Bath Parliamentary Candidates

These are the websites of parliamentary candidates competing to become the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Bath constituency in the 2015 general election. Don Foster (Liberal Democrat), Bath’s MP for the last 23 years, is retiring.

Visited Countries

World map with countries that I have visited highlighted
Plenty left still to explore.

Where I’ve Been maps were a great way of keeping track of visited countries, and when TripAdvisor sunset the site I was disappointed. Rather than relying on yet another third-party service to host my travel history I had a go at making my own map of where I’ve been.

I wanted my map to be fast, statically hosted on this site, and I wanted all graphics to be vector-based. I used the excellent (albeit Mercator) SVG map of the world from amCharts, which includes country paths with two-letter country code IDs that make styling using CSS really easy. With the help of CloudFlare’s gzip compression the high-definition map weighs less than 500KB.

Take a look at my map or grab the page source and make your own.

The Modern Desk

The Modern Desk is a brief, once-a-week newsletter with a handful of apps and accessories to help you create a more productive and enjoyable work environment. We don’t get kickbacks, we just love great products.

I love exploring other people’s workflows and tools.

Offscreen Magazine #10

Reminder: the first 2,000 copies ordered will contain a special little goodie as part of our 10th anniversary issue. As of today, we have about 500 copies left. Make sure you order asap!

Offscreen’s goodies are always a delight.

Coffee Set-Up 2014

My coffee set-up has been honed over time to suit my requirements for brewing specialty coffee at home. In recent months I’ve focused on controlling the variables in my brewing to become more consistent in my output. I’ve been collecting tools and techniques to help me achieve this.

Beans and bean storage

For 2014 I decided to take out a subscription to Square Mile Coffee Roasters. I’ve enjoyed many of Square Mile’s coffees over the years, and their 12-month subscription (£115) is great value compared to ordering bags individually. Every month I get 350g of roasted whole beans delivered in the post with a newsletter detailing the coffee’s provenance.

To store beans in my kitchen I use a Vacu Vin Coffee and Tea Storage Container (£12), which keeps beans clean and fresh for weeks. It’s the perfect size for Square Mile packs, and the square shape of the rim makes pouring beans onto scales easy and controllable. There’s also something perversely satisfying in releasing the pressure valve when removing the lid.

I give beans about a week between roasting and consuming. This gives them time time stabilise in the bag before going through a brewer.

Scales

I use two sets of scales in my coffee routine. A 0.01g-precision set—a cheap set of digital scales (£8) designed primarily for weighing drugs, it would seem—for measuring beans (14g for AeroPress, 20g for Clever), and a 1g-precision set—the Salter Slim Design Electronic Platform Kitchen Scale (£12)—for measuring water (200g for AeroPress, 300g for Clever).

Grinder

My grinder is by far the most expensive part of my coffee set-up, and rightly so. It’s a Mahlkönig Vario (£350), which was recommended to me by my local barista. It is a brilliant piece of kit, with very little ground retention, good grind consistency, and a sturdy and premium-feeling construction.

I grind for AeroPress using K4, and for the Clever using K9 grind sizes (these sizes correspond to the scales on the adjustment levers on the Vario). These settings might not be optimal in all cases, but they’re a good baseline and have far less impact on my output than other variables like the grind consistency or grounds/water ratio.

Kettle

Heating water to the correct temperature for brewing coffee—around 94ºC—is tricky using consumer kettles, but I’ve found the KitchenAid Artisan Kettle (£120) gets close when set to 95ºC. It’s also a beautiful device, with a satisfying heft and tactile controls. The light and sound indicators built in are nice touches too.

Brewers

I brew using one of two methods; AeroPress (£25) or Clever dripper (£20). I favour the AeroPress simply because I’ve been using it longer, and I’m more familiar brewing with it. It makes a superb cup.

For occasions that require more than one cup (i.e. when I have guests) I’m looking to pick up a Chemex at the London Coffee Festival next month.

I time my brews using the stopwatch on my iPhone; 40 seconds brewing + 30 seconds pressing using the AeroPress, and 120 seconds brewing + 90 seconds drip using the Clever.

I Climbed Kilimanjaro

Photo of Robert and Dan at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro
Robert and me proudly holding the Sursum Aliquantulus flag.

The climb took five and a half days, and gave me some of the best views I’ve ever seen. I climbed with a couple of good friends and a small army of porters.

I took some photos and shared them in this Dropbox shared folder.

Designing Presentations

This is a wonderfully thorough article on presentation design, covering everything from slide content and layout through to practice and pacing. As someone who struggles with public speaking there’s plenty for me to think about in here.

Characters

Say goodbye to the days of remembering obscure codes for UTF-8 special characters. Characters is a Mac app designed for people (like me) who are pedantic about punctuation on the web.

Invert the Magic Trackpad

I have Mac OS X configured so that my Magic Trackpad tilts away from me, keeping my wrist at a more natural angle when gesturing. Combined with a palm rest this is a much more comfortable way to operate than with the standard orientation.