewhat serious and vaguely focussed time into over the next month or two. Maybe involving photography, but I’d like to devote some time to typography — a field that I’ve always been innately fascinated by, though more so recently after watching Helvetica a couple times (I love it, and all of Hustwit’s other docs). Maybe I’ll do something along the lines of designing a letterform a day in the hopes of creating a typeface over a month and a bit. Something fun, yet challenging, is what I’m going for and typeface design may fit the bill.

In other news, while failing to get a cheap lensbaby lens for my 5D (I’m just never going to be content with the awesome prime lenses that I do have), I decided to (ever so slightly) butcher a body cap and make a pinhole lens (if you can call it a lens – I think the word lens implies some optical element, this is precisely the lack of such element) for my 5D. Ultimately I’ve found a way of turning a $3500 camera into a 22 megapixel soft pinhole instagram machine. Not ideal, but it’s a fun (and cheap!) new (anti-)lens.

Wolfe and Gladwell Similarities

Turns out that I can get a lot of reading done in the downtime I have between job applications, photography assignments, and tie making endeavours. I’ve been finding some quite interesting books all over the house, and this week’s fascination has been on Tom Wolfe’s Hooking Up — a collection of essays, novellas and opinion pieces on American life, sociobiology, and other authors’ opinions. I’ve read most of Wolfe’s novels before, Bonfire, A Man in Full and I Am Charlotte Simmons and I’ve throughly enjoyed them all. They’re long and overly descriptive in parts, but that’s part of the appeal, and Wolfe’s way of storytelling. I feel I knew what to expect, at least in writing style, from Hooking Up, and in most parts it delivered. But there were some sentences in there, maybe even some paragraphs that were truly outstanding, and something really quite special.

I’d like to draw your attention to the essay “Digibabble, Fairy Dust, and the Human Anthill” that’s included in the first half of the book (I’d love to link to an online copy of it, but I can’t seem to find one other than a sketchy Google books OCR copy). It presents a wonderful overview of the lore and background surrounding E.O. Wilson’s introduction of sociobiological theory into the science world. It’s a short essay, 30 pages at most, but it contains some absolute literary gold. In particular some great sentence structures that I indubitably feel have entered Malcolm Gladwell’s subconscious to such an extent whereby I hear the rhythm and meter of some of Gladwell’s great talks (in particular those at UPenn and HPU on Youtube) while reading this Wolfe piece:

“There turns out to be one serious problem with memes, however. They don’t exist. A neurophysiologist can use the most powerful and sophisticated brain imaging now available—and still not find a meme.”

and even more so in:

“So our fundamentalists find themselves in the awkward position of being like those Englishmen in the year 1000 who believed quite literally in the little people, the fairies, trolls and elves. To them, Jack Frost was not merely a twee personification of winter weather. Jack Frost was one of the little people, an elf who made your fingers cold, froze the tip of your nose like an icicle, and left the ground too hard to plow. You couldn’t see him, but he was there. Thus also with memes. Memes are little people who sprinkle fairy dust on genes to enable them to pass along so called cultural information to succeeding generations in a proper Darwinian way.”

It’s wonderfully uncanny. But delightful all at the same time. Hooking Up has this article, and some other gems in it. Absolutely worth a little read if you’re even remotely entertained by Wolfe’s prose.

Livesurface is awesome

So I snagged a beta key to the new Livesurface Context layered image library, and I’ve been playing around with it (and Illustrator) all morning. First impressions: just so awesome. I love it. It’s rapid prototyping, taken to a whole new level and applied to a whole new space and dimension (literally in the case of packaging…).

Poster 0165 2013-04-03 09:49:45 +0000

I can mockup ad/billboard/packaging/pretty much anything ideas in Illustrator for Bowtiful and have them in an awesome previewable/wow-factor form in a matter of SECONDS. No messing around with perspectives and shifting images, I can open Livesurface Context, pick out a context (for a lack of a better word), and BLAM, a blank illustrator file with size guides pops up. After some pasting, and hitting render, I can get a wonderfully hi-res image of my ad in real life! It’s wonderful. I highly recommend checking it out. I even have an extra beta key to give away…

My Kind of Cookbook

I’ve recently started reading McGee’s classic — On Food and Cooking. It had been recommended many times both by my father, and amazon recommendations (not that I really take them all that seriously). It’s fantastic. I love it.

Being a bit of an intrepid scientist at heart, I like cookbooks/guidebooks/&c. that don’t tell you the whole story. I like it when a cookbook doesn’t tell you eveything about a given recipe. They explain in detail the important parts required for the recipe to work, but leave the main directions (or experimentation so to speak) up to a little bit of interpretation. Not only does it make the book so much more worthwhile, but if it’s written correctly (as it is with McGee), it becomes far more fascinating to read. I like understanding the scientific basis behind all sorts of things. Working out how and why things/reactions/experiments/products work the way they do, and given this information, how you can game it (so to speak) in order to achieve the best possible result. Kind of a minimum input maximum output sorta approach, but so much more.

It’s a little hard to explain I guess, so I think my point is best served with an example. From On Food and Cooking and on the subject of using copper bowls for eggs:

“It turns out that along with a very few other metals, copper has the useful tendency to form extremely tight bonds with reactive sulphur groups: so tight that the sulfur is essentially prevented from reacting with anything else. So the presence of copper in foaming egg whites essentially eliminates the strongest kind of protein bond that can form, and makes it harder for the proteins to embrace each other too tightly. Sure enough, if you whip egg whites in a copper bowl — or in a glass bowl to which you’ve added a pinch of a powdered copper supplement from a health food store — the foam stays glossy and never develops grains. A silver plated bowl will do the same thing.”

These are my sort of books, and I think this particular strategy works particularly well with cooking and cookbooks. Ultimately it’s super-applied chemistry, but rarely is it presented in that fashion. There are surprisingly few books where the details in the methods are explained, allowing the actual recipes to be glossed over, or to take a back seat. I feel that most of the time, the recipe is the obvious bit, the ingredients are generally open to a bit of interpretation, however what you need is essentially the minimum effective dose for the reaction that the dish is based on to work successfully.

There are a few more books like this that I’ve encountered. The first similar one that I found, and enjoyed, was the Bread book in Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall’s River Cottage Handbooks collection. It had recipes for various breads, but it didn’t just jump into that. It went though some simple theory behind it (yeasts, rising, sourdough starters &c.) and particular points or changes that you could make in order to improve the bread, like keeping the oven humid. It made the point that bread is better when baked in a humid envoronment, acknowledged that most ovens aren’t particularly humid, and came up with a solution on how to make them humid (have a pan at the bottom of the oven in which you pour boiling water as you put the bread in to produce steam). It’s pretty much coming up with a problem, and developing a feedback loop to solve it. I wish more books were like this. I suppose it is the way I think, but it’s wonderfully logical too.

The Four Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss does this too to some extent. In the later sections of the book he outlines some important reactions (The Maillard reaction, for example) and explains why they form, what dishes you may have had where they play an important part, presents a dish that showcases the reaction brilliantly, and how, in the future, if you’re making a particular dish, what you can do to best make the reaction perform successfully. At times he could go into more detail, but I think at an intro level, it’s perfect. Not too sciencey, and sufficiently pop culturey and laddish to be accepted by a large audience. McGee plunges the depths that Ferriss’ Four Hour Chef lacks. It’s detailed, perfectly explained, and draws on significant historical theory and scientific background to make a pleasant reading experience. Not for everyone, but it really hits the nail on the head for those burgeoning molecular gastronomy types.