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Wicked, weird, and wonderful

Buck 65 - London, UK - April 13, 2011I hate the question “What kind of music are you into?”

More specifically, I hate being expected to sum it up into one succinct answer of a couple broad genres or a few key artists. I can’t pin it down to just one area, and if I do, I feel it’s selling my varied taste pretty short. In no way do I think of myself as a music snob though. In fact, for true audiophiles out there, my eclectic mix of tunes I bop my head to would probably cause some cringing.

I’m just as likely to be found rocking out to The National as I to be found chilling with some Efterklang or grooving to LCD Soundsystem. I’ve held on to a fair bit of the Quebecois tunes I picked up from my time in Montreal (anyone else out there a Jean Leloup fan?!). Some of the stuff I like is downright bizarre. I’ll mix this all in with classical (Canon in D Major, any day) and mildly ridiculous synthpop into the same playlist. Oh, and I absolutely melt over anything featuring violins.

On thing I don’t do is write off any particular genre based on preconceived notions of how terrible it might be. I had a friend once who refused to listen to anything that was deemed to be too popular or mainstream, simply because it was popular or mainstream. My rebuttal to that was that, perhaps the tunes were popular because they were, you know, good. Of course, this isn’t the case in all instances (or even most of them, admittedly) – however, it’s a lame reason to write off otherwise decent music. Hell, if it’s a good tune, just enjoy it! I’m just not one of those to say “I like everything except [insert: country, rap, polka, whatever]. Not my style.

One thing I am completely enamoured with is the mashing up of multiple vastly different genres. I was blown away at a Buck 65 gig last week when he performed his usual white-trash hip-hop styled Wicked and Weird over Yann Tiersen’s Comptine D’un Autre Été, L’après-Midi, from the Amelie soundtrack. If you’ve gotten this far without writing off my musical taste, I urge you to give it a listen:

Is there a genre for this??

What this really boils down to is, after more than a year of scrobbling to my Last.fm account, it still can’t predict what I’ll be in to. I can’t be the only one suffering from this.

Of course, new music suggestions are always appreciated :)

20
Apr 2011
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Epic Ode to Zelda

This Geekologie post recently exposed me to one of the most gorgeous odes to a video game I’ve ever seen:

Epic Zelda Painting

Seeing this and slowly scrolling past each detailed character makes me so, so nostalgic… my heart is tugging to be 13 again, spending hour after hour exploring the depths of Ocarina of Time. Epic, indeed.

The guy who made this also put together a fantastic video showing the process of creating this, sped up considerably. Not to copy Geekologie’s style, but I’ll post it here as well. Well worth the 15 minutes if you’re into having your mind blown.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1mhfHklIRQ

For me, it’s not just the final piece that astounds me; it’s the skill and the process of actually putting it all together. I love how the video captured this.

Sketch on Dot Grid JournalIt’s also the same reason why I love my job. Every day, I play a hand in creating and watching the formation of new features and interfaces for BraveNewTalent.

There’s nothing more satisfying than capturing an idea in a napkin drawing or in my dot grid journal, then into wireframes and mockups, before transforming into a final, usable product. Where I sit as Head of Product, I get to play a hand in each of these steps, and enjoy getting stuck in elbow deep, playing with half-finished prototypes on our development sandbox, adding my thoughts and, here and there, my own personal flair.

Building, creating. That’s where it’s at.

Clarity

Parting clouds in London

The cloud has parted
I am clear, utterly conscious.
Today I see further, think faster, plan better.

Come on world, take your best shot.

I am ready now.

06
Mar 2011
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Tough times, passed

Listening to: Hide and Seek – Imogen Heap

In the wake of a breakup some time ago, this unbelievably beautiful song moved me.  It resonated with my pain, and the raw lyrics reflected my own raw emotions.

Take this excerpt, for example:

Mm, what’d you say?
That you only meant well,
…well of course you did.

Mm, what’d you say?
That it’s all for the best, because it is?

Mm, what’d you say?
That it’s just what we need, you decided this…

What’d you say? Mm, what did you say?

The accusations, the confusion, the emptiness and echoes…

I had to stop listening to this tune for a bit – it reminded me too much of what I realised more and more was no longer there, no longer an option, even a shred of a possibility.

And then, one day, this track came on again.  

….. And I listened closely.  

…………. And it didn’t hurt anymore.

18
Feb 2011
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Social media addict

I love my News FeedListen for the ping,
Glorious updates and links.
Refresh, just once more…

31
Jan 2011
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Quotes

All night and then some

Full speed right ahead. Don't stop. You can sleep when you're dead
Torpedoes - MDFMK

You can't stop me
I’ve just pulled an all-nighter.  I haven’t done this since college, not all the way through, I don’t think.

I’ve got a full day ahead of me, too, but I’m confident I can make it to the end of the day without a full crash.  I wouldn’t do this if I thought it were a detriment to the rest of the day.  That would just be silly.

