System Reboot [200]

Greetings from from a hotel in Bosworth...

Two hundred emails. Are we any smarter? We have certainly covered a lot of ground. I should have prepared something special for this one. A recap perhaps. Something to show how much we’ve grown. Or how better the world is.

Or maybe I should have taken a week off.

Some of you have made it the whole way. That’s about 350,000 words. Once again I must thank those of you that support this email with a monthly subscription. I doubt I would have made it this far without you.


It’s half term. So don’t expect too many moments of self realisation and profound insight.

It’s been a week looking after my kids. So imagine gaming, reading, drawing, cooking, feeding and all the other stuff that starts at dawn and finishes around 9pm. Then instead of reading a book I have been answering email or staring at my phone.

The dog has only had two short walks daily. Not the long meandering dérives she is accustomed to.

But she still loves me.

In other more important news, a collective sigh of relief was had when my Mother in law’s operation was moved forward. She is now recovering in hospital after having a cancerous lump removed from her head and a gland from her neck. She’s an incredibly strong woman. While she waits to find out if that’s that, she’s having to relearn how to talk and making great progress already.

In lesser news my callsign came through and I’m now a licensed amateur radio operator. I’ve been calling out on fresh new frequencies with my callsign M7XTN. You can’t choose the ‘M7’ but can choose the ‘XTN’ bit and for me this harks back to school.

It was my name tag for arcade game leaderboards. Xtian being short for Christian and XTN being easier to carve into what might now be an antique school desk. Yes I had a desk with a flip up lid. The teachers also used to hit the kids with sticks if they played up. I hear it was even worse for those in private schools. I think we had it easier in the Warwickshire comprehensive that has now been demolished.

Also after taking down my aerial tbefore last weekend’s storm, I single handedly put it back up onto a home made pivoting pole system.

I know you probably don’t care but at the moment in time I only use this aerial for the CB (11m). I could get it to work with other frequencies but another aerial (or aerials) will be needed. Hoping the neighbours won’t mind.

It’s also likely (according to some) that this is just a phase i’m going through and i’ll get bored of all this soon.


I watched Parasite… Loved it. Even more now I know it bothered Trump.

And Sonic The Hedgehog. Not my choice but it was better than expected. I did have really low expectations though. I bet Trump loved it. Apart from the illegal alien bit.

The kids enjoyed it. That’s the important thing.

My eight year old daughter has been making comic books this week.

I tried to explain what surrealist comedy was and this was the first video that popped up.

I’m embarrassed to say I have never watched ‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ but after seeing this I may need to get involved.

As if the world was not already filled with unwanted frequencies and sub-audible sounds here is a prototype wearable microphone jamming system.

Useful but whatever happened to Snips? ‘What we say at home should stay at home’.


Every day, often at the end of it when I should be in bed, I write my journal. I have not missed a day since 2011, but i’ve certainly missed sleep. This means that the words occasionally suffer. Rather than thoughts and feelings, it’s a list of things that happened. This is not always the case. Some of my journals go back to the 80’s. Stories from school. Then there are my travel journals from the 90’s, but i’m a long way off typing them up.

So far only 1,110,000 of those words are digitised and they reside in the DayOne app.

I’ve used that app for eight or nine years but feel it’s time to find some other workflow. The app works well across my devices and finally uses encryption. Not that I trust it.

Last year they went subscription only and I paid for a year. Since then though it has become bloatware. They’ve added loads of new features I’m never likely to use so I thought Id look elsewhere.

I’d be interested to know what kind of solution you might use. Be it paper only or something that syncs across devices.

I searched for ‘open source journaling app’ and MiniDiary popped up. It looks well made and simple. I have downloaded it but am yet to test it. I have also emailed the creator to ask about his future plans for it.

I used to say that I suffer ‘Formaphobia’. But it might be a part of something bigger. ‘Buralysis’. A paralysing anxiety when confronted with bureaucracy. Ok so i’m more annoyed than paralysed but I can certainly relate to the feeling. Here are 78 new complex emotions you might be able to relate to.


This week i’ve been listening to the podcast Therapy For Me from Ant Short. Have a listen. It might be therapy for you too.

