Monthly Archives: September 2016

Cocktail #26. Vieux Carré
Source: Death & Co Modern Classic Cocktails, David Kaplan

1 ounce Rittenhouse 100 rye
1 ounce Pierre Ferrand Ambre cognac
1 ounce Carpal Antica Formula vermouth
1 teaspoon Benedictine
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash House Peychaud’s bitters
Garnish: 1 Lemon twist

Stir all the ingredients over ice, then strain into a double rocks glass. Garnish with the twist.


Restaurant: Pham Sushi, Whitecross St
Time: Monday lunchtime
Stand-out dish: Spicy tuna roll
No frills sushi restaurant, with ageing decor and a fairly unattractive exterior. Full of business folk busily business lunching; an interview was happening on a neighbouring table. The sushi was tasty – the prawn nigiri was full of flavour, and the spicy tuna rolls were fantastic. Not the best sushi I’ve had this year, but certainly worthy of the list.


Lots of lovely talks at Interesting this year. Glad Russell Davies has started doing it again.


1) Abbey Kos
Her talk rallied against wine culture, Ann Noble’s tasting wheel and the Court of Master Sommeliers. I liked the anti-snobbish premise. But I suppose its part of a wider debate about whether taste is objective or subjective. Whether you like the taste of a wine is one thing. But having watched Somm (the wine documentary), it seeams most of a sommelier’s training is concerned with locating a wine to a region and vintage. Rather than judging it as tasty or not. She gave us free wine. A winning approach to any talk in my book.

2) Rachel Coldicott
I’ve seen her speak before. She was hilarious as ever. Talked about the shady eye-make up and hair of the leading character in The Good Wife.

3) Lucy Blackwell
Lucy creates and sends out a calendar to her closest friends each year. A lot of her work centred on beautifully complicated ecosystem art. I particularly liked 2013’s calendar – which involved her getting to work in different ways. And then creating an illustration to commemorate it. One trip involved calling friends from phoneboxes along the route, and playing them Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You. And another saw her draw a straight line from work to home, and then endeavour to walk that line as accurately as possible. Whilst making that journey, she marked the route behind her with chalk.

4) Mags Blackwell
Lucy’s mum. Via video, she spoke poetically about the links between failure and creativity.

5) Rujuta Teredesai
Interesting talk about her experience running a gender equality programme in India. And how there are significant parallels between that and agile method.

6) Ella Fitzsimmons
Funny talk about swedish law relating to sex with supernatural beings. Enjoyed hearing that it’s common practice for swedish people to provide porridge for house trolls.

7) Nat Buckley
Great talk about flyknit innovation, which offers a dramatic reduction in waste vs cut and sewn garments. Nat likened the innovation to 3D printing, but stated it wasn’t perceived as that cool yet. Personally I think knitting has had a bit of a renaissance of late (with Pom Pom, and Wool And The Gang) but I know where they were coming from. Beautiful hand-drawn slides too.

8) Ade Adewunmi
Enjoyable talk from a self-professed TV fan. Centred around the idea that TV remains one of the most low risk ways of exploring difficult ideas. I like that. She also talked about how it allows us to find a common vocabulary: when someone says ‘he’s such a Ross’, you know exactly what they mean.

9) Kim Plowright
Outstanding talk. One of the best I’ve ever seen. Kim set her presentation to autoplay, and timed it to perfection with her script. Her talk was about looking after her parents with dementia, and how she used social media as an outlet. I’d love to see this talk again, I can think of so many people that would benefit from hearing it.

10) Tom Whitwell
Fun talk about synthesisers. Tom talked about the development of synth, all whilst putting together a synth on stage. Impressive work. He talked about Hex Schmitt triggers. And the inventor of the transistor, William Shockley. Who apparently wasn’t a particularly pleasant man. When he started a company, almost all of his management team walked out on him. They were dubbed the Traitorous Eight. And included in their numbers Gordon Moore (author of Moore’s Law).


11) Tim Dunn
Tim’s talk was about extreme trainspotting. A self professed trainspotter, he has recently been helping on a project launching the national train project in Sierra Leone. When the country’s railways were closed down, the trains were boarded up in a warehouse and were only recently rediscovered. Many people in Sierra Leone have never seen a train. So they decided to open a train museum there, along with a whole program of events to help the local community. Nice.


11) Lisa Rajan
Lisa was talking with her five year old son one day, after dropping their car at the garage. He’d asked who would be mending the car, and Tara had said perhaps it would be a female mechanic. And her boy had replied ‘But mummy, ladies can’t be mechanics’.
After researching books for girls vs boys on google images, she saw a startling difference. So she’s started writing books with strong female leads, doing all sort of jobs. And she kindly gave a free copy to everyone who attended Interesting.

