Loose the bones [194]

Greetings from my shed...

Writing in my hammock. Marvelling at a strange but welcome spike in visitors. Hello new people! You are most welcome. But where did you come from? Feel free to reply to this email as it works just like normal email.

We have survived the first full working week of the year. Everything will be easy from here. As long as you avoid the scarier news.


The weekend after posting my last email (thanks for the kind words about that) I was coerced into doing some exercise. Just some simple lower body strength exercises. You follow a video and a timer in an app. Squat, stretch, bend and repeat. It was only 45 minutes but 90 something hours later I was still struggling to go up and down stairs. Never have I felt so broke at the hands of an exercise video. Emily Skye has a lot to answer for.

So that was my exercise for the week. Apart from hobbling the dog around the village.

I also started a new photo project. I’m collecting snapshots of CB Radio operators who have been on the air since the 80’s. (Please let me know if you know of any as i’m soon to run out of local subjects.)

Monday was my first proper day back in the story making saddle. Bleary-eyed and sofa sore I grabbed my bag and headed to the Fens to meet an old school radio operator called Derek.

The problem with always having a bag packed ready to go on assignment is that you get complacent.

So of course forty minutes later when I got to my destination I realised i’d left my camera on charge.

This is a long term project. No rush to upload or share and I’d wanted the crisp, defined resolution of a larger sensor. Who knows where the photos might end up.

On the third bag rummage I realised muttering obscenities under my breath was not going to materialise my FujiFilm X100T and took out my phone.

I wanted snaps and that’s what I have. The light was ok and that makes all the difference with the iPhone. Especially as I like to work handheld. And yes, even the iPhone 11 Pro suffers in low light. All small sensors do. Computational photography, as amazing as it is, still has a long way to go before it fools those that care.

Previously on another shoot I was in a very dark living room. The X100 just about managed hand held but I decided I wanted to use some bounce flash. This shot is a tight crop into a much larger (much more interesting) image. There’s still plenty of detail. Not something the phone could give me.

So wanting some kind of continuity across the project I now find myself at a crossroads.

X100T, iPhone 11Pro, or both?

The rest of the week has seen me attempting to learn Italian with an app, editing some phone clips of my Longplayer visit, looking after poorly kids who are passing the lurgie between each other like a baton and playing with radios.

In between I watched, listened and read a bunch of other stuff.

Here’s a summary…


I watched The Farthest and was moved.

”There is no sign that any help is going to come here and save us from ourselves. It’s up to us.”

Wow. What a soundtrack.

Here is a climate change warning from Azimov over 30 years ago.

Find out how many people you need in a social movement to get change…

Back when I was a kid it was hard to google whether building your own lightsaber was possible. So following a dream I made sure my work experience placement was at a laser company. At the end of my first day at JK Lasers I’d come to learn that we were a long way off building anything like a lightsaber. Still, I did continue in lasers for a couple of years. Just long enough to procure the parts to build my own. A laser that I may or may not have mounted on a motorbike. It wasn’t as cool as this though.

A man on a personal mission to build his own space suit and eventually — take it to space.


Radio by Alasdair Pinkerton.

I’m immersing myself in the world of radio in the hope some of the knowledge sticks. I was recommended this book by Gareth Evens. Who also sent me this poem to read.

Adrian walkers new book is for sale at 99p. Buy it. Read it. Review it.


I’m a fan of small talk. It can help in the run up for creating some kind of rapport. It’s handy for breaking the ice. For finding some kind of common ground. But only if you are prepared to throw in a curve ball and make things interesting. Two shy people trying to connect might start off with some friendly small talk, but without taking a leap of faith, things can become uncomfortable and fizzle out.

Quite often online it’s small talk that creates the long lasting connections. The mention of cake on Twitter starts a conversation and who knows where it might end. But online it’s easier to throw that curveball. To go up a gear and ask something out of the ordinary.

