Helicopter Taxi iPhone App | March 22, 2011

Lovely AR iPhone app from our friends at Toca Boca.

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Stupid Social Network | February 17, 2008

There was a bit of a meme going round the Britpack mailing list last week, with people coming up with names for fictional social networks. Below are a few of my favourites, although please be aware that none of them are my idea and several are just plain WRONG! PC people or those with a sensitive disposition, look away now.

Feel free to share your own ideas for a great new social networking site.

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The Soundtrack to my Year | December 17, 2007

Every year Rich creates a mix his favourite songs from the last 12 months and hands it out to his mates. Rich has excellent music taste, so the CD is always greatly anticipated. This year Rich had the idea of creating an office mix as well. Each of us would nominate our two favourite tracks and we’d end up with a CD that reflected the year’s soundtrack at Clearleft.

I found it very difficult to pick just two tracks, so it got me thinking about the soundtrack to my year. I don’t know about you, but I tend to associate specific events in my life with specific songs. For instance, “Playing With Knives” by Bizzare Inc reminds me of walking back from the PSV club in Manchester during my university years, while “Wonderwall” reminds me of sitting in a hammock in Thailand with an old girlfriend. So I decided to compile my soundtrack based on the songs I listened to each months and the events surrounding them. It’s a little contrived at times, but you get the picture.

January - “Alala” by CSS

A punkey blast of riot girl power, this track kept me bouncing well into the New Year.

February - “Ice Cream” by New Young Pony Club

Introduced to me by my then girlfriend, NYPC were a natural progression from CSS and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Sexy, sassy and fun, just like her.

March - “Binary Love” by The Rakes

The Rakes provided the backdrop for my post SXSW road trip down the coats from San Francisco to Big Sur. Good times.

April - “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John

Another introduction by my then girlfriend, this song is beautifully upbeat and is almost impossible not to hum along to.

May - “Hoppípolla” by Sigur Ros

This gently haunting song is the perfect soundtrack to a relaxing night in.

June - “Rock & Roll Queen” by The Subways

Rather sadly I came across this song via a TV advert featuring Kate Moss. Despite that, Rock & Roll Queen is a class act, unlike our Kate.

July - “Season Song” by Blue States

Watching 28 days later reminded me how much I love this track. Perfect music for drifting off to sleep.

August - “The Crane Wife 3” by The Decemberists

The Clearleft office was pumping with the sound of the Decemberists in the run up to dConstruct this year, thanks in no small part to Mr Keith.

September - “It’s Not Over Yet” by the Klaxons

The album is a bit hit or miss, but this floor stomper really kicks butt. Golden Skans is also pretty cool.

October - “It’s a Hit” by We Are Scientists

Spent the autumn rocking out to “We Are Scientists”. It was really tough picking out a single track as they’re all so good.

November - ” Doing It Right” by the Go Team

This high energy track with it’s catchy cheerleader chants is enough to get anybody bouncing rounds the house. And they’re from Brighton to!

December - “When Anger Shows” by Editors

There’s something about the time of year than makes wandering round town listening to the Editors melancholic power ballads feel appropriate.

So that’s my rundown for the year. How about you?

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Freediving at the SETT | September 17, 2007

As some of you already know, I’m a qualified PADI dive instructor, and spent a good part of my twenties travelling around Asia, teaching people to dive. During the surface intervals, me and some of my colleague would jump off the side of the boat to practice our breath hold diving. We started just by finning down, but quick progressed to variable weight diving where we’d grab hold of a weight belt to pull us down, and then haul it up afterwards. We weren’t very good, and I’ve later found that this practice was also quite dangerous, but it was fun and killed some time.

I’d never really seen the point of freediving, thinking it was just the preserve of people without access to scuba equipment. That was until we had a couple of French freedivers come out on the boat with us. While swimming round Chumpon pinnacle at 25m, these guys would drop down to the bottom, hang out for what seemed like minutes but was probably only seconds, then break for the surface. I didn’t show it in front of my clients, but I was secretly impressed.

A few years ago I learnt about a local woman who had started teaching freediving courses in Porstmouth, at a place called the SETT. It turns out that SETT stands for “submarine escape training tank” and it’s this huge, 10 story building that houses one of the deepest tanks in Europe. During the week, submariners don safety equipment, jump in an airlock, and practice escaping a downed sub from 30m. At the weekend, they rent it out to a company called Deeper Blue, who teaches freediving courses there.

I read about one of these courses in a dive mag and it sounded fun. I’d had it at the back of my mind for a while now, so when a space because available at short notice, I jumped at the chance.

Walking off the ferry from Portsmouth to Gossport, you could see the SETT towering over all the other buildings in the area. Wandering towards the naval base I couldn’t help thinking how tall the place looked, and imagining what it would be like looking over the rim and into the waters below. I didn’t have to wait for long as.

After a quick safety briefing, 8 eager students filed into the lift and up to the tenth floor to check out the SETT. Looking into the abyss below filled me with a mixture of excitement and dread. I’ve been to 30m plenty of times, but always with a tank on my back. Looking into the murky depths, you could barely see the bottom, let alone imagine yourself swimming down there and back on a single breath. I decided at that point that I’d be happy to hit 15m, and anything more was a bonus.

The two days fell into a natural routine. You’d start with a classroom session where you’d learn more about the theory and practice of freediving. Being a scuba instructor, much of this was familiar to me. However it also reminded me how much I’d forgotten. You would then move onto the first pool session of the day, followed by lunch, another classroom session and then the final pool session.

