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I remember reading, somewhere, something like: “As a blogger, if you’re not writing enough, it’s probably because you’re not reading enough” I don’t believe that’s true, I think it probably only applies if you’re the type of blogger who only writes about what other people have written, but somehow it got stuck, wedged into the part of my brain that somehow doesn’t like me sitting and writing and publishing stuff on the web and so it gets in the way every time I go anywhere near the “New Post” button.
The same bit of my brain that lures me into Google Reader and Twitter far too often. “I need to read a little bit more and then I’ll get down to writing.”
No. The only thing that gets me writing (and I love writing, I really enjoy it and I always feel good when I’ve done some) is sitting down and writing. Reading just takes up time, gives me little ideas that get squirrelled away in my head and rattle around like acorns. They rarely get out where they were supposed to go (here, on the blog) and just add to my levels of anxiety, depression and occasional psychotic delusion – which tend, to be honest, to get in the way of writing too.
Oh that’s better.
I’m realising that much of this feels like school trip reporting – we did this, then we went there, then we did this and then we went to sleep. It has been a bit like that but I hope I’ll be able to write something more reflective once I’ve laid out the bones here.
Day 7 was Sunday. This seems to have made the streets of Nice more busy, especially it being mid-August, what with sunday-trading being a mortal sin ‘n’all (it turns out – I saw it on the telly, I’m not going to research it further, find your own link, I’m on holiday – that this weekend was the beginning of sunday trading)
We started with the (predictable but still severe) disappointment that is le petit dejeuner – particularly severe given that I don’t eat bread or croissants or butter or jam and so was restricted to coffee. So I watched Ewan chew his way through a baguette and then it was back to the handy supermarket.
I’m having trouble now remembering. The morning was spent on the beach – I went for a swim and spent the rest of the time, really not looking at topless women, no really trying not to look, or at least, not to stare – trouble is, every time you look somewhere else, a new one wiggles into place. For example, the amply-proportioned lady underneath the red striped parasol in this picture promptly sat up just after I put my camera away.
The afternoon and evening consisted of food and catching up in my feed reader and going for another walk and some crap french telly in our room. Oh and getting bitten by fleas in the room too. Thanks.
Ah yes, I remember, the other thing was I went over to the train station to book the tickets and found that it being a Monday in mid August when lots of people are going back to work and school, there were no places on the train I’d wanted to get to Paris. In fact there were no places on any direct train to Paris on Monday. Or any obvious indirect routes. So I had to (well actually I was quite pleased to, it made for a nice treat after our hotel experience) get an upgrade to first class on a TGV from Marseille and we’d have to get the slow local train there first. I booked the Eurostar tickets back to London at the same time – it started to feel like we were near the end.
I’m in Europe, yes, I know we’re all in Europe but y’know, the bit over the sea. Day 1 of several zooming around the continent with Ewan, on trains. But to get here we flew first to Amsterdam. The security theatre including shoe x-ray had me wishing we’d gone for eurostar there as well as back.
I didn’t really notice how seedy Amsterdam was until we arrived in Berlin which is generally trying to be very smart and stylish. But yeah, day 1 – we flew out of Gatwick at 1.30 so arrived at Schiphol at 3.30 local time. Ewan needed feeding and we needed change for the ticket machine so had a little stop at Burger King before getting the train into Amsterdam Centraal. Our hotel was a little walk from the station – would have been littler if I’d been paying attention. Didn’t really take much in when we got there, just dumped our stuff and put the air conditioning on as it was getting muggy outside.
Went for a walk around the ‘hood to take the air and find some food. found some sex shops, ladies in their knickers and coffee shops along the way. Last time I was there it seemed the coffee shops were quite discreet, now however Amsterdam was under a thick haze of dope smoke and the multitude of other tourists doing that special slow tourist walk that infuriates me in London, but even more so when on holiday because I’m supposed to be chilling out about that sort of thing.
We had a curry and pootled about a bit more.