12) Diego Maranan
I’d love to see Diego speak again, and hear about what else he’s worked on. He named his talk at Interesting’Why I’m Making Vibrating Underwear’. It centered on the idea of embodied cognition – that the brain doesn’t directly equal the mind. But rather that the entire body shapes the mind. He referenced some useful studies. The first was Grin and Beat It: the influence of manipulated facial gestures. By holding a pencil between your teeth, you feel happier; via the smiling action. The second was Being Barbie: the size of ones body determines the perceived size of the world.

Most recently, he’s been working with the Feldenkrais Method, which uses small body movements to create massive emotional shifts. From moving your shoulder blades back, to stretching your hips. And so he’s developing HAPLOS, a piece of vibrating clothing (created with phone motors) that runs patterns and sensations down the wearer’s back. At a recent hackathon, he incorporated it into a dress and linked it up to an EFG headset. The clothing made different patterns until it found the pattern that elicited the biggest shift in a person’s EFG data. Very interesting. There are more details here:

13) Alby Reid
Alby is a science teacher, and decided to talk about the Litvinenko poisoning. His talk was full of amazing stats. He explained just how dangerous Polonium 210 is; a piece the size of a single grain of sand could kill 6000 people. And rather disconcertingly, you’d only need a piece the size of your hand to wipe the human race off the earth.

14) Helen Castor
Helen is a medieval historian. She talked about her life digging up dead people for a living. It made for a fascinating talk. Particularly liked her bit about William Shakespeare’s grave, which has no name or dates. Instead just a poem that ends ‘curst be he that moves my bones’.

Using deep radar analysis, they’ve concluded that Shakespeare’s grave has been disturbed at some point in history. At the head end. Several historians believe his head may actually be missing. But the church won’t allow them to dig the grave up, so they can’t confirm it.

15) Alice Barlett
A fantastically energetic talk to finish. Alice talked about Tampon Club; a project she started that offers free tampons to women in the GDS toilet. As she said, women don’t choose for periods to happen, so tampons should be as accessible as toilet paper is. Since starting the club, she now runs a scheme whereby you can get a branded sticker set if you set up your own tampon club at your work. Nice.

Brilliant evening. Bring on next year.

Unfortunately I missed the first session in the morning, as I wasn’t feeling well. But after deciding that some sea air would do me some good, I headed to Brighton for Dots.

Nishma Robb – Google
Nishma talked about the stereotyping and discrimination of women in marketing. She referenced the Bechdel Test, which analyses the gender portrayal of women in film. And called for the introduction of a similar test in advertising. She also referenced the Lean In Image Collection on Getty: a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women. I’d never heard of it before, but its a great resource.

Prof Vyv Evans – Bangor University
Vyv talked about adding value to brands with emoji. Some brands have already used them in interesting ways. Tacobell lobbied unicode to introduce a taco emoji. And the NYC subway system are trialling emoji to show updates for individual lines. He also talked about Domino’s introducing ‘one-click ordering’ via emoji texting and tweeting. He’s the man to speak to if you want emoji research for a PR story; he took us through some of his recent studies that have hit the news. Including the soon-to-be released Business Emojis for O2. Which include an emoji for out of the box thinking. I can’t help but think ad agencies will end up using that one sarcastically.

Duncan Hammond – The Guardian
Duncan is the delivery director at The Guardian. In 2021, the Guardian will be 200 years old. So they’ve started relooking at their working practices ahead of that date. He took us through the recent changes they’ve been making. He talked about the importance of establishing a clear common purpose. Of creating goals that unite focus. And adopting a common language. He referenced the founding essay written by CP Scott on the creation of the Guardian, which I must dig out. And an interesting stat: for every new dollar spent on digital marketing in the USA, $0.85 goes to Google and Facebook. Which leaves all the other platforms (inc. The Guardian, Buzzfeed, MailOnline etc) scrambling for the $0.15.

Dan Schute – Creature
Dan presented 10 golden rules of advertising. And talked about how Creature and the Green Party broke every one of them. He called his presentation ‘People like dogs, don’t they?’ after a senior Green Party leader suggested they do ‘something about dogs’ in a briefing session. A funny talk, buoyed by the incredibly funny work they created for the greens during the election period.

Martin Gill – Forrester
Martin talked about ensuring your company is customer led, rather than customer aware. Companies shouldn’t just do surveys, market research, or descriptive analysis with structured data. They should also do ethnographic research and predictive analysis. They should take on unstructured data, and allow their customers onboard to co-create products. He also talked about collaborative journey mapping, whereby all departments work together to create customer journey maps. These maps track Actions, Thinking & Feeling, Experience, Front Stage (touchpoints), and Backstage (systems). Along that journey, you can then prioritise the highest impact interactions for development. Barclaycard recently did analysis whereby they found 144 interactions; way too many for development. So they prioritised only the top few.

