Archive for Geek Speak

Liebster Award, time for a drink!

Tagging is apparently still a thing! Thanks to the lovely hosts at the Bildungstrinken podcast, I’ve been nominated for something called a “Liebster Award” and get to tell you about my relationship with alcohol.

1. What is your favorite drink?

This tends to change seasonally. A nice glass of red wine always sits well with me, but right now my absolute favorite is the Smoky Chocolate. Last Season it was the Bramble.

2. When did you drink alcohol for the first time?

I first tried alcohol at an extended family dinner. Both my uncle and my grandfather (z”l) had the obscene habit of mixing themselves Jack Daniels & Coke at every family dinner, several glasses a meal. It didn’t taste very good to a ten year-old and I don’t like Jack n’ Coke any better now that I’m in my 30s.

3. Which drink do you regret the most?

Tequila and milk. I was 16. Please don’t judge.

4. Bar or pub?

Depends on the company. I’ll choose the bar 99% of the time. For the 1% of my excursions which involve British people, it’ll be a pub.

5. Champagne or sparkling wine?

I’m not fussed. Champagne, Sekt, Cremont, Prosecco, Cava… preferably with gin, lemon and honey.

6. Who would you like to drink with?

If given the choice, I’d love to have a drink or two with Professor Brian Cox, particle physicist. First of all – physicists know how to party (as is evident by the Halloween gigs I attended at the DESY canteen). Second, I find his work as both a physicist and science explainer fascinating and I would love to pick his brain for a few hours. I promise to not mention D:Ream.

7. Where (or at who’s) would you like to drink?

Someday, I’d love to spend a day at the Binyamina Winery. At this very moment I’d like a drink at La Banca in Berlin (Formerly Bebel Bar).

8. What does your home bar look like?

My home bar is comprised of about 15 bottles of gin, two bottles of vodka, three bottles of rum, five bottles of whisky and a few odd liquors and spirits. It all belongs to moeffju, I get to mooch off of it at my discretion. I also have a rather nice collection of red wines.

9. Describe your ice cube

I really like round ice for its aesthetic and technical aspects, but making these at home can be a bit finicky, even with the right type of mold. My second choice is the square ice cube, which is about twice the size of a standard home freezer ice cube.

10. What is your Gin and Tonic recommendation?

Hendrick’s + Thomas Henry or Monkey 47 Beef Cut (if you can get it) + 1724. If you’re feeling flirty, try a Sloe Gin with Fever Tree.

11. How would you fight a hangover?

I really dislike getting drunk, so I often manage to avoid a hangover in the first place. If I end up with one too many drinks and a headache the next day, I make sure to get enough water in and take an ibuprofen. I’m really quite good at knowing my limits and staying away from drinking too much alcohol.

Paying it forward:

I nominate these bloggers:

To follow these rules:

  • Answer the below 11 questions
  • Nominate 5-11 bloggers for the Liebster Award
  • Create a new list of 11 questions for these bloggers
  • Let them know of the nomination

…and answer these 11 questions:

  1. If you were born in Europe of the middle ages, what kind of profession would you adopt?
  2. If you would be offered a new life on a deserted island with 20 people of your choosing and no way to contact the rest of civilisation, would you accept?
  3. What does your daily rhythm look like when you perform and feel your best?
  4. What is your favorite dish or type of dish to cook, and why?
  5. Which historical figure would you have liked to have met, and why?
  6. Do you collect anything? If so, what?
  7. What do you think is the single biggest obstacle to the cultural, social an technological development of humankind in the current age?
  8. How do you think people will be consuming media (news, entertainment) in 20 years?
  9. What is more important to you in social situations – to be liked, or to be respected?
  10. What is the biggest fear you have conquered as an adult?
  11. Chocolate, vanilla or cookie dough?

Fire in the Hole (A review of Outlaw Soaps)

Outlaw Soaps - Fire in the Hole and The Gambler

I got some pretty good feedback on my first product review, a look at (or sniff of) Gorilla Perfume’s Hellstone, so I decided to write another review of an awesome thing that I really like and you might not know about.

I professed my love for all things richly scented in my previous review, so I won’t go into that in depth. The short version is: I love dark, woodsy, smoky warm scents that remind me of midnight campfires and nights on the town. I love scents which take me places I remember, and places I’ve never been. Especially the unusual scents which make me pause to appreciate their complexity. That’s the short version.

My good friend Anna introduced me to Outlaw Soaps, a small handmade soap manufacturer based out of Oakland, California. Perhaps Anna took pity on my shower gel collection from The Body Shop, maybe she thought I could use a good washing. She cut me a slice of Outlaw Soaps’ most popular soap, Fire in the Hole, and stuck it under my nose. Now, if you’re the kind of person who otherwise uses Dusch Das or Nivea shower gel, you’re not going to be prepared for this soap. It smells like campfire, dirt and booze. You might prefer to emerge from the shower smelling like artificial frangipani, but not me. My morning showers are extensions of my sleepy dreamworld and I prefer everything about my first waking moments in the day to be freaking awesome. And there is really nothing more awesome than campfire, dirt and booze.

Outlaw Soaps: Label

The two-person team which makes up Outlaw Soaps make all of their stuff by hand in their workshop, including making their soaps from scratch. Almost everything they make is inspired by the great outdoors, the wild west, good booze and general gun-slinging. I say “almost” because they make something called “Unicorn Poop Soap“, which might have something to do with Butt Stallion. They make products with scents that remind them of places and fond memories, which I find particularly charming; this means I get a little piece their favorite memories with every piece of soap.

Other than “Fire in the Hole”, I blind-ordered “Pine Mountain“, another outdoorsy-type soap. This one smells like dirt on a pine trail on a crisp morning, which reminds me of my childhood in the Midwest. Their lotion stick, “The Gambler“, smells like a shot of whisky by the campfire, or a lovely Whisky Collins mixed by the extremely competent staff at Hamburg’s Le Lion. My cat Thymian seemed to love the scent and couldn’t stop licking my fingers.

Outlaw Soaps: Pine Mountain

I like the ingredients they use; the soaps are made with (obviously saponified) avocado and coconut oils, which make for some pretty awesome lather. Their solid lotion is made of exactly 8 ingredients (mostly oils, cocoa butter, vitamin E and fragrance), is dimethicone-free (yay) and has no artificial preservatives.

I have my sights set on Blazing Saddles Soap (smells like leather and gunpowder) and Bacon Soap (smells like, err, bacon). They prefer their stuff to be vegetarian, but I admit I’d love the latter to be made with saponified bacon grease. Perhaps I’ll make some of my own.

PS: Outlaw Soaps guys, if you’re reading this, please make Fire in the Hole into a fragrance. Mix it with cocoa butter, make it solid, put it in a tin, I WILL BUY A MILLION!

Fire in a Bottle (A review of Gorilla Perfume’s Hellstone)

Gorilla Perfume Hellstone
Image by Anatomique

I usually don’t do product reviews, but once in a while, someone creates a thing that is so superbly different from other things, that I need to tell the world. Hellstone by Gorilla Perfume is a thing like this. Like a vibrant shade of orange, the texture of leather or a well-composed song, I am delighted by complex scents which take me somewhere else, if only in my head. A bakery on the Champs-Élysées, a campfire on the beach of Herzliya, midnight at a rave in Berlin or barefoot through the black sands of Lanzarote.

To say I dislike 99.99999% of mass-market perfumes wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Hight-street perfumes smell like toilet cleaner to me (apologies the friend who had me along for an opinion and watched me gag, mortified, after taking a sniff of Davidoff’s “Cool Water”). Drakkar Noir called, they want their 90’s back. Or was it the other way around?

I want to be surrounded by scents that are heady, heavy and slap you in the face (in the good way). Smells of dirt, sandalwood and trampled grass. Stuff on fire with vanilla on top. Jasmine and something from the depths of the earth. Amber, firewood, cupcakes and peppermint. 100% Cocoa. Musk. Death. You know, those sorts of things.

I ordered Hellstone online after reading the description, which said something along the lines of “The scent of newly turned earth and roots ripped from deep burial into fiery air”. Anatomique reviewed the perfume in her blog post:

The smell of earth, roots and oldest oak tree in the deepest woods, moss and dry rot leaves. Smells almost occult, like the melted candle wax, edged dagger and a drop of blood. Like a deep mud, fog and rain drops that penetrate through the tall trees. Like silence. In his forest there are no animal nor sounds.

This is clearly my kind of perfume.

I was not prepared for how intense the scent would be coming out of the bottle. This isn’t your baby daddy’s body splash, it is perfume oil and it is intense. It was so intense, that I had immediately figured I was holding a bottle which had gone off. It was weird and I wasn’t sure of my investment. I gritted my teeth and applied the oil to my wrists and waited a few (heart-wrenching) minutes to smell the dry down. I sniffed. And sniffed. And eventually realized I was probably looking like a drug addict while walking down the street. Then I decided I didn’t care and sniff, sniff, sniffed some more. It’s been five hours and I still cannot get over the complexity of the fragrance or the fantastically musky, heavy smokiness.

I thought Byredo’s Gypsy Water, another favorite of mine, was the the darkest and smokiest it could go, but Hellstone is far darker. The scent seems to change and age, starting you out on a journey through sandalwood, vetivert & cumin and morphing into a sexy, smoky, musky mass of sweet, almost metallic molasses. Whisky, resin and beeswax. After 6 hours it departs with a whiff of jasmine and dark maple syrup. This is not a casual scent. This is the scent of fire, brimstone, and things that go bump in the night. Except you wear this scent, and you BECOME the thing that goes bump in the night. If Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” was a scent, Hellstone would be it.

Make no mistake. If you walk into a room full of people wearing nothing but Hellstone, I dare say you’ll be remembered for the perfume.

Hellstone has nothing to do with anything you’ve ever smelled at your local perfumery – this is true for everything I’ve sampled from Gorilla Perfume. Unlike some of their other scents, such as Vanillary, which I enjoy slathering on every day, Hellstone is a scent I’ll want to enjoy in moderation – like my most prized pair of high heels. Except that I can’t actually walk in those, and in Hellstone I’ll be doing dances for the dead.

If you like uniquely dark scents which play tricks with your head, try Hellstone. Go into a Lush shop, resist the urge to sniff the bottle. Try it on, exit the store and wear it around for a while. See what it does for you. Then decide.

Why I’m not buying Wired today

After months of waiting, the first issue of the German Wired goes to store shelves this morning. Wired has long been a staple publication of the tech and web sector, and I often enjoy buying the US or UK edition of the magazine before long train rides or flights. Wired is a solid tech magazine – specialized enough to keep it interesting, broad enough in topics to have a wide audience. Wired is fun.

Unfortunately, Wired has decided to alienate their female (and many male) readers by bundling their first issue in Germany with GQ Magazine (“Gentlemen’s Quarterly”). There are plenty of women who enjoy reading men’s magazines (and the other way around), but the decision to bundle Wired with a magazine geared specifically towards the male demographic sends a very clear message to women: “You are not our target market, and are not a part of the discussion.”

This is an unfortunate decision, and rather insulting. I understand that Wired DE is being test run and I can understand why Condé Nast would perhaps prefer to bundle the first, slimmer issue with one of their existing publications. Unfortunately, Condé Nast only produce fashion and lifestyle magazines in Germany (Vogue, Glamour, Architectural Digest, GQ), so someone on their marketing staff decided that bundling Wired with GQ would hit the target market more accurately in relation to any of the other Condé Nast publications. This is a bottom-line business decision and makes financial sense in a Condé Nast “ecosystem” (read: market segment).

In the real world, where hundreds of titles grace the shelves, the female Wired reader (and many a male reader) is going to ask herself why she has to purchase a men’s fashion magazine in order to get her Wired fix, in her own language. This sends a strong message about the market Wired is now catering to in Germany, and equally, that which it is not catering to – the rest of us.

A progressive, influential magazine such as Wired (well, maybe not as influential as it was 5 years ago) which is (mostly) serious about representing the broad spectrum of people in technology needs to cut the bullshit and play it’s own part. I don’t know what happened behind closed doors at Condé Nast and I wish to think that the new staff of Wired DE fought the decision to bundle the first issue with GQ fiercely, in order to uphold the image and standard Wired has built for itself throughout the last 18 years. If they did, they lost.

I will not be buying the first issue of the German Wired today. Nor will I buy it in the future, if it continues to be bundled with GQ magazine. I will also not support the digital edition of the magazine until the print edition is released as a stand-alone. I am not even remotely alone.

Pretty pictures don’t make an app – how Wunderlist mistakes GFX for UX.

I haven’t blogged in a really long time out of extreme lazy, so it was bound to take something I feel very strongly about in order to change this. It just so happens that I care enough about user interfaces in order to break this vow of silence. It hurts when beautiful applications are shipped with terrible interaction design.

To-do list app Wunderlist is an example for a pretty application which ignores user experience. I’ve been playing around with it in the past few days on the Mac and have grown to like it’s simple, to-the-point functionality. Unfortunately, key parts of the UI are so terribly convoluted – Wunderlist is far from being as intuitive as it should be. I’ve compiled a list of the UI quirks which makes Wunderlist so awkward on the Mac OS desktop. aspiring app designers, take note: ignore user experience at your own peril.

I’ll list these from 7 (least annoying) to 1 (omg-what-are-they-smoking):

7) Wunderlist’s title bar does not cap the application content

Title bar does not cap the application content

Besides giving an overall “unfinished” impression, this makes it less clear where the title ends and the app begins, thus it is less clear which parts of the header area are draggable around the desktop.

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The best games in the world, according to Liron

Some of you who know me (or follow my Twitter feed) know that I’m a big fan of video, computer and board games. My biggest love is the Nintendo DS, but I find myself playing any platform which falls into my hands, which includes my mobile phone, my computer and iPod.

I also like talking about games, and since I don’t get asked as often as I probably should, I figured to compile a short list of my top 5 all-time favorite computer and video games.
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Creating a mobile timeline blog (interconnected moblogging)

Blackberry 3rd party softwareOne of the things I could never really wrap my head around was the complete and total failure of moblogging as a platform and as idea. Moblogs had a (very) short renaissance period in 2003 when camera phones made their mainstream debut (yes, it was only 6 years ago) and carriers were heavily pushing MMS. There were a few problems back then – MMS to email was extremely expensive and users were heavily restricted by the types of content they could upload – moblogs never really caught on in the way blogging did – even though they probably should have.

The rules of the game are slightly different today. Data is cheap(er), most mobile phones can send emails without the use of MMS and 3rd-party software to upload photos and videos are a dime a dozen. The “moblog crowd”, however, has moved on, and mobile bloggers have long been posting to Twitter from their mobiles as a means of getting their content published on the go. Twitter is excellent for getting mobile content pushed immediately to the masses – especially with Twitpic and Qik added to the mix. But the question remains – how can the model of the standard moblog evolve into a truly useful (and flexible) mobile blogging platform, especially when we share different types of mobile content on different platforms and networks?

I revisited Tumblr today, and realized that, if set up correctly, it could be a wonderful tool for creating a mobile timeline blog, aggregating my published mobile content from throughout the day. Tumblr is a blogging platform for Tumblogs, which wikipedia describes as:

a variation of a blog that favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging. Common post formats found on tumblelogs include links, photos, quotes, dialogues, and video. Unlike blogs, tumblelogs are frequently used to share the author’s creations, discoveries, or experiences while providing little or no commentary.

One of the great things about Tumblr specifically, is that is allows one to set up the service to pull posts from other services via RSS. This is great – because it means that you don’t have to change much of your current behavior in order to set up a moblog with Tumblr. I post articles to Delicious bookmarks on my mobile via Viigo and upload photos to Flickr from my mobile via the Flickr Uploader for Blackberry. All that’s left, really, is to pull all of these together and mash them up.

Hippocamp Software provide a great (and free) Blackberry client for Tumblr, which allows you to post text, links and images to your Tumblog directly from your Blackberry. You don’t have to do this though – if you’re using the Flickr Uploader for Blackberry (or Shozu for most mobile phones, or Nokia Share Online), you can assign a special tag to your uploaded Flickr/Picasa photos (I chose “mobileupload”) and instruct Tumblr to automatically “pull” these tagged photos into your Tumblog, where they will be ordered by date taken. If you use Viigo (Blackberry / Windows mobile), you can easily post articles from your favorite websites to your Delicious bookmarks. If you give these links a special tag (like “mobilelink”), Tumblr can fetch these, too. If video is your thing, Tumblr can fetch your Qik videos, too.

The result is a timeline of links, text snippets and photos you’ve posted throughout the day on your mobile phone. It may not be as immediate as Twitter – but that’s not the point. The point is to document a timeline of you outside, out and about on your mobile. It’s incredibly easy, requires minimal setup, and if you’re posting links, videos and photos via your mobile anyway – this method brings everything together into a streamlined format for your friends and family to enjoy.

I hope you enjoy mine.

Beaker’s Never gonna give you up

I have obviously been living under a rock, because this is probably one of the best videos I’ve seen since Internet People.

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