The best article I have ever read about work.

Go to SXSW. Pay thousands of pounds. Attend a session like this:

I have known I am going to be a Dad for about 7 months

Most people that I’ve told tend to deliver a one-two punch of excitement followed by a well timed upper cut of negativity. It’s like someone cooking you a beautiful meal and then serving you brussel sprout tarte tatin for dessert.

“Oh! That’s it then! Just you wait! Say goodbye to sleep!”

This is pretty much the first thing out of most people’s mouths once you tell them you’re expecting. They’re inducting you into a special club. Where the price of entry is a constant throbbing headache and endless scowling.

I’m not naïve. I know our life is going to change completely, and I know that is going to be hard. And painful. And difficult. I just find it curious that most people tend to focus on the pain rather than why you’re doing it.

“You’re doing what?!”

We are doing Hypnobirthing classes to prepare for our son’s arrival. Hypnobirthing is based around the idea that the body is designed to give birth. If you work alongside it rather than fighting it you can have an easier and less painful birth. It is not for everyone, but I think it is for us.

Giving birth is scary. It involves the two most precious things in my life doing things they’ve never done before. It can go wrong. We want to approach it by preparing for the best, and if the worst happens, handling it as best we can. Not the other way around.

I’ve never been more excited about anything than becoming a Dad. I’ve never been more scared about anything than becoming a Dad.

I think that embracing the former helps deal with the latter, I just wish more people did too.

Travelling to Europe by Train

I’ve had the fortune to go on some pretty excellent holidays over the last few years. Last summer we took the best trip of the lot, travelling from home in Colchester to Italy, Switzerland and France — all on a train.

We had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to visit [1] but no idea how to get there. This is where we stumbled upon the first thing I came to love about European train travel:

You can get pretty much anywhere in the world by train from the UK

Example: There are only 5 changes needed to get from Colchester to Vladivostok (yes, Vladivostok in Russia).[2]

Deutsche Bahn’s is simply outstanding for planning your route. It gives you chapter and verse on journey times, connections and so forth. Booking with them is a little tricky, but fortunately there’s a splendid solution for that particular problem.

Rail Europe

These guys are simply fantastic. Once I’d worked out my route I gave them a call. Nothing was too much trouble. Every leg of the journey was booked with cost and convenience in mind. Tickets arrived promptly and with a clear itinerary.
Put simply, if you’re considering booking a train adventure, book with Rail Europe. [3]

When you’re there

I would thoroughly recommend getting the DB Navigator app. Its a great way of keeping a log of your day’s journey, and if you’ve got a connection it will usually tell you which platform you need to get to.

Our Route

We settled upon a long first leg, heading straight from Colchester to Rome using the Eurostar and Thellio Sleeper service from Paris to Rome. We’d then go from Rome into deepest Switzerland and then back out to Paris. A vaguely circular route of around 2,500 miles.

The sleeper train from London to Rome on the Thellio.

If you’re going to take a lengthy trip across Europe on the train you’re pretty likely to encounter a sleeper service at some point. We picked the Thellio, which goes direct from Paris Gare du Lyon to Rome. