Category Archives: Cool things

The future may or may not be here – William Gibson, Google Glass, and wearable computing (Fitbit One review)

William Gibson wearing Google Glass. I’m not sure if this specifically is the future, but something like this is coming to a future near you.


If you look at this year’s CES, wearable computing is possibly the biggest trend of 2013. I thought I’d try some of this recently, to see if it affected my behaviour, so I got myself a Fitbit One (Fitbit One UK/Euro link, Fitbit One US link). In essence, it’s a really fancy pedometer. That’s it. But it’s more – it’s linked to a website so I can see my stats online… But the website is linked back, so if I tell the website I’ve been cycling for twenty minutes, the Fitbit on my waistband updates my calories burnt for that day. That’s quite neat. But there’s also an app on my phone, where it’s easy to add in the food that I’m eating, or the water that I’m drinking (and the alcohol I’m drinking), and it only takes a moment.


This mean that every day, at any time, I can check to see how many calories I have burnt that day, and how many I have put into my body.


Does this, by itself, make me more fit? Of course not. But, when I look down at my waist and see that I have climbed 23 flights of stairs that day, does it make me want to climb a couple more (because 25 is a nice round number)? Yes, it absolutely does. I’ve been using the Fitbit for around a month and I’ve lost about 5lbs (1.5kg). I’ve not been able to shift weight for years, but this feels easy. That is actually incredible to me: a tiny chip on my waist and a bit of networking has made me become more conscious of my health and improved my life.


A few days ago I looked at my waist and saw I had climbed 37 flights of stairs… Well. That’s close to 50 isn’t it? I put a TED talk on my mobile phone, and walked up and down the stairs in my house while I listened to an inspirational talk about technology.


… But when I reached 50 for that day, the talk hadn’t finished, so I kept on walking. But then when the talk did finish, I wasn’t at a nice round number on the Fitbit One anymore, so I put on another talk…


And so, that day, I ended up walking up 100 flights of stairs. This is something I would never normally have done before I got the Fitbit, and the strange thing is that it feels so unconciously natural now. Of course I want to improve my stats: it’s like a real world RPG where I need to grind a little to get to the next level.


I called this post a Fitbit One review, it is (you should get one, it’s fantastic and it has helped me shift stubborn weight in a way that nothing else has, and without any big changes in my life), but it’s also about the future. We see William Gibson, the man who changed the language of the future when he wrote about cyberspace in his short stories and novels in the 1980s (Neuromancer UK, Neuromancer US), and we see him putting on Google Glass, and the strangeness of the present comes crashing home. When he started writing, the idea of a universally accessible data resource was pure fantasy, and how he can have it in his glasses.


Is William Gibson the future? I think he would be the first person to say that the future will now be shaped by people we have never heard of yet, but he is an icon of progress into this weird thing we call modern life.


Google is an icon too, and nothing feels more like the future than what they are doing to us. I’m fairly sure that this version of Google Glass will not be the same form that we are using in a decade, but it seems inevitable that it will be something like it, or like this, or possibly (hopefully) this, or like something we haven’t imagined yet.


When it comes it will feel so obvious and so natural that we will wonder why no-one ever did it before.


Seeing Gibson and Google together is a taste of things to come. Even that phrase ‘things to come’ sounds like the 1950s ray-guns-and-rocket-ships kind of science fiction. We don’t have the language for the current-future yet, but it is here already, quietly walking into our lives in small ways.

Clever advert on YouTube

I really should learn how to do this. I don’t know why, but I think it would be handy. This is a brilliant little advert using some cool YouTube tricks that I had no idea existed. The years go into the minus numbers too – have a play, there’s clearly been a lot of effort put into this. This is the kind of advertising that I can live with – warm-hearted, amusing, and not so confrontational that it makes me despise the product on sight!

Clever Tipp-Ex YouTube advert

Sometimes you’ve just got to follow your heart

Vancouver has had a riot in the wake of some sporty people doing something better than some other sporty people. In the midst of all of this chaos, some people managed to have a very special moment.

This is either one of the most specific fetishes I’ve seen, or perhaps the most memorable kiss those two people will have in their entire lives. I’m not sure if it can quite be classified as ‘romantic’ but it’s definitely got style (and it’s a superb photo too).

The Muppet Wicker Man

I know what you’ve been thinking. No, not that thing, the other thing. No, not the one that’s red and pulses, the other one…

Yes! That’s it! You’ve been thinking ‘I wonder what it would be like if the Muppets featured in a remake of the horror classic The Wicker Man?’. Well wonder no more, instead just revel in the glory of The Muppet Wicker Man.

Matazone supporting teachers around around the world

There’s a festival called Burning Man that I’ve been to a couple of times in America, but beyond being a cool get-together, there’s also an agenda of ‘leave no trace’. The idea is to make sure that you leave places in as good, or better, state as the one you find them in. I like to apply this to as many activities in life as is practical, and one of the ways of doing this is to support renewable energy sources.

