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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts from the Life Category

I’ve been a Fellow of the RSA for about six years now, invited to join the fellowship because of my “expertise in digital media” – something they were apparently short of at the time. I’ve enjoyed being a fellow, often use the RSA House as a meeting space or a London office, and attend events there. But the annual Fellowship card has always annoyed me – it’s a fragile coated paper thing that barely survives a year of use:

the old RSA Fellowship Card

That’s all gone, replaced with a nicely designed plastic one:

The RSA provides a powerful global platform for independent debate and research, creating a foundation to encourage innovative thinking, which often grows into pioneering action. We wanted to take this concept to bring to life the Fellowship network through illustration.

And this is the result:

Final card image

It’s rather nice – and feels a heck of a lot less fragile in my wallet.

I suspect it also has RFID or similar in it, because apparently we can use it to “touch in” to the RSA House now. I’m look forward to trying that out soon…

I’ve had two truly memorable interviews in my life. In one, one of the interviewers was clearly drunk, and her colleague was more interested in giving her the stink eye than in interviewing me – yet I got the job anyway.

In the other, for a place at university, the professor was clearly enjoying it hugely. Finally she turned around, and said that I had the place if I wanted it, as she was delighted to interview someone switching from studying physics at Imperial to english literature at QMW (now QMUL).

“I’m so bored of interviewing people with double English and History,” said Professor Lisa Jardine. And then she gave me my second chance at a university education in a way that completely changed my life.

She died at the weekend, and we are poorer for it.

Memories of Lisa Jardine

Professor Lisa jardine

Image courtesy of The Royal Society

Her lectures were free-flowing and rambunctious. She talked with us, not at us. It made her lectures one of the highlights of my week, and has deeply influenced my own lecturing style, now I have my own little foothold in academia.

She never scheduled anything for her undergrads before 10am while I was there because “she had teenagers and knew there was no point”.

She brought a human, likeable face to academic success – and rigour – and that, along with her recruitment policies (favouring mature students and those from unusual background) made for a dynamic English Department. Yes, English Department – she was head of that department when I studied under her. Not History. Not Science. But that’s the thing about polymaths – they don’t respect the boundaries of these categories.

Many of her obituaries have highlighted this side of her character:

She could properly be called a polymath, fluent in five languages and, as comfortable with the sciences as she was with the humanities, the breadth of her scholarship and the depth of her understanding of so many subjects was awe-inspiring.

But it was obvious to all of us who studied under her. She was far more interested in the work that the games of position or form. She carried with her an intimidating – but inspiring – mix of enthusiasm and rigour. But most of all, she instilled in me healthy disrespect for the artificial ramming of knowledge and investigation into the little boxes we call “disciplines”. In that, she set the stage for my current “career”. And for that, I will ever be grateful to her.

I last spoke to her on my graduation day, where, as we shook hands on stage, I said “I didn’t expect to do this well.”

She gave me a huge grin, and replied: “I didn’t, either.” And then her grin grew wider. And that meant a lot more to me than the 2:1 I’d just been awarded.

Back in 2009, I blogged about her for the first Ada Lovelace Day. And in the years since I’ve enjoyed her books and her broadcasting. But most of all, I’ve made deep use of the lessons that she taught me that had nothing to do with English Literature.

RIP Professor Jardine. And thank you.

Killer Coffee

Delish’s Megan Friedman:

Drinking your coffee black might be the healthiest way to get caffeine, but it might also be a sign that you’re a total monster—at least according to a new study, which finds that people who prefer bitter tastes are more likely to have psychopathic personality traits.

I never put cow juice in my coffee.

Never.

(Disclaimer: assertion almost certainly not borne out by cited research. Standard misreporting of science procedures apply.)

Coast magazine:

New research carried out by the National Trust has revealed that a coastal walk will make you sleep longer and feel happier. The survey, which is part of the National Trust’s Great British Walk campaign, discovered that coastal walkers in the UK sleep 47 minutes longer after a walk by the sea, and 36 per cent of people say that even just the thought of the ocean helps them sleep at night.

Feeling a teeny, tiny bit smug now.

A walk on Shoreham Beach

(You can download the original research – Sleep, Mood and Coastal Walking, which Coast failed to link. Tsk.)

Well, that was a lovely way to spend a long, long weekend. Yes, we went camping with a three year old and a three month old and, while it did have its challenges, it was basically lovely.

Farm camping

And, despite my initial discomfort, it was rendered even more lovely by being in such a low reception area that my phone battery died really, really quickly when it was on – so I left it off most of the time. That lovely period of disconnection really “reset” me.

The challenge is coming back to my digital life afterwards. And the shock has been how “noisy” Twitter, RSS and e-mail look. I’ve been brutally culling mailing lists, and am seriously considering doing the same to the people I’m following on Twitter and my RSS feeds. Time to get that signal/noise ratio back under control.

I’ll explain my reasons and thoughts in a later post.

But for now, I’m back-ish (still “on holiday” until next week, even though I did a day at The Telegraph yesterday, and found time to liveblog an event), and looking forward to some serious blogging.

This morning I am mainly questioning my life choices. I just received this through the post:

A box from Blizzard

What’s inside? Why, a statue to celebrate the fact I have been an unbroken subscriber to World of Warcraft for a decade:

The 10th anniversary of World of Warcraft statute

He’s staying on my desk – just to remind me to check that I’m making good decisions about what to do with my time…


Well, hello, blog. I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I’ve been terribly busy, you see. We’re right in term time at City University, which always keeps me busy – but added to that, I’ve recently landed the biggest contract I’ve had since I went into consultancy, and it’s for one of our national newspapers. Time is at something of a premium.
Plus, my daughter has learnt to open doors and turn on light switches, which means that I’m currently woken by the bed lights going on at about 6.30, with a cheery 2 year old saying “sleeping time is over, Daddy”. And that’s the good mornings. On the bad ones, she’s affectionately poking me in the cheek. 
Little does she know that sleeping time ended when she was born.
So, writing in the evening is not exactly a great idea right now. 

But, the thing is, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I would not neglect the blog (and the networking) when I got busy. And sometimes I just have to write myself back into blogging.

And that’s exactly what this post is. 

Hello. Again. 

Morning Tom Foolery

I sometimes underestimate just how different the life I choose to live is. I can often work where I want – like the coffee shop I’m sat in right now. I have a lot of freedom to pick and choose the people I work with – and have taken satisfaction is severing ties with people who proved unpleasant as clients. I don’t have a boss, or a full-time job. My time is pretty much mine to manage, but that comes with choices. For example, I’ve just spent four solid days looking after my toddler daughter, picking up some of my wife’s days, so she can get a handle on her work as term really kicks in.

And I always, always, always underestimate how tired I’ll be after a day looking after that tiny bundle of explorative energy. “Oh, I’ll do some blogging and catch up on e-mail after she goes to bed,” I say. Hah.

rampaging-hazel-pop.jpg

And so I find myself tearing through a Tuesday, trying to catch up on the work I haven’t been able to do for over half a week. It’s at times like this that I almost – almost – feel like going and getting a proper job again. The eternal problem with working for yourself is that there’s no such thing – mentally, at least – as office hours. Your income is completely dependent on how much you work, and thus any time where you could work can lead to you feeling guilty for not doing so. Frankly, I’m the most demanding boss I’ve ever had.

And then I remember that little rampager, and remember she needs time with her parents far more than she needs more toys, and I try to settle down and live comfortably in the choices I’ve made.