Why though? To squeeze the most out of my time, really.  I had a rare evening off and, when the choice to go to bed at a reasonable hour came up, I snubbed it in favour of handling the rest of what I had on my plate. With everything that’s been going on, between getting everything at BraveNewTalent in order, organising the next ProductCamp, socialising myself, and life in general, I’ve barely had time to feed myself, let alone manage my overflowing inbox.
A few things I’ve handled:

  • I’m hiring over at BraveNewTalent! More will come on this, but I’ve spent some time dealing with job specs and lining up a row of emails to be sent off at a more reasonable hour.
  • I landed another sponsorship for ProductCamp at about 3 am. The sponsor was out in NY, so wasn’t as crazy as me for handling such business at such an hour. Things like this will just about make the upcoming PCamp possible!
  • I'm all over GoMockingbird.com like a fat kid on a SmartieI made some ‘interesting’ wireframes around the upcoming Employer Administration Panel we’re building at BraveNewTalent.  I’ll have a look in the daylight to see if what I created in my most ‘creative’ hours makes sense and can be used.  In the moment, though, I was, well… in the moment!  Here’s a quick snap of what’s (possibly) to come:
  • Emails!  I’m down to a handful of items that will require a little more thought in each of my inboxes.  Not #inboxzero, as I might have over-confidently hoped, but enough.
  • Random article reading: I often get emails stuffed full of ideas and good intentions, but which invariably requires me to look through a couple of the referring articles.  I caught up on a couple of these over a 4:30am tea break.

I’m taking this last break now to prop myself up with some music, and I thought this quote (from a song I haven’t pulled into the queue since my teens!) to be particularly appropriate.  However much those lyrics resonate with me right now, it’s these beats that are keeping me going right now:

It’s of note that I’ve done this without coffee in my system.  Bonus!  I’m now jetting off to the gym to give my body a bit of a kick (just a swim to keep me going, I think), and then straight to work.

Good day, all!

27
Jan 2011
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Madrid and I

I discovered last year that I love travelling alone.  Not to be anti-social, but I find it gives me the chance to really gather my thoughts, and (with the inherent lack of mobile data while abroad) force myself to be “off the grid”.  Previously, travel, to me, was a thing you did with family, some friends, or a partner.  I had to rip myself from the security I had in having someone else with me to help navigate a new place.  Instead, I took up a habit of just getting something booked and seeing what happens when I get there.

Now I’m hooked; there’s no better way for me to really see a new place.

Church in a Vespa mirror, MadridI wander until I get lost, and marvel at little delights, such as the texture of the streets and sidewalks, the unique style of signposts and street lamps, and (more often than I care to admit) stop to stare at old, neglected yet beautiful doors.  Curving streets and hidden alleyways intrigue me, and invariably, I follow these down just to see where I might end up.  I meander through parks to admire the subtle or abrupt differences in flora and fauna to other places I’ve been (Rome was my favourite for that; imagine my delight when I realised there were oranges growing in the street!).  I try to immerse myself in the life there, stopping at cafés to relax and take in the bustling city around me.

As I wander around, a blur of thoughts runs through my head: What would it be like to live here? Would I like it?  Is this the sort of thing I’d get up to on a lazy Sunday once settled into the city?  Would I, one day, be happy to settle here, and to raise kids here?  Will I ever return to this city, this street, this corner?

When I’m in a new city, I don’t try too hard to capture anything in photos.  Does it do it justice to take pictures of all of these things? No, never.  To start, I’m not a brilliant photographer.  I also usually carry around just a low-spec camera phone which, in the past, has provided pretty pitiful results.  So instead of having my head stuck in a map or behind a camera like a typical tourist, I try to vividly remember each moment for myself; to commit to memory the sounds, the smells, the tiny details of each place.

Just hours before this particular trip to Madrid, I picked up the HTC Desire HD I’d been so pining for. Armed with an 8MP camera and a whole slew of in-built photography filters, I set about snapping a few shots to see what I could get out of it.

However, no photographer in the world could capture this moment, right now… sitting in a plaza in Madrid (whose name I’ll probably forget); feeling the warmth of the sun on my leg and my cheek; the contrast of the cool hard surface of the limestone step I’m sitting on; the rattling of tourists poring over guide maps and trying to get the perfect vacation group shot; the buzz of local children, while speaking a foreign language, so familiar and jubilant; the scent of the shrub on which I’m resting my bag; the Spanish guitarist; the clink of coins dropping in his hat, not as often as deserved; the gentle rush of the fountain… Could a picture do this all justice? I think not.  Here’s a shot, an attempt, nonetheless:

Plaza de Oriente, Madrid

Wouldn’t you rather have been here instead?

24
Jan 2011
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My Happy Song

Listening to: Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel

As of yesterday, this is the song that wakes me up in the morning, now set as my alarm.  This makes me happy indeed, as this song’s always brought a smile to my face.