A little while ago I sent a donation over to a small town in Lovelock, Nevada. Due to budget cutbacks, they were having to lay off some of their teachers. The organisers of Burning Man stepped in and asked the world if we could send a donation to build a solar array. By removing their electricity costs, they could afford to save jobs, keep teachers, and be environmentally friendly too.

The project has come to fruitition, and there’s even a lovely plaque with ‘Matazone’ on it, listed among the supporters.

I went through some hard financial times over the years, and it was thanks to the support of the visitors to this site that I got through them and I’m now in a position to help others. Keep passing on the favours and we’ll make this world a better place for everyone.

Mass Moonwalk in London as a tribute to Michael Jackson

Like most people, I never met Michael Jackson, but there’s something curiously touching about seeing a thousand people’s arms go up in the air when the chorus of ‘Billie Jean’ kicks in at the flash mob-esque ‘mass moonwalk’ tribute to Michael Jackson at Liverpool Street Station in London last Friday 26th June 2009.

With the number of people there, I doubt many could actually manage to moonwalk, but I think that Jackson would have been very happy to be remembered this way, with people dancing to one of his greatest tunes and having a bloody good time.

Goths in hot weather

I remember walking across the desert, the sun beating down on the parched and arid mud flats. It was Nevada, and just around the corner (geographically speaking) from Death Valley. In the distant heat haze I saw two shimmering figures strinding across the desert in enormous boots, dressed head to toe in black, and huddling a black umbrella. It was great.

I love the tenacity of Goths to wear utterly impractical clothing in the most severe conditions, and now there’s a blog to celebrate their excess. Go visit Goths in hot weather, for all your sweaty Goth needs.

Obama’s inauguration in very high detail

Let’s play spot-the-FBI-sniper-squad!

President Obama’s inauguration in enormously high detail

This looks like it uses the same technology as Google Maps, except with a photo instead of a map. Pretty cool. You can use the on-screen controls to zoom or the mouse-wheel.

Personally, I think one of the dark shapes on the White House pillars is a sniper cover. Oh, and check out the journalist’s seating – I think about 1 in 40 faces isn’t caucasian. President Obama being elected is a huge step, but we should never forget that there’s still a long way to go before all skin colours are represented proportionally across all areas of society.

Fantastic photos from the Burning Man 2008

For a change, this gallery of photos from the Burning Man in 2008 doesn’t appear to have nudity so should be safe to browse at work. The photographer is particularly good, so I highly recommend spending a bit of time browsing through the weirdness that Waldemar has lovingly documented.

Click here to see Waldemar’s photos of Burning Man in 2008.

My favourites?

The Pooh ball
Spread Eagle
Basura Sagrada
The End.

Great stuff!

Photos of President Obama’s inauguration

President Obama’s term in office will doubtless be difficult. The world is in a bad state in many ways, but there seems to be a near unanimous sense of hope that he might make better choices than lesser leaders. Skin colour shouldn’t be an issue, but it still is, and it makes me proud to live in the times when the first black president was elected.

There are some excellent photos of the inauguration of President Barack Obama here.

That last photo though… A folder left by president number 43 for president number 44… Just how much would you love to know what’s in there?

The lost cameras of Burning Man 2008

Fancy being nosy? Here’s a selection of photos from cameras that were lost at 2008’s Burning Man festival.

General trends:
Everyone seems to be good looking
Face paint never goes out of fashion in the desert
Furry leg warmers might be impractical in 40 degrees C temperatures, but that doesn’t stop people wearing them.

Go, browse, enjoy the guilty pleasure of looking at things that were never intended for public viewing. They’re posted with big codes on them in the hope that the owners will see them and get them back, but it’s weirdly fascinating for the rest of us!

Don’t know what the Burning Man is? I’ve posted about it before. Have a browse of those posts here.

Photos from The Burning Man festival 2008

There’s a whole bunch of images from this year’s Burning Man festival filtering onto the main website.

Click here to go to the 2008 Burning Man photo gallery (some nudity is likely to be in the galleries, although no sexually explicit images are probable). If I see any really good personal galleries I’ll also be linking to them from this blog, so why not add it to your RSS feed using those links on the left.

For those who don’t know, The Burning Man festival is a art and improvised living… Thing. It happens in the Black Rock desert in Nevada, just around the corner from the famous ‘Death Valley’. The ticket says that ‘you voluntarily accept the risk of death in attending this event’ and they’re not kidding about. The desert can kill you, and the only thing provided by the organisers is toilets. Strictly speaking, they also provide a layout for the city, some vague safety nets, and naturally the man himself. The man is a huge structure of wood, around 5 stories tall, which sits in the middle of the city and that is burnt in a huge party on the last night of the week-long festival. During that time you see and, importantly, participate in bizarre and wonderful works of art. Check out the pictures for a taster!

I went to the festival in 1999 and 2002, and I’m going to go back there next year. I can’t wait! The theme for 2009 is Evolution: A Tangled Bank. Read more about it over here. The design for the eponymous man also looks fantastic. I’m excited already! Only 357 days to go! Woohoo!