David Greenfield – Adidas
David’s talk was a little lost on me to be honest. He talked about working for ‘the best sports brand in the world’. And how Adidas have approached premium service development in digital transformation.

Andy Whitlock –
Andy Whitlock’s talk was the best of the day. He talked about the journey have been on since launch. And how he’s been working on creating cheaper/free experiences as gateways into the brand. Really smart things like Blinkies, Clever Ideas, Tiny Magic, Frog Mail templates etc.

Will Hudson – It’s Nice That
I’ve followed It’s Nice That for years, so it was a pleasure to hear Will speak. It was interesting to hear that he created the site in response to a university brief: ‘Put something into the public domain that makes people feel better about themselves.’ He also had some great references. Including the Arnold Schwarzenegger video series ‘Rules for Success’. And this quote from Willie Nelson: ‘The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.’

Caroline Webb – SevenShift
Caroline is the author of ‘How to have a good day’. BrilliantNoise were kind enough to buy every Dots attendee a copy of the book. She talked about how we all have the power to edit our own reality. Because we all experience a partial view of reality, and thus fall foul to a type of confirmation bias. Whatever we’re looking for, we find. it’s why sad people discern hills as steeper. To edit our own reality, we need to ask ‘what’s your real aim’, ‘ check your attitude and your assumptions’, and think ‘where do you most want to focus your attention’. She also talked about how you can make time go further, by adopting approaches like the pomodoro technique. And she discussed fundamental attribution error, whereby our motives aren’t considered by those around us. So when we behave badly, we attribute it to circumstance. But everyone else simply attributes it to us having a bad personality.

Overall, a fantastic day. Look forward to visiting again next year.

Restaurant: Shogun Ramen, Prince Albert St
Time: Friday lunchtime
Stand-out dish: Char siu BBQ pork spicy miso ramen
Secluded spot near Brighton seafront. Only a couple of staff, only a couple of customers. Delicious ramen – massively filling, with succulent pork and plenty of tasty veg. Really very good. Next time I’m in Brighton, I’ll visit again.


Restaurant: Feng Sushi, Stoney St
Time: Wednesday lunchtime
Stand-out dish: Soft shell crab sushi roll
Light and airy restaurant of a smallish size. Friendly staff and quick kitchen. Near to empty when I arrived, full by the time I’d left; get there early to ensure you can get a table. There are several Feng Sushi locations. And from the decor and menu, you do definitely get the feeling that it’s a chain. The temaki tuna roll was a little bland. But the soft shell crab was delicious and the salted edamame were warm and fresh. A little expensive for a regular lunch, but a nice spot for the weekend.


Nairn’s London #21
Harmondsworth Tithe Barn

THEN: An astonishing village, to start with, only half a mile from London Airport’s runways: a tiny green with too many rose bushes on it, two village pubs, and a simple village church. The grandeur is behind the church, in the ancestor of all the hundreds of tile and tarred-weatherboard barns that survive around London. A hundred and ninety feet long, probably fifteenth-century; the tiled roof is so big that it fills the whole view as you come to it from the churchyard. Inside, twelve great luminous bays, timber framed, with no attempt to make the beams Gothic, and all the more memorable for that. Timeless: and the word is not a careless superlative. With no real greatness in any of the Airport hangars, here is a five-hundred-year-old shed which could hold light aeroplanes almost without alteration, and with complete understanding of the strange ecstasy of flying.

NOW: We visited one hungover Sunday morning. The village itself doesn’t seem to have changed all that much since Nairn’s day; a pretty village green and two quaint pubs (one of which satiated our sugar low with a couple of pints of coke.) The barn is impressive, especially on a sunny day – the burnt orange tiles offset against a bright blue sky. It somehow feels larger inside than out – a curiosity as it is vast upon approach. Its scale prompted John Betjeman to call it the Cathedral of Middlesex. English Heritage run the site, and this was one of the last chances to see inside before it closes for the winter. There were several displays inside – showing photos from Nairn’s time and earlier. They’ve really done a fantastic job with the upkeep. It doesn’t seem to have changed at all. The beams are magnificent – medieval carpentry at its best. A beautiful spectacle.


Restaurant: Ten Ten Tei, Brewer St
Time: Wednesday lunchtime
Stand-out dish: Salmon Nigiri
It was always going to be hard to give a fair review to the restaurant after Sushi Tetsu. And whilst the sushi at Ten Ten Tai wasn’t Toru Takahashi’s standard, it certainly was tastier than my usual weekday lunches. The restaurant isn’t much to look at from the outside. And its a bit ramshackle within. But there are nice touches. Beautiful crockery. Free green tea. Welcoming staff. And the fish was full of flavour. Their sushi rice wasn’t sticky enough, and fell apart. And the wasabi didn’t have enough bite. But it was a solid lunchtime spot, and I’ll definitely be heading back again soon.