And when in the office I’ve been listening to some melodic ambiance Ninety Three Days from The Reluctant Cosmonaut.

Here is some poetry to listen to.


It used to be my kids couldn’t handle the mildest of spice. But after years of feeding them ever increasing amounts of chilli, they now ask me to make curries.

To make this veggie masala:

Use a skillet with olive oil and sauté some diced potatoes with onion, shallots, mushroom, red and green peppers, garlic and ginger.

I added some chopped tinned tomatoes and tomato paste and then added the spices.

These are ground turmeric, cumin, salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, garam marsala, and chilli powder to taste

Towards the end of a 20 minute simmer I added half a cup of full fat coconut milk, a little lemon juice and some chopped kale leaves.

If you find you’ve overdone the chilli you can add a little cream. Or if you would rather keep it vegan just add more coconut milk. I served this with basmati rice, and shop bought popadoms and chapati.

Then washed this down with an unfiltered Mahr's Bräu aU Ungespundet Naturtrüb.

Although I feel vegan chocolate has a long way to go before it can compare to the velvety mouth feel you get from chocolate with any amount of milk, this is one of the best I have tasted.

Raw Halo Dark 85% is £3 from Waitrose.

I’m guessing it might be folks who read this, but thanks to the two of you who clicked my link and opted to subscribe to Whisky Me I have received my two free whisky pouches and I hope you have as well.

Any more for any more? -> click this link.


Ant Short (see his podcast linked above) popped over to talk about podcasting stuff and kindly let me borrow this Zoom Live Trak L-8.

I will test and share to the subscribers email but in the meantime here are some stats.

  • It’s an 8-Channel mixer. Channels 1-2 for microphone, line and instrument signals - XLR / TRS combo socket. Channels 3-6 for microphone and line signals - XLR / TRS combo socket. Channels 7-8 for line signals - 6.3 mm jack

  • USB stereo playback and telephone playback - 3.5 mm TRRS

  • Mix-minus function for preventing audio feedback from dial-in guests

  • Per channel: 3-Band EQ, low-cut filter, panorama control, effects loop

  • 48 V phantom power switchable

  • Effects section with 8 different programs

  • 6 Assignable sound pads for jingles, intros, outros and sound effects

  • 4 Headphone outputs (6.3 mm TRS) for main mix and 3 monitor mixes

  • Balanced stereo output (XLR)

  • 7 Scene memory slots for mixes

  • Battery operation possible (4x AA)

  • Record up to 12 tracks on SD card or computer (USB) with a maximum of 24-bit / 96 kHz

  • Simultaneously recording on SD card and computer is possible with a maximum of 24-bit / 48 kHz

  • Integrated USB audio interface with 12 inputs and 4 outputs

  • USB 2.0

  • System requirements: Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.12 or later

  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 282 x 268 x 74 mm. Weight: 1.56 kg

  • Includes 3.5 mm TRRS cable, USB cable and AD-17 power adapter

I built my pivoting scaffold system for my aerial with these parts ordered from Key Clamp Store.

I needed a part they didn’t have so they modified the middle section by boring it out. Then I could slide the pole right through. All these parts cost less than £20. So far so good. Obviously there are more storms to come so should there be the torturous sound of buckling metal (see last email) I’ll be sure to document it.


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. If you feel like you are missing a weekly email and the sporadic podcasts then it’s time to subscribe.

Many thanks to @JameseCharnock and Fraser Smith for doing just that. You can check Fraser’s writings here..


  • The Apollo 11 Guidance Computer vs USB-C Chargers.

  • Rather than use these custom face masks to unlock your phone. Wouldn’t it be more fun to swap faces?

  • Well over 1000 of you have neglected to add yourself to the Documentally community map. Are you undercover? Take a look and fill the approximate space. How else are we to take over the world? Also I noticed that the Micron Theatre Co are using the space to advertise their theatre’s current whereabouts. Great Idea!.. if you’re a subscriber ;-)

  • Also if you are a supporting subscriber, don’t forget there is an encrypted backchannel on Sign up for their free account and add me as ‘Documentally’. Let me know you want in and I’ll add you.