The first pool session started with a static apnea warm-up on the surface. This involved “breathing up” to make sure you were relaxed and had enough air in your system, and then simply holding your breath with your face in the water. I started at 1min 30sec and then 2min. On the second tank session I did 2min 30 sec, and by the end of the weekend I reckon I could have pushed it to 3min.

Next we practised our pulldowns, which as the name would suggest, involved us holding our breaths and pulling ourselves down to a fixed depth. The whole point of the day was to start building up our confidence, so I did a quick pull-down to 5m and then a couple more to 10m. After lunch we increased this to 15m, and by the end of the day I was managing pull downs to 20m.

After warming up on the second say with a static and a moderately deep pull-down, we graduated to the freediving fins. Known as constant weight freediving, this discipline involved swimming down to depth and back again without the assistance of a rope. The fins allowed you to get down and back much faster. However, because you were expending more energy and building up more CO2, it became increasingly difficult to hold your breath.

I did a couple of 10m practice dives, before heading for 15m. Unfortunately the increased speed of decent, combined with the previous days diving and my less than expert technique started to take a toll on my eardrums. Equalisation had become increasingly difficult, to the point where it was downright uncomfortable. I eventually made it back down to 20m, but knew that the elusive 25m mark was beyond my bruised and battered eardrums. I don’t normally have equalisation problems, so felt that by body had let me down a little. However I felt confident that I had the lung capacity to hit 25m and possibly even 30m once I’d had chance to rest my ears.

Apart from equalisation problems, my biggest issue was unlearning techniques that have become second nature from diving. Things like exhaling on ascent or body positioning in the water. So I definitely head back to the SETT to work on my technique and aim for the bottom of the tank. I may even consider a freediving holiday to Egypt at some stage.

Form more info on freediving at the SETT, check out some of these links.

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5 Things You Didn't Know About Me | July 1, 2007

  1. I can eat and breathe fire
  2. I was flying planes solo before I was old enough to drive
  3. I’ve dived on an active, underwater volcano
  4. I lived in a tent for a whole summer while surfing in Devon
  5. I helped set up a dive shop in Thailand when I was 27

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Live 8 Funometer | July 3, 2005

live8 graph of fun

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Shark Wrangler | June 14, 2005

The @media compare asked each of the speakers for an interesting fact about themselves that wasn’t in their biography. My interesting fact was that I briefly worked as a shark wrangler on a dive boat on the Greta Barrier Reef, keeping the sharks away from the clients during feeds. The evening after my talk I heard that one of the delegates had been drawing caricatures of the speakers and mine involved me wrestling a shark called tables. I wasn’t sure I believed it, but yesterday Kev Mears emaild me this.

Cartoon of me wrestling a shark called tables

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A Musical Baton | May 16, 2005

A meme has been passed to me by Rob and Andy so I thought “what the hell!”

Total volume of music on my computer

16.50 GB

The last CD I bough

Babylon Rewound by the Thievery Corporation

Song playing right now.

Public Service Announcement by The Bravery

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton.

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Where's Durstan? | March 22, 2005

Can you see Durstan in this photo?

Find Durstan in this picture

If you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, here’s the background story .

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My Porn Site | March 26, 2004

My site as porn, thanks to the pornolizer. Not suitable for children. Via simiant.com.

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Valentines Game | February 13, 2004

3 years ago I made a Valentines game called Love Invaders, a seasonal twist on space invaders. It’s quite a fun little game so I though I’d post it here for your Valentines pleasure.


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That time of year again. | September 19, 2003

Shiver my timbers, I can't believe it's that time a year again. It only seems like a few months ago that all ye scurvy dogs were talking like pirates, but it's come round again, so it has. To celebrate talk like a Pirate day, Jeremy (Blackbeard) Keith has created his talk like a pirate application.

So heave to, batten down the hatches and prepare to be boarded, arrrr...

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My dark little secret | September 10, 2003

It's funny how peoples pasts comes back to haunt them. You file your dark little secrets away in a distant corner of your mind, hoping nobody will ever find out. Yet they always creep out in the end. Some things are just impossible to hide.

It started when I was 12 or 13, although luckily it didn't have hold of me for too long. My big brother got me into it as is often the case. Him and all of his University mates were doing it and it seemed so cool at the time. How little did I know the social stigma that would later become attached to such a thing. I was the first person in my school to get hooked but soon everybody was doing it, from the school bully to the class nerd. I started out just using the bare basics, but quickly wanted more. I needed more variety to keep me interested and ended up spending all my money on exotic paraphernalia.

However after a while I realized the error of my ways and exchanged my former adiction for more healthy teenage pursuits (fashion, music, girls and drinking). However I've never really faced up to those dark times, and as admission is the first step to recovery, I'm going to lay bare my sole and hope you can forgive me.

My name is Andy, and I used to play Dungeons & Dragons.

Now I thought I'd left this demon safely in my past, but I recently downloaded a demo game from Mac Game Files and found myself secretly enjoying it. I'm not a big computer games player. I only own 2 games, Medal of Honour and Jedi Knight 2, but today went out and bought a third. That's right. I've let Dungeons & Dragons back into my life, and bought a copy of Neverwinter Nights. I just hope to god my girlfriend doesn't find out.

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Friday Fun | September 4, 2003

Jeremy Keith has created a fun little application that turns any serious news article into a spoof reminiscent of a story in The Onion. Good for poking fun at anybody from your least favorite politician or that bloke that really bugs you on your local mailing list, to your friends and relatives.

A few months ago, Jeremy also created this great little application for randomly generating names for web design companies. Scarily, many of the name generated actually sound like real Brighton web design companies. However it's the tag lines that really do the business for me.

Very funny.

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