in Travel

My minimalism out minimalists your minimalism

In just over a week I’m going on a massive trip around Europe with a friend. We’ll call him James cause that’s his name. This trip was first mentioned between us back in November and has been happening and then not happening since then more times than I can count.

But now it’s happening.

We’ve booked flights (but so far not anything else… yet.) and now we’ve been turning our attention to what we’re taking. To some extent I’ve been making preparations for stuff to take for ages. Six months ago I got a new camera; I bought a super-lightweight laptop with something like this trip in mind; I’ve been reading travel blogs and watching serial travellers’ YouTube videos.

And now we’re a week away from this probably-once-in-a-lifetime trip and I’ve decided not to bother with all the stuff. My laptop? It weighs 1kg but is too heavy. My camera? James has ordered a disposable camera off Amazon and is taking that. I seriously considered taking my old point and shoot from 2005 instead of my beautiful new DSLR. My phone? I’m leaving it behind, and whilst I wanted to take my old Sony Ericsson camera phone (back in the days when that was a very exciting legit thing), in the end I’m borrowing a fairly old HTC.

Then there’s bags. I’ve got a 65l proper backpacking bag I used a couple of times at school. Perfect for this kind of trip. Except, it’s way too big. We’re only taking four days of clothes each, a couple of essentials (toiletries, towels etc) and I’ll have my satchel for my camera, tablet and Kindle. James managed to fit everything in an absolutely tiny 20l backpack. I’m not quite going to manage that, but I comfortably fitted everything into a 27l pack. Literally half the size of the bag I thought I’d take. How #minimalist of me.

Yet, I was a little bit concerned that when we’re on the go and we’re carrying food and whatnot my 27l bag isn’t quite going to cut it. So I figured I should probably take less. After all, everybody tells you to take as little as possible.

So I started considering ditching the camera, fewer clothes, ditching the Kindle. I got my iPod Touch from 2009 out earlier to see what the battery was like so I could take a Nokia phone instead of the HTC. I was seeing how plausible it would be that I could pick up English-language books in the places we’re going to so I could avoid taking my own the whole way.

And at some point during all this I realised I was probably being a bit silly. Yes, travel light, but this is a trip I’ll probably never get the opportunity to do again. So don’t take crappy photos in the name of not taking a decent camera cause it weighs too much. Don’t get really bored on four hour train journeys cause you didn’t take any books cause they weigh too much. Don’t be silly. Don’t take the whole trendy minimalism thing too far.

My minimalism out minimalists your minimalism. I’m not taking anything on holiday.

Visiting Liverpool 2014

I kicked off my summer of travelling last weekend by heading to Liverpool with Uni’s BrassSociety for a “mini tour”. I’d never been and wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but absolutely loved the place and had a really brilliant time.

We stayed at the Everton Hostel which was relatively basic but made for a decent enough place to come back to in the evenings. Highlights for me included going to a gig at the Cavern Club (obviously) on Saturday evening and the actually-super-interesting art galleries.

I did, of course, snap some photos and I’ve stuck a bunch of them below.

Unafraid of being not so great

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I’ve just spent the last twenty eight minutes and forty five seconds of my life — time I’m not going to get back — listening to the first EP I recorded and released with my band Ellipsis just over three years ago.

In the last three-and-a-half years Ellipsis has released a stupid volume of music — something like five hours worth of stuff — and it’s all been recorded in my bedroom. Well, not quite all of it. Some of it was recorded in Will‘s bedroom and even other parts of both our houses! The point here is we’ve never gone into a “proper” studio, use extrodinarily basic consumer equipment and do everything ourselves.

We’ve come a long way since late 2010 when we first started. Our latest release from December last year actually sounds pretty damn good throughout, but the first EP we put out all that time ago… is a bit shit.

But it’s also really great.

This will make sense. I can marry these two ideas. Bear with me a sec.

The EP is badly produced, mixed and whilst some mastering a friend of mine did salvages it somewhat, you can’t get over the fact that a lot of it is horribly out of time, intruments are out of tune, some of it was recorded on Will’s laptop’s internal mic; to some extent it’s just inherently badly made.

But it really doesn’t care about its own limitations. Knowing nothing about mixing if something was too quiet I just turned it up a bit. Knowing nothing about recording software the whole thing was recorded in Audacity.

What matters was this was a really fucking ambitious record and not knowing better, we just made the thing. There was none of this “oh what will people think of it!!!!?!” crap that I deal with now — to the extent, you’ll notice, that I’ve not actually linked to this magical EP despite it still being on our website.

I’ve kinda talked about this before. To some extent I’m “scared to start” because I don’t like the idea of making public something bad, to the point my internal quality assessment process is so vigorous nothing passes it.

I talked about some plans I’ve got to launch a new blog a couple of weeks back and once again I find myself with the time to get it launched. Except I’m slightly concerned it might be shit, so I keep doing more and more prep and worrying about the tiny things instead of just getting it launched.

Version 1 of WPShout was made in an afternoon. So far this new blog has been “planned” for the last two and a half years.

The moral of the story, of course, is make things. And make really shit things.

No, UKIP isn’t “killing it” on Facebook

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I like politics and I like social media.

Political usage of social media is kinda an interest hot-spot for me and naturally I took particular interest in Ampp3d’s article UKIP are absolutely killing it on Facebook.