  • Locust swarms larger than cities ravage Africa.

  • Artist Tomás Saraceno launches a fuel-free solar air balloon, breaking world records.


Right. I’m off out to play my part in a surprise birthday party.

Don’t forget you are allowed to hit the reply button and I will certainly get back to you at some point.

If I didn’t curate web stuff for this email I would probably pull back from immersing myself in public opinion and current affairs. It’s certainly a double edged sword.

Political pigeonholing seems unavoidable. But I’m sure public opinion has always been this diverse. Maybe now we all have a platform it’s easier to divide ourselves based on our ideological differences.

The only way to accept one another is to understand one another. I really value this community. Thank you for reading.

In the age of technology there is constant access to vast amounts of information. The basket overflows; people get overwhelmed; the eye of the storm is not so much what goes on in the world, it is the confusion of how to think, feel, digest, and react to what goes on.” 
Criss Jami

Find substance.

See you out there.


Ubiquitous presence [198]

Greetings from my shed...

This is not a shopping list. There are some cool things below, but do not see this as an invitation to buy more stuff. Unless of course it genuinely enhances your life. Or perhaps delivers a catalytic experience.

It has become way too easy to hit ‘Buy it now’. The trick is to pause and consider if the act of shopping is exciting you more than the thing that gets delivered.

Books are ok of course. You can never have too many. Especially if you read them.


Monday was my birthday. Not a biggie. In fact it’s getting to the stage when I should probably focus less on the countdown to death.

Every day is a day to celebrate being alive. We shouldn’t really need these datums.

I did away with birthdays in my mid to late 20s. Or rather they just stopped happening. Being far from home and travelling alone made it easy.

Richard Bach also helped when in ‘Running From Safety’ he wrote...

“When you don't believe in birthdays, the idea of ageing turns a little foreign to you. You don't fall into trauma over your sixteenth birthday or your thirtieth or the big Five-Oh or the deadly Century. You measure your life by what you learn, not by counting how many calendars you've seen. If you're going to have trauma, better it be the shock of discovering the fundamental principle of the universe than some date predictable as next July.”

I kid you not but after a few years if I was asked my age I needed to count up from my year of birth.

But that all changes when you settle down. The insecurities seep back in and you welcome any opportunity to be remembered, thought of, spoiled.

I’m not sure if it was insecurity or ego that had me notice this year was the first since 2007 that no one wished me happy birthday in my Twitter timeline.

Even when new followers arrived and saw balloons float up the profile.

Thankfully faith in humanity and sense of ambient connectivity to others was restored in the Wire back channel. (Thanks guys). Also SMS and Diaspora managed to massage my ego as the latter sends messages to users auto reminding them that their connections have birthdays.

I only left the house for coffee with a good friend (@ChristianHambly) and a trip to see the film 1917.

On Wednesday the lanky frail spider that clings on the bathroom roof above the shower had moved. It has traversed to an adjacent corner and now watches me from there.

The day before I had blown on his web to see if he was still alive. Perhaps it annoyed him.

I not only notice but seem to care about these things. Ever since I started spending more time at home I have been at war with routine. A continuous covert mission to punctuate and therefore stretch time. Every repetitive act has the habit of morphing into another. If you’re not careful the weeks become days, months become weeks and you wonder where it all went.

Wednesday evening saw the ‘Sacred Brotherhood of the Pixel Beat’ (plus one) hit Huntingdon for drinks and Thursday was swallowed up with revision and a mock for an Amateur Radio Exam.


I’ve started a photo project documenting CB radio operators who’ve been active since the 80’s. I have only shared images in the supporting subscriber posts and will be sure to keep you updated there.

It’s not easy finding CBers willing to let a stranger photograph them. I have been driving round and contacting them using the CB but it’s taking longer than expected. I’m thinking I might need to spend time hunting them down on Facebook. I did share this there.

Then felt dirty and posted the same to Twitter.

I even shared it to Linkedin. Next plan is to join some CB forums and ask around there.

So if there is anyone you know. Family, friends or strangers in your street, please ask them if they would like to be a part of my portrait project.