Cheesy, I know. But I’m up with a little more bounce in my step this morning (and a whole hour earlier), so who’s complaining?

Why does it make me so cheerful?  Well, I suppose the tune in itself lends itself to that… and I do love a song I can (albeit sometimes quite terribly) sing along to.  Perhaps there’s also a bit of an association to moments in one of my all-time favourites, Vanilla Sky (note to self: I need to watch this film again soon!).

Or maybe because it can make even The Shining into a friendly family film:

Happy listening!  I’ll post more happy songs (and perhaps some not-so-happy songs) around here as I go on.

21
Jan 2011
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Speak only the truth…

"Speak only the Truth about What you have Seen and Done & Try not to get Rude to Those who Haven't but don't Believe You."
teenut (Robert Bastow)
07
Jan 2011
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To the New Year!

2010 was, unequivocally, the most interesting, exciting year of my life.  It was my first full year living in London, and I was just getting the swing of it at the beginning of the year, having spent the latter half of the year before getting my bearings on these haphazard London streets and accepting the loss of my oh-so-loved modern conveniences only found in North American flats.

To begin the year, I rang in 2010 in style, in Amsterdam. I went alone, and had an absolute blast. While there, I made my resolution for the year: To travel as much as I can, hitting at least 10 different (probably European) cities in the process. By my count, I did that and beat that.  I’ll not list them all now, but I will have to write about the rest of those trips at a later date…

Last year’s resolution was, I think, the only time I’ve ever actually stuck with it.  It helps to have something so fun yet achievable. Now, on to this year’s resolutions.  I’m setting a few, because there’s a number of things I want to work on, and because I love a challenge, and also, because I haven’t decided on one big “Thing To Do” for 2011.  No worries.  Here goes:

  • Blog more.  I started this blog last year with very little idea what I’d be making of it.  As it turns out, I’m still figuring that out. In the meantime, I see no harm in getting a few random posts about my thoughts and activities published for the time being.  I suppose this is, really, the best way to start.  That said, writing is an intensely personal process for me, but getting myself in the habit of publishing my thoughts should be a good exercise.  Plus, I want to document my life somewhere other than Facebook or Twitter, where the future (and privacy) of said content is unknown, and I can expand beyond a restrictive 140 characters or so.
  • Cook more.  After moving to this flat at the beginning of last year, I got out of the habit of really cooking.  I used to have a kitchen I could really take pride in, and made the most use of I knew how, experimenting in a new playground.  Here in London, I’m sharing the flat, and really don’t feel any sense of ownership of the kitchen.  My plan is to make a bigger effort to stalk up on groceries, get creative again, and make myself some home cooked grub.  At least a couple times a week, if I can hack it.
  • Eat more fruit.  This should be achievable now that BraveNewTalent is having fruit delivered to the office.  Win!  But if it weren’t for that, I’d likely be down to whatever I can salvage from Pret on my lunch breaks.  It’s not my fault that no where in London serves piles of fresh fruit, a la Chez Cora. Actually, I should eat more healthily in general.  I say this as I tuck into cheese and pate with crackers and wine…. see that second point about cooking more.  I need to work on this..
  • Keep moving and travelling.  I’m not going to set a number of places to visit, like I did last year, as 2010 was all about seeing more of Europe.  This year, I’m open to trying some places a little further from home, which likely means I’ll have to spend more time in each place and therefore can fit fewer in.  Although I’m determined to go back to France, perhaps for the Beaujolais Nouveau week.  Oh, and getting in some SCUBA diving, a new trick I picked up in Greece this last year. And perhaps somewhere even more awesome for the next new years celebrations.

Okay, New Years Eve then.  This year, I rung it in in Times Square. In New York City. How COOL is that? Okay fine, it wasn’t cool per se to the native New Yorkers I spoke to, who all favoured hitting up a house party or overpriced club, to standing in crowds, sans alcohol for an indeterminate number of hours to watch a glittery ball drop for 10 seconds.  But for me, seeing the ball drop, in person, in Times Square was just one of those things I had to do.  Check!

Times Square was exhilerating and energising.  For anyone thinking of going, don’t pay attention to those who say you need to turn up early just to see the ball drop.  Just be ready to sweet talk your way past about 3 sets of cops, and shell out about $20 each on a deposit for a restaurant booking within the second or third set of barriers.  Give yourself a couple hours (not the 12 that they recommend) to sort it out will help. So will taking on a fake British accent, as I learned.

So, lots of stuff to achieve this year, in 2011.  For starters, I’ll keep my progress up here on this blog.  And start planning something equally epic to ring out the year.  Perhaps Tokyo? Buenos Aires?  I feel a tradition coming on…

All of that said, I am looking forward to seeing what unfolds in this coming year.

Happy New Year, all, and all the best for 2011!

03
Jan 2011
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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