someone screaming downstairs
we ignore it for a bit
happens a lot, it’s a narrow street, drivers get angry

but the screaming doesn’t stop
and the screaming moves, she’s running

we look out the window and down
a man in the middle of the street alone, blocking traffic, filming, wearing a motorbike helmet

shiny puddles on the pavement, from the middle of the road up to the sidewalk

a black hat in the middle of an intersection

all the cars backed up
askew and no honking

there’s a shirtless boy crouching against the fence

(I say “boy” because he’s so lanky, but he’s in no way a child)

the puddles lead to him
he leans on to something just barely out of sight

the woman is there now, she’s in a dusky pink headscarf
she is still screaming

then there are five people
then there are fifteen

(where is the ambulance? where are the sirens?)

a woman with short brown hair and a red jumper gets out of her hatchback
her little boy is in the front seat, craning his neck

she tries to help
more people rushing out of sidestreets and estates

the woman in pink is still wailing
the boy is still crouching

the woman in red has done what she can
or could not
she gets back in her car

the man who was filming is gone

the sun is nearly down

a large man bursts out of the building opposite
pacing, yelling
his hands on his head, in the air, clasped behind his neck
he sprints inside suddenly, trailed by others

so many voices and directionless running

finally sirens, a helicopter
(where does a helicopter land in east London?)

a police van flies over a speedbump
a medic jumps out and runs to the crowd
he is confronted by the woman in pink

“YOU *HAVE* TO STAY CALM”
he yells over her
she turns and runs away

he gets through to the shirtless boy
still crouching

eventually the boy gets up
no top in his hands
left shin of his grey sweats soaked in blood
a friend runs up, puts his arm around him
they wander

the police struggle to disperse a frantic crowd

“he’s DYING”

the large man is back, his sobs carrying over everything else

cyclists come through
nearly in the middle of it before the realise what is going on

cordons go up, people ordered to stay back
go home

(where do you go after something like this?)

boys pace endlessly
sudden bursts, trying to push through

the shirtless boy has a foil blanket and shuffles away
at the cordon he is gently turned back towards the scene
he’s not done yet

the large man is heaving with tears, suddenly rushing the medics and being held back
he collapses on the hood of a car
more sobs

the woman in pink is still wailing
the large man tears at himself
boys sneak through the cordons to see their friend
neighbours lean out of windows
so many spectators

he’s finally in an ambulance, in foil

medical wrappers blow around the street

the black hat is gone


Last night, I saw the immediate aftermath of a stabbing on Arcola Street in Dalston from the top floor of Cell Northside in a shared corner studio with large windows looking east and south. It was surreal, as if in slow motion, and completely impossible look away. It felt like an hour, but later on I realised it was probably 15, 20 minutes max. It was hard to understand what was going on at first. I kept hoping it was something else, maybe that he had been hit by a car (how does that make it better?).

News reports say that he’s stable, and that two suspects have been arrested. I think that the shirtless young man probably saved his life.

I didn’t really know what to do after that. Writing down what happened helped me stop replaying it in my head.

I don’t know what to say beyond this, and I’m not 100% sure why I’ve published it here except that it feels important to share and to remember. The anguish was unbearable.

Spread from book on Henry van de Velde by Richard Hollis

Richard Hollis’s Henry van de Velde: The Artist as Designer is out at long last. A lot of love, sweat, and tears has gone in to that book. It is absolutely jam packed, covering pretty much all of HvdV’s life with over 400 images. As part of Occasional Papers, I worked on the permissions, a bit of editing, and compiled the index.

Read about how the index was compiled

These blondies are sort of inspired by horchata. I wanted something that was dense and fudge-y, that could be cut small and still be a satisfying treat. A friend said they taste a lot like the gooey centre of a stroopwafel, which is pretty accurate. To get these closer to horchata it might be good to use a lighter sugar, and maybe use pepitas instead of pecans in the topping.


Cinnamon blondies

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F) and line a 20×20cm (8×8″) tray with parchment paper.

In a small pot, gently heat 250 g (1¼ c) light brown sugar, 113 g (½ c, 1 stick) butter, and a pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter) until the sugar is just dissolved. Let cool about 10 minutes.

While the sugar mixture is cooling, in a large bowl blend 95 g (¾ c) plain flour, 45 g (¼ c + 1 T) rice flour, and 2 t cinnamon.

Once the sugar mix has cooled, beat in 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, blending just until incorporated.

Pour in to the prepared tin, then make the topping. In a small bowl, combine a small handful of pecans, crushed in to crumbs, a pinch of flakey sea salt, and a few tablespoons of Demerara sugar. Sprinkle the topping over the batter to cover.