Also for my birthday, my family rented me a camper van. So in a month I’ll be on the road for four days, searching for CBers to photograph and writing as I go.

Have any space where I might be able to park for the night?

1917 is an astonishing piece of filmmaking. I was breathless and with it all the way. Glad I got to see it at the cinema.

I spotted this on Anna Koska’s twitter feed.

Historical figures brought into the present by graphic designer Becca Saladin


Currently reading these two books.

The Documentary Impulse’ a reflective look at photojournalism and ‘Into the Woods - How stories work and why we tell them.’

If the above graphic got your interest then you will want to read why ‘No one can explain why planes stay in the air’.

The Digital Dictators - How Technology Strengthens Autocracy via @Warzabidul


The worst video game ever?

You will find both education and entertainment in the You’re wrong about podcast.


The greenish egg on the box looked ill. It’s also incorrectly labelled as an egg poacher.

Nevertheless I was excited to get this 4 cup ‘egg poacher’ for my birthday. And it’s already got a fair bit of use.

I’ve had ‘poached’ eggs three times this week. Although when you cook eggs in little bowls with the steam from a simmering pan they are closer to a coddled egg. I think of a runny egg cooked this way as ‘coddled’ and if you leave it a little longer, with a harder boil to firm up the yolk, you have a steamed egg.

Some folk, particularly in the US, might freak out at the sight of a runny egg. They will often boil their eggs to death as they fear the risk of salmonella. And it’s a very real risk as in the US 142,000 people get Salmonella from eggs each year. About 30 of those die.

Even though I once suffered salmonella as a teenager (it came from a pie I was given on an RAF base. Yes even the cooks are trained to kill.), I still like my eggs runny.

I feel more relaxed in the UK as we only had 45 cases of salmonella from eggs last year (100 in the last three years) with no reported deaths.

As a kid my Nonna made amazing poached eggs. I loved the look of them on the plate but not as they sat in the whirlpool of a hot pan, all stringy like a snot filled paper hanky in a puddle.

I never mastered the pan swirl without losing at least 10% of the egg, so it’s coddled eggs in a four cup egg steamer for me.

I am pretty sure they sell more of these with them labelled egg poachers. No-one would know what an egg coddler is.

Apart from us.

My meat alternative experiments continue with the Rebel Whopper from Burger King.

I have decided that I am certainly more of a flexitarian than anything else and eating less meat is doing me good. In fact I’m eating very little meat and don’t crave it at all. It’s the eggs and cheese I miss.

I heard the burger was not vegan due to the mayonnaise. Also that it is cooked on the same griddle as their meat burgers. But I still had to smile when the guy behind the counter asked me if I wanted bacon and cheese on it. I get the feeling that Burger King are not taking this recent move to recognise vegetarians and vegans seriously. Perhaps this is just a weak attempt to keep up with Maccy D’s, Gregg and Subway.

I didn’t got for the bacon and cheese but I did double up on the patty which I really didn’t need. The burger was meaty-ish and tasty but if you double up on the soy veggie burger you feel like you need more juicy salad in there.

On the whole not an altogether bad experience. Obviously your milage may vary as not all Burger Kings are the same.

So… On the rare occasions I do find myself having to go to Burger King I’ll be picking up the Rebel Burger over the standard meat whopper from now on.


I was happy with the egg coddler but no… I was spoiled for my birthday.

I must thank Alan @TontoWilliams for this fascinating book.

And Gordon @125f8 for these notebooks and Richard @VolksCamper for these whisky stones.

And Adrian @UchujinPhoto for this Fittonis or ‘Nerve Plant.

And Christian Hambly for this Hobonichi pen.

Like I said. I have been spoiled :-)

Nick Turpin has been out galavanting with the new Fujifilm X100V. Looks good.

The fifth offering in the X100 range. I still have the ‘T’, the third itteration. This would be a huge leap in spec but at £1200 I’ll need to save my pennies. I feel it would be perfect for my current photo project.

Anyone reading this using the note taking tool Nebo on iPad? If so i’d be interested to know how you get on with it.


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

And so, thank you @marymaryw for subscribing. I’m very grateful indeed.