Back at the hotel we found that the a/c was making funny noises. Every now and then it would buzz, like a buzzer on a quiz show. But it wasn’t regular, so just when I thought it had stopped, it would suddenly do it again and make me jump out of my skin. Also we realised that the church next door really was ringing every quarter of an hour….
I went down to reception to talk about the air-conditioninug. “Which room are you in, shir?” said the clerk in his perfect Amster-Englischh “410″
“Oh yesh. The air conditioning does make a noise in that room, I found out lasht night”
“So what can we do about it? My son’s gone to bed and we’ve unpacked, I don’t want to move!”
“Well you’ll have to talk to the manager about it in the morning, oh and it will keep making the noise after you’ve switched it off, just not so often”
So I went back and switched it off and it was true, it continued to buzz just a little less often gradually. So we opened the window and tried to get to sleep. It wasn’t easy as I became convinced in my half sleep that someone was going to climb in through the window from the balcony opposite. buzzz. clang-ding-dong. silence. silence. buzz.
And then the headboard started making noises when I moved. A clacking sound that I first decided was the boy snapping his teeth together in his sleep and I thought it was more like a crocodile. Eventually I did drift off for a few hours but it wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’d had.
Oh dear this all sounds like a dreadful gripe. I’m actually having a lovely time!
I’d only had fictional accounts of Bletchley Park until yesterday. I’m really glad that I took the opportunity to go up and sample it first hand for one of the StationX social media cafe events.
I first heard of Bletchley Park in 1986 when I saw the pre-west-end run of the stage version of Breaking the Code with Derek Jacobi as Alan Turing at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford. It’s a hugely touching human story of course but also intriguing that so much was going on during the war that we had no idea about.
I went at some point around 1991 I think, to a Computer Conservation Society open day at the Science Museum and Tony Sale was talking about the prospect of rebuilding Colossus. Some people were looking at him clearly thinking he was bonkers, but he did it nonetheless.
Then I read Robert Harris’s Enigma about ten years later when I was in need of fiction to read just after my finals. It is fiction, it is a bit Ripping Yarns but it’s also thrilling and brings the whole story to life.
So I was not at all surprised at what I saw when I arrived yesterday morning. It was good to see Christian as always and Bill Thompson was there, recording some stuff for his Digital Planet show. Highlights were the ever growing National Museum of Computing with it’s mainframe room, new PC gallery and nascent supercomputing room with a stonking great CRAY YMP-EL sitting in the middle of it. Adam Bradley is working on getting it going, apparently. He’s 14.
Then we popped over to the mansion and a special treat to be allowed to see and photograph inside Station X itself, an MI6 transmission station, high up in the tower. I heard yesterday that the X is like the X in OS-X it just means Station Ten, rather than being anything particularly top secret, although of course it was, y’know, particularly top secret.
Another unexpected treat was the cinema and film projection museum. Real geekgasm material here, mainly because it was such a surprise to find it all in such a small nondescript building. Great place for a solobasssteve gig, I think. By the time we got to the reconstructed bombe machine, I was running short of time and blood sugar. But there’s still an awful lot more to see. I’ll be back.
One particular idea that Christian floated was to turn some of the derelict concrete buildings into a geek warren – make it safe, run in a big fat net pipe, add some soft furnishings and get some use out of the space again at least for a few years, with a use that’s congruent with the place’s history for housing the sharpest mathematical and computing minds.
And if you haven’t done so before or recently, chuck some money in the pot to keep them going.
I just asked Colin from 1000heads when I saw him at the Oxford Tuttle to see if I could get a loan camera because they had run the HG10 trial that I was part of before and I knew it worked well for me as a combination video and stills camera.
For this gig, it helped me enormously that I knew my way around the camera already. And it works beautifully, it’s light but robust and to
demonstrate the quality as a stills camera, that pic above of Obama is at the full extent of the zoom, without a tripod.