Bake about 30 minutes at 175C (350F) until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. Let cool mostly in the tin, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Cut in to roughly 2.5cm (1″) squares. Good with vanilla ice cream.

The folks at Penguin Random House have been sending some particularly strong e-newsletters recently using the system Sam and I created a little while back. Links below.

I often don’t end up listening to podcasts that are recommended to me. It’s a real shame. I think it’s sometimes hard to know where to start, to find a way in. The next time I get a recommendation, I’ll ask if there’s a specific episode I should try.

Along those lines, here’s a list of a few particular episodes I like. These are in date order, most recent first. Might add more at some point.


Risky Business #535, 20.03.19 — Stop giving Cloudflare money

I’m very interested in information security but definitely an amateur, so most Risky Business episodes go a bit (or entirely) over my head. This episode with host Patrick Gray (AU) and guest Alex Stamos (US) is accessible for less infosec-aware people though. It’s heavy, but very worthy of a listen for anyone influenced by the internet (i.e. everyone).

The major topic is the Christchurch, NZ shootings on the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre where 50 people were killed and 50 more injured by a white supremacist. They focus on the web’s role in the rise of white supremacist communities and propaganda, and what could be done about it. Cloudflare is highlighted as a particularly irresponsible and unsupportable service provider due to the company’s response following the attack. They have refused to pull their services from 8chan, a website that facilitates the spread of white supremacist ideology and the site where the attacker announced his intentions.

Stamos tries to present the difficulties that companies and law enforcement face. Gray understandably gets pretty heated during the discussion, I think initially interpreting Stamos’s comments as an excuse for the inaction of companies like Cloudflare (though I don’t think they were). Ultimately though they seemed to be in agreement. Towards the end of their discussion, around 40:51, Stamos summarises: “We’re going to have to start to treat white nationalists like the Islamic State was treated. To the point that if you’re on 8chan and you’re talking about an attack, you’re actually feeling that there’s some kind of risk, that somebody’s gonna bust your door down. That’s where we got to with the Islamic State. […] We’ve got to get to that same place, but [Cloudflare and other organisations] can make that hard for non-US law enforcement.” He is saying that white nationalist groups need to be classified as potential terrorist organisations so that there is a legal framework forcing companies to adopt stronger policies instead of just hoping they’ll do the right thing. It’s a very good point.

– – –

BBC Earth Podcast 27.12.18 — Hide and Seek

I’ve never finished an episode of BBC Earth… but that’s why I like it. It’s the perfect podcast to fall asleep to if you’re having trouble drifting off. Interesting – but not *too* riveting – facts and stories about nature told by presenter/producer Emily Knight and guests. And great jungle sounds. I’ve put this particular episode on here because I really liked the wildlife calls while they were explaining how to track tigers. Can’t really say much about what happened after that though, I was asleep.

– – –

Darknet Diaries #27, 01.12.18 — Chartbreakers

The tagline for Darknet Diaries is “True stories from the dark side of the Internet”. This episode is a little different, investigating something ongoing rather than covering something that has already occurred. Host Jack Rhysider tries to figure out why shady podcasts with zero reviews or subscribers regularly climb the Top Charts on Apple Podcasts. In doing so, he finds out that it involves dubious promotional activity, and it isn’t just the little guys doing it. He also finds out this isn’t a web-only problem, that a similar thing has happened multiple times with the New York Times Bestsellers list and could still be happening. It’s yet another wakeup call that we should be suspicious of algorithms, particularly those that are meant to be infallibly meritocratic. Rhysider ends the episode by saying that he hopes his listeners recommend the podcast to their friends since he puts no faith in likes or reviews. It made me think about how much I like receiving recommendations from people I care about, and kind of became the catalyst for this list.

– – –

Roderick on the Line #300, 13.08.18 — The Airplane Doesn’t Care

One of Merlin Mann and John Roderick’s weekly Skype calls. Their conversations go all over the place, this one is no different. They always touch a bit on philosophy and mental health, but it’s more prominent in this episode due to a then-recent event. On Saturday 11.08.18, 29-year-old Richard Russell stole an empty turboprop from SeaTac airport, performed difficult stunts with basically no training, and then committed suicide by deliberately crashing in to a small island in Puget Sound (more here). One of those things that made me laugh and cry.

– – –

Syntax #29, 24.01.18 — Hosting & Servers

Wes Bos and Scott Tolinski dive in to hosting. It’s a great primer on a lot of the options out there at the moment, even if you consider yourself relatively familiar with these things. It’s all about the way they walk through it, from Squarespace to Docker, including personal experiences, pitfalls, and use cases.

– – –

Ear Hustle #2, 28.06.17 — Misguided Loyalty

Ear Hustle, stories of life inside prison, is presented by visual artist Nigel Poor and former San Quentin inmate Earlonne Woods. I had no idea which Ear Hustle episode to choose, every one is a jewel. This early episode is about gangs; the pressure, the violence, and the repercussions.