The quest for making this email financially sustainable has me thinking I need to do something different. It costs £3.86/month to subscribe which to some might sound like a lot of money. Rather than push the hard sell I occasionally drop out these tweets.

Christian Payne@Documentally
If you care about interesting things subscribe to: it’s not just an email with thought-provoking social commentary, stories & technological adventures, it’s a corner of the web curated for a community passionate about similar things. (Free or $5/month)DocumentallyThought provoking social commentary, stories and technological

And some of you even share them. Or you write your own. Many thanks for that.


  • How Amazon tracked my two years of reading.“It is hard for us to wrap our minds around what artificial intelligence enables Amazon to do with this data.”

  • Look at all these amazing people on the Documentally community map. Surely there must be some folk in the UK with space to park a camper van. ;-)


Thanks for reading.

I think that hitting ‘like’ on the web version of this triggers a fleshy robot to stroke a stray kitten.

Right now I have the choice of going out for a meal or revising for an exam. I’m not that good in the exam environment so may have to stay in.

Next week things should slow down enough for me to get a podcast into the main feed.

Avoid the news, watch your screen time and have a great week.

The world is your exercise book, the pages on which you do your sums. It is not reality, though you may express reality there if you wish. You are also free to write lies, or nonsense, or to tear the pages.”  ~ Richard Bach

Behold wonder.

See you out there.


That which does not kill us [196]

Greetings from my shed...

Quite a lot has happened since I last wrote.

Not all of it good.

Interesting times.


On Tuesday, after being recommended by Katie Moffat, I ventured to Canterbury to work with The Marlowe Theatre. Not only was it a pleasure to work with the theatre, but the drive down was fascinating as both my CB and PMR radio picked up all kinds of chatter on the way.

After delivering a video production workshop I found Benny Crime was waiting for me in the theatre and we went to dinner.

This is him 10 years ago on one of my many almost unseen videos.

I also had a workshop in London on Thursday. LGiU asked me to pop in and help hone their podcasting workflow. If I‘m honest I went in thinking there was little I could offer them. Especially as I was impressed with the podcasts they are doing.

But after a look at their tech, recording space and workflow there were some small changes that meant they could really take things to the next level. Especially normalising their audio with Audacity.

I really enjoyed work this week.

Oh.. I almost forgot about mid week.

On Wednesday evening a calendar alert told me that in five minutes at 17:21 the International space station would be orbiting overhead. Operating the onboard HAM radio would be astronaut Luca Parmitano (callsign KF5KDP) and if conditions were good you could hear him answering questions. I grabbed my 20 quid walkie talkie and shouted “hey kids! Do you want to come to the shed and see if we can hear someone talking from space?”

“Yes!” they called back and I could hear them scrambling for shoes.

Running to the shed I dialled in the frequency 145.800 MHz and attached the handset to the aerial on its roof. The kids piled in to join me.

As we stared at the silent radio they asked questions. “How far have you talked with this radio before?”

“About 30 miles” I said.

“How far away is the astronaut?”

“About 253 miles above us” I replied.

“Coooool!” they said.

The radio was still silent but still we stared at it. I double checked the time thinking we’d missed the narrow window. Just as they were beginning to lose interest the radio burst into life. The kids squealed with excitement and we listened to Luca talk about his hopes for how technology might help us solve the current environmental catastrophe.

After the ISS had passed out of range it was hard to settle the kids for bed. Space stations and radio waves were the topic of conversation.

But I didn’t mind. I couldn’t remember a Wednesday this exciting.

As a family we don’t have terrestrial TV in the house. Just extra terrestrial radio comms in the shed. :-)


If you have enough light there seems little you cannot shoot on a smartphone.

Hang in there. This video gets really interesting towards the end.

There is lots of news floating about regarding the coronavirus aka 2019-nCoV. It may have originated from snake poo.

I remember people freaking out about other recent mutated flu strains. I think most of the decent advice on how to protect yourself still applies.