The general jist of the article is from what could be gleamed from the publicly-available stats, UKIP’s social media performance is significantly better than any other political party in the UK and all other parties are doing a terrible job.

I’ve just got a couple things I’d like to mention.

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Accidentally Hipster

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I think I’m having a mild identity crisis.

I say mild because I don’t really mind (at least I tell myself I don’t really mind); it’s more the bit about what other people think of me. Not that I mind, just so we’re clear on that. Nobody minds what other people think about them. Obviously.

How to put this.

I think I might accidentally be a little bit of a hipster.

Accidentally because obviously nobody likes hipster lest of all wants to be one, but I do have to grudgingly admit recent evidence (see: my life) would point towards me being a little bit of a hipster. I feel that especially as I’m approaching my end of year exams and we’re in a period of immense procrastination this is something I should address.

I’ve always thought “no I’m not a hipster; I don’t have the glasses”. Admittedly I have glasses with fairly thick black rims, but they’re pretty rectangular. Definitely not circular enough to be considered hipster. But — I did get my eyes tested over Easter and had I needed new glasses they would have almost certainly been bigger and rounder.

Had we gone down that road though, I would have been getting those glasses because I liked them, not because of my desire to be more hipster.

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New music (to me): Easter 2014

I’ve bought a hell of a lot of new music over the last month. Way, way more than one living on a student budget should. A lot of it’s come from Bandcamp, a site which makes it such a lovely user experience to find new stuff and directly purchase music from artists. I host my own band’s stuff there and sometimes I just get a bit carried away exploring new stuff. You know how it is.

Anyway. I really like digging through other people’s lists of new stuff and figured I’d make my own. In no particular order, here’s some cool new stuff I’ve been listening to recently.

Tides of Man: Young and Courageous

This is my most recent addition and already one of my favourites. It’s a post-rock instrumental record which manages to overcome the shortcoming many in the same genre seem to have of not seeming to go anywhere. There’s real feeling in the music. It’s really great. I really like it.

Bandcamp link.

A Great Big World: Is There Anybody Out There

A Great Big World‘s debut record is the best damn pop I’ve heard in a long time. It’s by no means particularly deep or musically groundbreaking, it’s just very well written, made and produced pop. And it’s really catchy too.

Band’s website.

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Wait Til You See This: Is The Most Awesome Viral Headline You’ll Ever Click

The debate of qualitative versus quantiative is unlikely to ever be resolved. It was one of the first things we tackled in my Politics degree; it’s something that I was always concious of whilst I was at Miniclip last year analysing how many extra clicks posting half an hour later on Tuesday produced. With the embrace of “big data” it’s apparently something we’re all going to have to deal with at some point.

Yet weirdly for something that literally all of the cool kids are talking about there’s very little consensus about how far quantiative should be embraced over qualitative or even straight-up whether it should be embraced over qualitative at all.

The most common line you’ll see is some sort of hybrid approach is necessary, and that’s probably right — at least in my experience it’s what’s been most effective. I’m reading Nate Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction at the moment and whilst Nate ers on the side of quantiative he absolutely doesn’t think we should embrace data unreservedly and leave independent creative thought at the door.

Personally I have an immense amount of respect for those able to draw up huge amounts of data-driven formulae which offer a huge amount of insight, I’m just not very good at producing them myself. I’m also wary — mainly from my own experiences — of unreserved faith in the power of big data. If you’re not careful it only traps you into persauding yourself what you’re doing now is as effective as it can possibly be and leaves you blind to different or innovative approaches. It’s also incredibly easy to assume if something can’t easily be quantified it mustn’t be of any value or worth; that’s not true either.

So the answer’s somewhere in the middle. That’s hardly groundbreaking; we all know that, it’s just we sometimes like to forget it sometimes.

Oh, and the title? That’s so this post gets as many viral as possible. It’s using science!

Visiting Bath 2014

I went to Bath last weekend to stay with a friend. I’d only been once before when I was very young and I don’t really remember anything from the trip. So we’ll call this my first time in Bath. It’s a really lovely town and naturally I snapped some pics. Enjoy:

“How to genuinely connect with people on social media”

Probably for the first time since I left Miniclip ten months ago I’ve spent some serious time recently looking at social media strategy to make sure the social media work I’m doing with societies at Uni is as brilliant as it can be. As was inevitable a lot of stuff has changed in the last ten months, but equally a lot of stuff has stayed the same.

Two of those things that have stayed the same are the huge importance of having a) putting out quality original content and b) having a consistent and engaging “brand voice”.

Completely by accident I stumbled across a great talk by wonderful musician Juila Nunes on how she engages with her fans through her social media presences and uses social media to genuinely connect with people. It’s probably one of the best talks I’ve seen in a while – definitely take eighteen minutes and thirty seconds and check it out.

Visiting London 2014 (Ohey Nelson)

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I’ve already Instagrammed it but I wanted to share this pic of Nelson’s Column I snapped last night properly. I had my camera with me and was pleasantly surprised with how well it handled the low light.

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We were, of course, at Trafalgar Square in order to visit the giant blue cockerel that now sits on a plinth outside the Canadian Embassy. Apparently giant blue cockerels are something London does now.