Starlee Kine want’s to ban small talk. Which i’m not a fan of as it’s needed as the first step. I think in reality she just wants to ban the continuous loop people can get into and she has coined the ‘upping a gear’ or ‘throwing a curveball’ as ‘The Rundown’.

I’m so glad that a new series of All Hale Kale is back. This one asks ‘Is Exercise Insanity?’ And after my recent run in with Emily Skye I have to yes. Especially if you do it wrong. Check out the podcast as Tim Samuels filters the hearsay with a healthy dose of science. You will certainly learn something. And that something may improve your life.

Episode five of my podcast series on podcasting is out. Paying subscribers can hear that and the entire archive here. You can also read about my new invention…


This something (in moderation) feels like it improves mine…

And nothing screams middle class quite as much as me saying… “My whisky subscription has arrived!”

The first instalment of my eagerly awaited Christmas present landed on the mat and I had to wait eight hours before I could sample it.

Aerolite Lyndsay is an anagram of ‘ten year old Islay’. It’s from an unnamed distillery and bottled by ‘The Character of Islay Whisky Company’.

On cracking the seal on the pouch I got a nostril of iodine. The contents met the widest point of my tasting glass. The same spot I hit when I’m pour the occasional evening tipple.

Smooth, smokey and medicinal it was easy to sip with a long salted caramel finish and velvety mouthfeel.

If you like Laphraoig you’ll love this. A full bottle is around £44. If the next instalments of my subscription are on par with this one I’m in for a continued treat.

(I’m not connected with Whisky Me but they do offer a referral link that will give both you and I a free pouch of whisky upon signup.)

Impossible foods has released its version of pork.


The current evolution of my ‘every day carry’ bag contains this selection of tech…

[Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links.]

Top left shows the phone holder/tripod mount that can hold the Rode Wireless Go receiver above the phone. Next to it is the Retevis walkie talkie mic plugged into the Beofeng BF-F8HP dual band two way radio programmed to UKPMR channels. I’m using this and a CB in my car to find subjects to photograph.

Back on the left is a Godox TTL camera flash for Fujifilm cameras. A great little flash that fits and performs great. Then the Aputure AL-M9 mini LED light for mobile video. There are cheaper lights out there but i’ve not found any as good as this. The light is sat on a Glif attached to a mini tripod/handle. This will enable me to also hold the phone in portrait mode if I ever forget that my eyes are side by side.

In the middle of the image you will see the Rode Wireless Go compact mic system and on its right the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset. The wireless go is hard to beat for portable wireless audio and the Ambeo’s are amazing for immersive sound recording in a great pair of noise canceling headphones.

In the little Tom Bihn pouch is a Mu folding charge plug and cables and further right the Sennheiser Hand Mic Digital. Great for video but I mostly use this to capture audio of my subjects after a photo shoot.

Bottom left is my beloved Belroy notebook holder, gifted to me after I spoke at MK Geek Night (thanks guys!) and bottom middle is my trusty FujiFilm X100T.

Finally, to the right of the camera are the Shure SE 535 headphones with the bluetooth cable that I mostly use for podcasts and music.

I carry all of this in the top pack from the now retired Tom Bihn’s Hero’s Journey and I took this photo with the iPhone 11Pro which is the most used piece of tech.

Looking for a cabin in the woods that operates completely off-grid with solar panels, rainwater collection, water treatment systems and purification systems? Zero Cabin are offering just that. Just in Chile.

Don’t be sucked in by this advert.

That said, you probably have been as the high energy video does a decent job of pimping the camera and its awesome looking features. Even if (and i’m speculating here) much of the footage has been captured on previous models.

But do you really need it?

Thankfully more writing and less training means I’m in less of a rush to run out and get hold of the latest tech. On some occasions i’ll get hold of a camera, grab a few novelty shots and then stick it on a shelf for when I need it. And as it turns out I rarely need it.

But if you do. If you really really need this kind of thing in your workflow then I imagine the most useful feature for many is going to be overcapture. The ability to edit 2D sections of footage from your spherical media offers you immense creative flexibility. For that this should serve you well. Providing you are happy capturing quirky footage of big heads and little legs till you get to grips with the tech.

