New office

July 17th, 2014

Ade Rowbotham Ltd HQ

Seventeen months ago I left the now-merged-with-Work Club Pirata. Since then I’ve been working on a number of projects mostly from home except for the occasional trip to London for meetings, pitches and so on. That’s been fine to an extent as we have a decent office in our house but, as those who work from home will know, there are a number of pitfalls linked to the lack of formality normally associated with going to work and leaving work.

A recent spate of extremely late nights (“I must finish this thing”) convinced me that something had to change. Other factors included: Frequent visits from my two-year-old son and the cats (welcome but distracting), ease of access to the fridge, and lack of exercise (sometimes not leaving the house at all in a 24 hour period when particularly busy).

Given that we’ve moved out of London we’re lucky enough to have a reasonably large garden, so I had considered getting one of those garden-based studios or “posh sheds”, but the investment at the moment is hard to justify. And walking to the garden is hardly a commute, psychologically speaking.

Then thanks to Twitter I discovered an office vacancy in the centre of Stamford, so I’ve taken the plunge and I moved in on Monday. With the obligatory Ikea trip and assembly mission out of the way, it’s now time to get on with some work.

Wednesday 9 June

July 8th, 2014

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Following an hour of dramatic wailing and howling Henry (our two year old son) has finally fallen asleep. We’re on a plane flying back from Malmö in Sweden where we’ve been staying with one of Rachael’s friends for a few days.

The root cause of the emotional drama, which started in the queue at the departure gate, was that he missed his morning sleep. This tends to bring about the end of the world anyway, but then when we had to force him into his own seat for takeoff the hysterics were cranked up to 11. I’ve had pleasanter flights.

Flight home aside it’s been a much needed short break. The couple we stayed with have an enviably well designed modern house (one of them is a product designer and architect) which was well stocked with good food and wine. They were incredibly hospitable and generous, and they have a child just a bit older than Henry, so he had a friend to play with.

We took the train over to Copenhagen yesterday, and took the kids to Tivoli, which is a long-established theme park / fairground right in the centre. Worth a visit.

Drinks were drank last night and the Germany v Brazil match provided the excuse for our host to open a large bottle of Jägermeister. The hangover isn’t helping matters today.

Landing at Stansted in half an hour. Mercifully Henry is still asleep.

Back to work tomorrow.

Update: He woke up of course. Still not happy. Also the pilot had to abort the landing just before we touched the Tarmac, and go around again. Not had that happen before.

Metallica at Glasto

June 29th, 2014

I enjoyed Metallica’s Glastonbury Pyramid Stage set last night. Prior to becoming acquainted with (what came to be) techno / electronica I was a teenage rock fan of sorts. Never a ‘proper metaller’ in all honesty but aged ~8-11 I had a modest collection of albums on tape from the likes of Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, WASP (yes), Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crüe. And then on starting secondary school I became acquainted with Megadeth and Metallica, before Nirvana came along and then died and then I sort of discarded it all for years having discovered the whole dance music thing.

Anyway I still have a soft spot for Metallica. They can’t half write a cathartic harmonised instrumental. I realise that I speak here as a lay-person and that for true ‘metallers’ there are certainly more nuanced artists who technically do the genre better. But for me they are great entertainers. A bit cheesy, but it’s fun.

I gather that some much closer to genre have been whinging about them being sell-outs for accepting the gig – scoffing about “tofu-munching hippies”. Presumably these elite only eat raw beef, whist head-butting each other to the death in mosh pits. In the 1980s.

But how many bands would have honestly turned down the chance to headline at Glastonbury if actually asked? Would the aforementioned naysayers rather keep Metallica for themselves? You can’t be (of have been?) the biggest rock band in the world and stay underground. And hey Lars Ulrich’s bald patch isn’t getting any smaller.

They’re entertainers. People were entertained. Job done.

On sharing

June 29th, 2014

In the spirit of occasionally making an empty pledge to begin blogging again I’m writing this blog post (not just ‘blog’, please; a blog is that which contains a collection of blog entries or posts) to make a potentially empty pledge to begin blogging again.

I usually have one or two half-written posts saved as drafts. These are typically about things that (obviously) seemed important at the time – for example something political that’s riled me or something that seemed profoundly noteworthy – but which I’ve since been unable to complete due to my inability to succinctly communicate the nub of the sentiment or argument.

Sometimes only by writing something out in long form do I manage to clarify my own position on the matter, so writing the post serves that purpose and sometimes part of my conclusion is that it’s not worth posting after all.

The other thing that keeps me from posting more often is the constant fear of coming across like a complete dick, getting on my high horse about something or other without having any claim to authority on the matter.

It seems the cooler people say less and keep their opinions to themselves. Should we all be more like that?

Personally I wish everyone were a little more open on the web. On Twitter most of my friends seem to have clammed up in the past few years. Now they’ll only post the occasional work-related promotional tweet and rarely comment on their actual lives. I miss that. I’ve got nothing against self promotion but I’m not interested unless there’s a healthy balance between that and some more wholesome, human content.