  • If there is a vaccine, get it (There isn’t for coronavirus)

  • At the first sight of an epidemic stock up on food supplies

  • Limit contact with other people

  • Stay at home when possible

  • Stay away from heavily populated areas

  • If you have to go out wear a mask

  • Try not to travel on public transport 

  • Wash your hands regularly

  • Try to keep your hands away from your face

Wearing a mask might not be all that effective. If anything it might just remind people to be vigilant. More info here.

And don’t hold your breath for big Pharma to rush out a vaccine. There’s no money in it.

How do you feel about the Flickr Pro price hike? There are mixed options on twitter. And interesting comments on DPReview


I can relate to this thread.

Probably a little too much.

The secretive company that might end privacy as we know it.

And Twitter responds.

I struggle to find the space for books. Very occasionally I have to resign a box of books to the attic. After reading this I found it easier to put Azimovs books in storage.


I binge listened to the Sci-Fi podcast ‘The second oil age’.

Great escapism. Even with the mild horror and scenes of coerced sex.

It was the 70 anniversary of Orwells’s death this week. And as a result there is some new and interesting Orwell themed audio on the BBC.


This is what happens if you like to collect whisky almost as much as drinking it.

I have 13 bottles open. Some of them for a long time. The Redbreast and Green Spot are easy drinking and two favourites for sure. The Eagle Rare and the Ritten House will often be blended over ice for a tipple round an open fire. The Ardbeg is if I fancy something peaty and the others are either experiments, souvenirs or gifts.

The Scottish bottles will be sampled on Burns night this Saturday.


I’ve had some fun with this antenna mount that clips onto a car window.

With my PMR radio on the dash I can not only communicate at greater range locally now, but when traveling across the country I can pick up all kinds of chatter. Even join in if I want to meet the locals.

What can you do when the makers of smart devices stop upgrading firmware?

I never bought into the Sonos system as I’m wary of anything that calls itself ‘smart’. I wondered what might happen when the systems that connect the hardware were no longer supported. I guess you’ve seen the uproar regarding Sonos ‘bricking’ some of it’s earlier models. So now we know what happens. People are left in the lurch with useless tech that can be exchanged (along with a sack of cash) for the latest supported version. Till the next mass bricking.

Sonos are getting a disproportionate chunk of the press but there are many others doing this.

I feel that legacy devices should continue to work in some form or other. Or perhaps they should be allowed to be hacked with some form of open source version of the firmware.

I have my first Mac. The Powerbook G4. Slow by today’s standards but 17 years later I can still use it. I also have the first iPad. That is also slow. But at least Apple didn’t decide to brick it.

Any purchase of a ‘smart’ product may leave you feeling stupid if the company decide to pull support.

Choose wisely.

These Manfrotto branded memory cards claim to be waterproof, dust proof and more rugged than a standard card.

I’m not sure how much of a branding exercise this is. I’ve had waterlogged SD cards in before and they have been fine. But i’ve also had the little plastic gills snap off and create problems in a camera.

I’m not sure these cards are going to be any more reliable internally and you should protect yourself from card failure by recording to two separate slots when possible.

Hard to do when filming on a phone.

If something can fail it will. You can never have enough backups.

An 8k foldable drone.

At around $1800 I’ll not be rushing out just yet though.


This spot is also here to thank new paying subscribers. Those that drop the $5/month will get a shout out and a link. As well as all the content I share into this feed.

No new supporters this week but thanks to all of you for being here. This email frees me up to focus on the things that interest me and hopefully you. It also enables me to fly less and be here for the family.

This is the last free email before my birthday on the 3rd. If you would like to show your support for this regular dispatch then yes… there is a wish list.

But in reality the best gift would be for more of you to invest in my projects with a paid subscription.

That said some of the items in my wish list come with an instant lifetime subscription. I think you know what they are.



Thankyou for reading. This was written through a strange filter.

Since I last wrote a close family member has had a biopsy and been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. We will find out how far it has spread after MRI results in five days.

The NHS are working fast and I am deeply grateful.

Meanwhile this strange limbo has been filled with new experiences. Pensive moments. Activities that slow time. And Love.

Lots of Love.

“Everyone in this world is breathing borrowed air.” 
Rachael Lippincott

Keep your dreams alive.

See you out there.


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