Why can’t someone do an electric one of these already…

This is a Suzuki Jimny made to look like a mini Land Rover Defender. Unfortunately what with the Defender being easy to convert to Biodiesel it’s probably worth just getting a Defender.

The Jimny has pretty atrocious Mpg for it’s size. Biodiesel is better than diesel but not carbon neutral due to the energy needed to process recycled veg oil into a usable fuel. But if either were electric I’d know what my next car might be.


I made this spot to thank paying subscribers. Those folk that drop the $5/month to get all the content I share into this feed.

First off I’d like to thank West. No link as when he’s not building things out of code he resides somewhere between the grass and the sky. He’s a reverent programmer, deep thinker and has recently discovered wine.

How I’d love to once again experience those first liaisons with the wonders of wine. To uncork its truth. A sacrament. A cerebral alchemy to loose the bones and expand the mind.

[Uncorks bottle]

Also, a big thank you to Al Power. We go way back. Check out his website here. Especially his art. Al also shared with me how he is following his RSS feeds. He uses NetNewsWire on the mac (open source), ReederApp on iOS (iphone/ipad) and a Feedbin subscription to handle the syncing/backend.

It’s been over six years since google reader pulled the plug.

[Pours wine and raises glass to two wonderful people. Then inserts subscribe button. Just in case there are more wonderful people out there.]


  • Names and locations of the top 100 people killing the planet.

  • Looking pretty thin on the ground in Southerner's East Asia. Have you added yourself to the Documentally community map?

  • Betelgeuse… Betelgeuse… Betel……….

  • Yeah. Not sure about this artificial skin covered phone.

  • This scientist is trying to travel back in time. I can see the appeal.

  • A handy tool to work out what your next car might be.

  • Some of the worlds hidden blunders

  • This photo tells me that iPhone users like to use eBay.

    It’s not the best stock image of a ‘burner phone’ (since when has an iPhone been cheap enough to buy as a disposable prepaid phone?) and are we to think that guy stood in a fake cave (popular with drug smugglers) is stupid enough to get his fingerprints all over his taped up bag of skag?

    Anyway… The BBC article attached to the photo tells me the UK wants to go the way of Singapore where I had to show my passport because I wanted to buy a loaf of bread with cash. Lebanon also insisted they I fill in forms for a SIM card. I have no idea who was logging my traffic and calls so I bought one on the black market.

    This seems to me to be more about control then actual crime fighting. You do know that the phone lines can be monitored right?

    Time to bulk buy your anonymous burner phones before they become illegal. Especially if you are a business traveller.

  • Specialist Vs Generalist. Do we miss out on wisdom if we are too narrow? The case for being a multi-hyphenate.


Wow this was long. Longer than normal. If you made it here I salute you. You can prove it by tweeting me the word ‘Abibliophobia!’.

Next week I’m looking forward to returning to Belfast to work with the Open University. I’ll also be writing, driving round listening for old skool CBers and chiseling away at email.

Barbara Walters: "But what would you do if the doctor gave you only six months to live?"

Asimov: "Type faster"


See you out there.


The Smells of Childhood [192]

Greetings from a house in Warwickshire...

I had no idea Friday had arrived, till it was half gone. Christmas has a gravity affecting both time and my bloated body.

This may be brief.


There is definitely a format.

Family, food, TV, games, walks and drinks. Lots of drinks. I’m saturated with Christmas spirit. Other liquids as well. Off format brought iceskating, radios, hospital visits and the theatre.

Most of the action this week has been epicurean. Yet despite the exercise lifting fluid filled glass, my arms weigh heavy on the keyboard.

Maybe this is what it feels like to be relaxed.


Winner of the best illusion of the year contest 2019.

I watched ‘Don’t F**k with Cats’. #NSFW

Wow this is dark. And not for the feint of heart. Also in my opinion it’s not edited very well. It does the usual plot milking and meandering around possible outcomes, but the ending left a bunch of stuff up in the air. Stuff that really should have been answered. Perhaps the Netflix model is to leave loose ends that need a follow up episode.

