Christopher Phin

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You otter visit

IMG_5675
So we visited my home village over the past weekend, and on one of the days went for a few hours to the Otter Pool, the almost-dried riverbed of the Dee created when the river was dammed…

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Dog of the Week: Hudson

Hudson
After weeks of work-enforced absence, we went back to BCDH today, and this was the chap we were asked to walk. Lurcher in shape but with a bit of Staffie colouring and bulk, Hudson was very…

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’Mato Masterpiece

Jenny was given a tomato plant by her friend and colleague Angela, and we’ve been keeping an eye on it since it flowered a few weeks ago. The first fruit showed, swelled and then just sat there for…

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‘Appropriate’ design

It sounds obvious to the point of trite, but it’s a misconception and a mis-framing I see too often: frequently, people talk about ‘good’ design as if it’s some kind of empirical, objective ideal. I…

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5 things I’m thinking about right now

Five blogs for the price of one, following an open invitation from Ian (who was himself inspired by Matt, AliceBen, and Dan

What can it do? Run software, dumbass…
Mention or dumbly hand an iPad to a non-geek and they’ll ask you what it can do; a geek would never do this because a geek knows that it runs software. And with software, the more useful question, especially in the context of Apple’s controversial App Store, is “what can’t it do?” Non-geeks will show surprise when they learn than you can, say, watch TV on an iPad, and would struggle with the – yes, esoteric – concept that it’s not ‘TV’, but bits of data flowing from, say, tvcatchup.com; it’s not ‘doing’ TV, it’s just doing software.  (This is why Apple’s advertising – not “hey, it’s a smartphone” but “hey, you can book a find a table at a nearby restaurant” is clever.) And as for what it can’t do? You forgot about “yet”.

Magazines are good
I am, yes, a magazine journalist, but credit me with enough integrity to make this point without it being interpreted as “of course you’d say that”. Fact is, I think magazines are great. The price is right for a little treat – though I suspect many of us now would drop that cash on a few apps instead – the shape, robustness, disposability, flickability and sheer information delivery mechanisms are fantastic. I have been surprised at how much I enjoy reading magazines such as Wired on the iPad, and there’s lots that magazines do wrong (often because that’s just how we’ve always done them) but I genuinely struggle to envisage a world in which sheets-of-paper-fastened-together-down-one-side are no longer a significant part of the way many of us consume media.

Fragmented work patterns
Too often these days, I ⌘⇥ to my email client, say, to find I’ve opened a new message, typed “The best thing we” and then gone to do something else. Or I turn from my iMac to my MacBook Pro to find I’ve opened a new tab but not entered a URL. Or pick up a pen to write something in my notebook only to find, when I refocus after answering a colleague’s question, I have no idea why I started to write “Fol…”. Hell, maybe it’s early-onset dementia, but I am genuinely concerned about my ability to focus. (I’m not alone in this, right?) I need to retrain myself. Or just wear headphones and play whalesong.

The perfect font for writing
What, for you, is the font you write in? Lots of people are font-blind and either don’t notice or don’t care. I’ve recently switched, though, to the classic Franklin Gothic, and it’s gorgeous. It’s smart and workmanlike, but with just enough flair – the squat (not old-style) numerals are very clear, and the double-storey lower-case g is lovely – to make things interesting. It has a kind of Rhapsody-in-Blue, New-Yorkey kind of busy authority to it, and it lends a perhaps-unwarranted authority to whatever I write. I use it at 10pt, at 200% (yes, yes…) with 1.2× line spacing and 6pt after a para.

Knee-jerks and smart arses
Increasingly, I tire of the habit so many on the internet (and possibly in meatspace too, though I’m certainly exposed to it less) seem to be developing of forcing a polarised, black/white, rocks/sucks reaction instantly to everything that happens, and also of the habit of showing the fuck off. I’ll often make a throwaway remark on Twitter and someone will ping back with a rebuttal, a tangent, a wilful misinterpretation or a random criticism. That’s all well and good when it’s in the spirit of debate, but so often it comes off as merely an attempt to demonstrate knowledge and garner attention. It’s taking the fun out of it.

Your turn.

(I’ve also been thinking a lot about my wife. She’s swell.)