As a video camera, I thought that I’d be mostly zipping around with my flip for interviews and using the HG10 for stuff that needed to be higher quality especially with zoom. It turned out that pretty much all the video I shot was with the HG10. This is because switching from video to still and back again is so simple so I just wandered around with one camera.
It meant that I had to be a bit more ballsy to stand up at the front with the big camera boys and a couple of times in briefings I was told that I couldn’t video and had to point out I was just taking stills. Minor hassles given what outputs I was able to get.
I could have done with some time to mess around with the colour balance for the video – a lot of it looks more washed out when processed than it did on the viewfinder – but of course I’d left it to the last minute to get it. I’ve blogged everything I shot, I think, but it’s all here if you want to compare and contrast. Make sure you check out the HD versions.
Also I should have remembered that I’ve switched over entirely to Ubuntu since I last used it and I had a moment of panic when I thought that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to get the AVCHD files transcoded without some serious linux-wrangling. As it was I wasn’t able to find the solution until after I’d left the Excel, but Handbrake is a great DVD-ripper and general transcoder (also available for Mac OSX & Windows, I believe) and once I’d had a little fiddle to get the settings right (using the FFMPEG codec rather than h.264 was the main thing for me), I just set up a big batch process to pump out .mp4′s
Big thanks to Canon and to Colin & Donna at 1000heads for facilitating the process – now what do I have to do to get to keep this baby?
I chatted with lots of people about my involvement with G20Voice and the G20 summit last week, but a few of them happened to be journalists who ended up quoting me in their pieces.
Rory Cellan-Jones on the BBC dot.life blog was looking for the angle on how social media can be used to organise protest as well as report news:
Also among them is Lloyd Davis, a British social media consultant who told me that 25 years ago he’d stood on picket lines during the miners’ strike but was now a little old for that kind of thing. “They might say we’ve all been ‘captured’,” he told me, “but I’m interested in the issues here, and how we can organise our way through this recession or depression.”
Mr Davis and his fellow bloggers have had security clearance so that they can get into the Excel centre and attend the press conferences, which means there could be an alternative view of events from that provided by the mainstream media.
Laura Oliver on journalism.co.uk asked me more generally what we thought we were doing, of course I told her I haven’t a clue:
Yet while coverage has been opened up beyond traditional news organisations and platforms, the independence of reports from NGOs and other interested parties must be considered, Lloyd Davis, who is involved with both the G20 Voice project and the Reuters events.
“How do people like me get to report on thinks like this without getting some help from somebody – including technically?” he tells Journalism.co.uk
“I have been lent an iPod Touch, lent a camera by Canon to do some photographs and video – this enriches what I’m going to produce but in a political environment like this, there’s a question of patronage and sponsorship.”
There is an opportunity however to find new things to say other than the mainstream media, who ‘will already have got an idea of what the story is’, says Davis.
“I think there’s a gap to be filled in the middle that’s not mainstream media and the people on the streets. There are people being brought in to for some kind of semi-social thing,” he says.
“I have to admit we don’t really know what we’re doing. As usual as bloggers we’re jumping in and seeing what we can do.”
Then Lisa Devaney chatted wiith me on home turf at the Tuttle club and reported on her BrandRepublic blog and caught me rambling about what it all meant:
I saw Lloyd today following his exciting experience being part of G20Voice and got to hear his thoughts:
“What gets me is trying to understand what $1 trillion dollars really is, and how it will make a difference in our everyday lives. There is also a huge gap between the content of what was discussed in the communiqué planning, and how this information translates to ordinary people. The people at the top aren’t very good at communicating what the ideas mean to the rest of us and I think we need layers of communication to push through the concepts and better understand the complexity of what is happening. I don’t understand it all, and that leaves me, and others, to have to trust our leaders. But do we and can we trust these leaders? What also struck me is that here was a gathering of great leaders from 20 of the world’s leading economic powers, and not too long ago we were all in a tense situation of possibly killing each other. It is really important that we are at a point in history they were able to sit down and talk to each other about the economy.”