– – –

Adam Buxton Podcast #37 and #38, 06.04.17 — Brian Eno

Adam Buxton having a chat in two parts with Brian Eno. Not much more to say.

Micheal Butterworth kindly brought a bunch of original copies of New Worlds and Corridor to a recent Corridor8 meeting in Wakefield. It was a pleasure to thumb through them, particularly as Hannah Nussbaum gave us a peek in to her research on Micheal’s body of work and the roots of Corridor8.

The images here are illustrated titles from the October 1967 issue of New Worlds edited by Micheal Moorcock.

Turns out vitamin D is pretty important for your immune system. I knew this in a sort of back-of-the-mind way, but I didn’t realise quite how important until a recent doctor visit and blood test. I seem to be deficient by nearly every standard out there. I’ve battled three separate health issues since moving to the UK from California in 2010, all of them nonexistent before the move. I’m now taking quite a lot of vitamin D3 as advised and am thrilled to see real improvement for the first time. Fingers-crossed that the improvement continues.

If vitamin D deficiency is a potential contributor to a wide range of health issues, as a lot of studies seem to show, why isn’t routine screening a thing? Couldn’t it reduce strain on the healthcare system as a whole?

Basically, I’m pretty salty about not finding out sooner. I’ve had so many tests done over the past nine years to try and figure this out, but vitamin D levels were never one of the components. I suspected vitamin D might be a problem early on (seems like a no-brainer, there’s a big difference in sunlight between CA and LDN). But I asked a doctor about it in 2012 and he dismissed my concern. I didn’t press it until recently when everything took a nosedive and I finally saw a doctor that gets it.

So much stress and discomfort potentially caused by something so simple. Time will tell, should take about 7 weeks to get levels near normal. Onward and upward!

And time to go on some sunny holidays. ☀️

The experience of the Self that is given in the existence of a personality comprises five conditioned attributes, namely, corporeal form (rûpa), sensations (vedanâ), perceptions (saññâ), emotions (sankhâra) and consciousness (viññâna). These five clusters (pañca khandha) determine all the body and mental phenomena of our contingent and finite experience. The North–American Buddhist philosopher Robert Thurman gives us vivid images of each of the mentioned elements:

We begin by looking at the body. We can […] thump our chests and say, ‘I’m me’, but surely we are not just a bunch of ribs. We look in the mirror and say, ‘There I am’, but we say the same thing when we see old snapshots of ourselves […] We can explore cells, axons, and dendrites; molecules, DNA, and RNA; atoms, subatomic quantum particles, unnameable forces and energies. Nowhere we can find anything still, static, independent. […]

We can move on to our minds and begin by sifting through our feelings, sensations, pleasures, pains, or numbnesses. […] I investigate my sensory surfaces and, after some time, give up finding any stable, self–sufficient ‘I’ anywhere along them.

Then we can move into images, words, symbols, ideas, concepts, mental pictures. This at first seems promising. ‘I’ is a word, after all. The names ‘Alice’, ‘Joe’, ‘Carol’, and ‘Shakyamuni’ all are nouns. When I pronounce my own name, ‘Bob’, does an image of myself arise in my mind? Is it a recent snapshot of my face? […] A curriculum vitae? A biography? Is it a favorite logo? A trademark? A symbol? […] None touches the essence of ‘me’. […]

We can move deeper into the motions of the mind, into emotions. When ‘I’ love or am in love, I feel powerfully present, even in the moment of feeling that solidity melting. When ‘I’ hate, I am carried away by destructive impulses […] – all these energies seem to take hold of ‘me’, or seem to emanate from ‘I’. But as I think them through, observe them in actuality or in memory, they seem fully bound in relationships. […]

At last we come to awareness itself, to look at our very consciousness […] But to turn toward my center of awareness, I have to tell my awareness to turn back on itself.

Thurman, Robert, Inner Revolution: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness, New York: Riverhead Books, 1998 (pp.74–79)

What we can say is that our personality is but the result of a combination of those five elements – to the point that the belief in its autonomy and permanence ends up being a suffering–causing illusion. In none of the mentioned clusters would we be able to detect the presence of an autonomous and unconditioned subject; therefore, the insistence in any of them will necessarily lead to suffering.

Correia, Carlos João, Personal Identity and Eastern Thought”, Filozofija i Društvo, vol 20 no 3, Belgrade: University of Belgrade, 2009 (pp.74–75)


I came across Prof. Correia’s paper when doing a bit of research on western vs. eastern perspectives on identity and the self. Side note: I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a strong profile photo as the one on Bob Thurman’s site.