Maybe you’re getting out of London for the day? You don’t even have to say where you’re going. Oh look you did something in advertising.

I’m not going to make the additional point that people probably aren’t interested in my opinions, because this is my blog and anyone who chooses to read it has the option to simply not do so, in the same way that they can unfollow me on Twitter or whatever.

So fuck it, I’m going to try to post a little more often and I don’t give a shit if someone finds it pretentious or boring, because life’s too short to care too much about what other people think. And I actually really enjoy writing.

Rather than only compose and obsessively edit ‘grand’ and ponderous articles I’m going to post a few more every day life update entries. You’re quite welcome to read them but these will be mainly for me. Life seems to fly past at an ever accelerating rate and it’s helpful to have some anchor points to look back on. Right now I genuinely have no idea what I was doing (other than work) three months ago. It’s quite terrifying.

The ISS

May 21st, 2014

Live stream from the ISS

At 05.45 on a weekday morning before work in March 2012, I trudged out into the back garden to look up at the sky. It was before dawn and overcast.

I’d signed up for Spot The Station email alerts some months earlier but had since stopped paying attention to them. Then someone I follow on Twitter mentioned that the ISS was due over Cambridge the following day. I don’t live far from Cambridge (not that, given the station’s orbital height is 370km, the exact location is important) so I checked the latest NASA email to find the exact time and where in the sky I should be looking.

The information they provide is incredibly detailed. Here are the forthcoming sighting times for where I live:

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Given the overcast sky it didn’t look promising but in the minute leading up to the specified time the cloud broke up so it seemed like there was a chance of spotting the station intermittently depending on its path.

Something like 20 seconds into the scheduled minute of appearance (just late enough for me to concede that I’d probably got the time wrong), the ISS slipped majestically into view and I stood with my neck craned for the roughly three minutes it took to cross the sky to the far horizon. With the naked eye it’s just a point of light but impressive nonetheless. All remaining cloud broke up ahead of it so the entire transition was uninterrupted. And as it passed the zenith I goofily and self-consciously waved up at the crew.

30 minutes later I was driving, as I did at the time, to Peterborough railway station to catch the East Coast service to King’s Cross. Radio 4 brought news of renewed clashes in the Gaza Strip. Several teenagers had been killed in an explosion.

Sometimes, usually when tired, I’ll slip into an unusually contemplative state of mind where I become fixated on how some remote observer might view our species. This is influenced, among other things I suppose, by Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. It can be a bit overwhelming to consider our collective daily goings-on in the un-blinkered context of our little planet hurtling through the bewildering infinity of space. This is by no means a unique or uncommon train of thought, I’m sure…

But this was one of those moments. Watching that speeding point of light that morning had brought a sense of marvel at what we can achieve when intelligent, inquisitive people work together. Projects like the ISS and the LHC at CERN are for me great symbols of hope. And yet at the same time the great Shakespearean tragedy of human conflict continues to play out. The juxtaposition of the two that morning forced me to pull over for a moment to compose myself.

Disappointingly, last week, amid rising tensions between Russia and the US over Ukraine, Russia threatened to pull the plug on the ISS partnership.

New Twitter.com features

April 23rd, 2014

Twitter finally updated my profile to the new display format – several weeks after they upgraded my cat. Here’s an almost pointless blog post about what I like and dislike about the new profile design:

  • Overall appearance: Like
  • Massive font size for just certain tweets apparently selected at random: Dislike
  • Front-end build details, particularly the way the profile photo slides up out of the way as you scroll down, to be replaced by the compact in-nav-bar version: Like
  • Pinned tweets: Dislike (because it reduces the beautiful simplicity of Twitter… but I’ll probably use it to promote something)
  • Not showing replies by default: Like
  • Showing non-tweet-based activity in my timeline such as who I followed: Dislike (I think).

That’s it. You don’t care. Good.

On big smartphones

April 22nd, 2014

Apple are rumoured to be creating an iPhone 6 option with a 5.5-inch display.

Regardless of whether that’s true, it seems odd to me that such large devices (I won’t use the word ph****t) are proving so popular. I’ve recently been using an LG / Google Nexus 5 intermittently in place of my iPhone 5. While I like many (but certainly not all) things about it, its size is not one of them.

Its 5″ display makes it:

  • Uncomfortable to hold in one hand while operating the keyboard with your thumb
  • Slightly too big for a trouser pocket (OK, it goes in but can be uncomfortable when sitting down)
  • Make you look a bit Dom Joly when talking on the phone.

And I think one of the popular Samsung devices is even bigger!

What reasons are there for wanting such a large display on a mobile? Presumably it’s reading and watching video. Is that right? I do very little of either on my phone which might explain my failure to understand this trend.

For me the iPhone 5 is the perfect form-factor for a mobile phone. A tablet has a different set of functions. Trying to merge the two feels like folly, akin to Microsoft’s attempt to design an OS interface that works on both tablets and desktops.