East Finchley, London. January 2016.

Bløsh—Give It Away


I had an amazing time at Harrington & Squires, learning about the art of letterpress printing. Chrissie and Vicky were such great hosts, and if you get a chance, I’d highly recommend their workshops, or visiting their shop in Tufnell Park.

Above all else show the data

A finished print—Tufte’s “show the data” quotation.

Fluorescent Ink Roller

Unfortunately the photo doesn’t do justice to the fluorescence of that orange!

First Pass Chase in the press Second Pass Printing Presses

Adana 8 x 5 printing presses. Want.

"Furniture" and cases of type

“Furniture” and numerous cases of type.

Efterklang’s Mirador vs. ustwo’s Monument Valley

Some remarkable similarities between these two M.C. Escher-alikes.

Efterklang—Mirador (2008)

Monument Valley (2014)

Technology for Saving Time

My new thing is to listen to Danish radio in the morning in the hope that it will improve my Danish language listening skills. At the moment I can only pick up the odd word in each sentence, but there was an interview (in English) with Prem Rawat that caught my ear, which included this:

I think we are really out of touch with ourselves. We’re in touch with everything else: this account, and that account, and our phones. Things that were supposed to save us us time may or may not save time, but they definitely occupy that free time we were promised.

Prem Rawat DRP1’s Sproglaboratoriet

This reminded me of something Mark Steel said when he was on The Infinite Monkey Cage show. He reckoned that the problems lie with the “social mechanisms” that employ the science, rather than the science itself:

In the early 1970s, there were two things that we were promised … One was that space travel would go on and on, and by now we’d certainly be on Mars. But the other thing was that new technology would mean that we would have this crisis of having so much leisure, because everything would done by machinery … what on earth do we do with all the time? As we know, the average working week now in Britain is longer than it was back then.

Mark Steel BBC Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage Series 2 Ep. 4

The Essence of Programming

What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your own mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. And that’s really the essence of programming. By the time you’ve sorted out a complicated idea into little steps that even a stupid machine can deal with, you’ve certainly learned something about it yourself. The teacher usually learns more than the pupil. Isn’t that true?

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Douglas Adams

This and That, and That


The Danish language has collapsed into meaningless guttural sounds.

From a sketch on Norwegian TV show, Uti Vår Hage

I have been teaching myself the Danish language with the Duolingo app since January, and so far it has been pretty fun—albeit a little difficult at times. A couple of favourite words so far:

  • vandmand is the Danish word for jellyfish, which literally translates to water man
  • sædvanligvis means usually and is very satisfying to say/hear
  • medlemmerne, meaning the members—it’s a bit difficult to pronounce, but reminds me of Mahna Mahna.

I had a chance to practice some of Danish skills when I visited Copenhagen with Helen and family in April. We had a great time, ate some tasty food (apart from the burnt onion ash!), and I had a chance to catch up with my old friend Matt (aka Milhouse). 2014-11_4410_lomo-lca_kodak-portra-400_33.jpg

Had to be done. Nyhavn, Copenhagen. April 2015.


Whilst most the UK were struggling through the sweaty June/July heatwave, Helen and I were lazying by the beach in Sardinia. The location was spectacular, so here is a picture of a food van:


Blue van. Blue bins. Alghero, Sardinia. July 2015.


At the end of July, Helen and I visited France. Our first stop was Nogent-le-Rotrou, a seemingly sleepy town in the Perche region, where we attended the wedding of one of Helen’s old work friends. Once again, another stunning location, overlooking the endless French countryside, so here is a picture of a quiet junction:


An Espace indicates to go left. Nogent-le-Routrou, July 2015.

After that we spend a few nights in Paris. We were fortunate enough to catch the final stage of the Tour de France on the day we arrived, including a fleeting glimpse of Chris Froome.


Men complete a bike ride. (Froome in the Yellow.) Paris, July 2015.


Meeeeeetro traaaaain. Paris, July 2015.


Greenery, ornate balconies, and signage. Paris, July 2015.


More ornate balconies. Paris, July 2015.


I will miss this gentleman a lot.


Some of James’ excellent musical creations can be heard on his soundcloud page. Mark & Tyrone (about a haphazard Wagamana waiter) is a particular favourite of mine.

A campaign has been set up to complete James’ second album. To donate, visit the campaign page.


Cleaning up after activists occupy Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. June 2015.

Graphical Integrity in Data Visualisations

This infographic, highlighting quirks of the UK voting system, recently popped up in my Twitter feed. Whilst the accompanying article makes some valid points, the graphic is rather inaccurate.

Infographic of forecast votes-to-seats for Ukip, Lib Dems, Greens, and SNP

Firstly, it uses circles (of two dimensions) to represent one-dimensional data. Edward Tufte discusses this in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information:

There are considerable ambiguities in how people perceive a two-dimensional surface and then convert that perception into a one-dimensional number. Changes in physical area on the surface of a graphic do not reliably produce appropriately proportional changes in perceived areas.

In this instance, the designer has varied the radius/diameter of the circles, which results in a surface area that exaggerates the data. For example, compare the circles for the Green Party and the SNP. If the Green Party circle represents 1 unit-squared, then you’d expect the SNP’s circle to be 56 units-squared. Instead, it is 3136 units-squared—56-times greater than it should be.

Secondly, it encourages comparisons between values on different scales: percentage of votes, and number of seats.

The graphic gives the impression that the Lib Dems gain considerably from the voting system: 8% votes → 26 seats. 26 seats actually represents just 4% of the total seats (650), so their votes are effectively halved! This distortion is also observed when comparing the Lib Dems’ “votes” circle to the SNP’s “seats” circle. The SNP’s 56 seats (8.61%) should be comparable to the Lib Dems votes (8%). It isn’t.

Infographic of forecast votes-to-seats for Ukip, Lib Dems, Greens, and SNP, highlighting inaccuracies
Annotated graphic highlighting distortions. The dark blue circle shows how big the SNP’s circle would be if areas were proportionate.

What’s more, there is a second graphic (not re-published here), making the same votes-to-seats comparisons but with the Labour, Conservative, and Ukip parties. However, this is on a different scale to the previous one, making any further comparisons impossible.

It would be more accurate to make comparisons based on percentages of seats, and include all the data in a single graphic. Perhaps a simple table would suffice?

The following table attempts to convey how much each party is set to gain/lose because of the voting system based on the forecast. A ratio greater than 1 indicates that a party gains from the system; ratio less than 1 indicates that a party loses from the system.

Party % of Votes % of Seats Ratio
% Seats / % Votes
Labour 33 42.31 1.28
Conservatives 31 40.92 1.32
Ukip 15 0.62 0.04
Lib Dems 8 4.00 0.50
Green 7 0.15 0.02
SNP 4 8.62 2.15

Ratios can be transformed into “Advantages” by taking logarithms: positive values indicate gain, negative values indicate loss.

Party % of Votes % of Seats Advantage
log2(% Seats / % Votes)
Labour 33 42.31 0.36
Conservatives 31 40.92 0.40
Ukip 15 0.62 -4.61
Lib Dems 8 4.00 -1.00
Green 7 0.15 -5.51
SNP 4 8.62 1.11

From these tables we can deduce that:

  • Labour and the Conservatives are set to gain a little from the voting system
  • The SNP would gain as much proportionally as the Lib Dems lose: the voting system effectively doubles the SNP’s seats, and halves the Lib Dems’
  • Ukip and the Greens are set to lose out the most, significantly more than any other loses or gains

Got feedback? Email me:

Emergency Use Only


London, August 2014

View more posts in the archive