And of the subject of how much people love cats... Many did not love the ones in the movie. As a result I didn’t do too well at the box office. Actually it flopped bad. It cost $100 million to make, is dripping with stars and only made $6.5 million at opening.

Here is Mark Kermode’s take…

One nicer Christmas TV surprise was ‘The man who invented Christmas’. The story behind how Charles Dickens wrote ‘The Christmas Carol’. A lot less naff than it initially looked and decent family viewing.

Looking at the amount of thumbs down James May may have upset a large swathe of his fanbase. Good. We all need to think differently when it comes to how we move about the planet.


2019: The year the revolt went global.

“…we need to imagine digital social interactions that are good for society, rather than corrosive.” Building a more honest internet.


Four technologies that nobody realises will change the future.

Surrounded by the sounds of nature here in the Warwickshire countryside. This morning I managed to grab a few seconds of woodpecker.


I bought everything I need to try out this eggnog recipe.

1 egg per person
2 sugar cubes per egg
One shot of 151 proof Jamaican rum per person
One shot of brandy (or Bourbon) per person
Some milk (amount not specified)
Cream (amount not specified)
Vanilla ice cream
Fresh nutmeg – lots

Mix milk & egg yolks in bowl
Add rum very very gradually or it will burn eggs
Add brandy
Add whipped egg whites
Add whipped cream
Add fresh grated nutmeg
Add ice cream to keep eggnog cold!

But not made it yet. There are too many bottles here are that are ready-to-drink.

The most surprising drink of the week has been a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut. It was shared around Christmas morning as the cockerel was put in the oven.

That was another pleasant surprise. I can’t remember ever eating cockerel. Apparently it’s a more traditional Christmas option than goose and is classed as a ‘high welfare’ animal. This means it lives free range four times longer than the average supermarket bird.

Cooked in butter I think it was the best Christmas dinner I have ever had.

This is a pre gravy shot and the cockerel is the gift that keeps on giving. So much meat. Especially for someone who lives in a mostly vegetarian household.

This might raise a few eyebrows… Vegans vs Omnivores.


This year, like the year before, got a little out of hand with the present giving.

So. Much. Stuff.

Mostly for the kids but thankfully they were appreciative. As am I. Here is a selection of gifts I was given…

A book, booze, a left handed cooking tool, a whisky subscription, some fine fine whisky, a golden hand for holding headphones, a weekly planner, tickets to a talk by Oliver Letwin and some mince pie flavoured fudge.

Buying for me is a chore for others as I have all I need and tend to buy myself the stuff I want.

If you were to ask me what the best Christmas present I ever received was, there are a few that spring to mind. This though, rises to the top.

Around 20 years ago towards the end of my decade of travel there were a core of good friends. The best of friends you could have when living nomadically. The world felt very small as you crisscrossed paths with this kind of people.

One Christmas in Byron Bay we agreed to make presents for each other. My friend Shane made me these rune stones from painted pebbles and wrapped them in a bag made from his favourite board shorts.

At the time I was reading about Runic Magic but mostly left my decision making to the dice.

An installation made of 8000 chopstick discarded wrappers collected by a waiter.

A nifty Roomba mod.


First off, thank you David Hieatt. You may know him from a few inspirational endeavours including the Do Lectures and Hiut Denim.

Also Tim Purslow. Check out his Instagram.

And finally John Earland who is about to start a YouTube channel focused on charity shop shopping.

Those folk have decided drop the $5/month to get all the content I share into this feed and I very much appreciate it. Thank you.



That’s it now till next year. Thank you for being here. For sharing all of this with me. For occasionally hitting reply and sharing your world.

Next Monday I’m meeting with friends in St Neots for a radio communications themed StationX. Let me know if you want in.

Then as 2019 ends, 2020 begins. A new-born year and a chance for us to get it right.

Hope smiles from the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier”
~ Tennyson

Waste time.

See you out there.


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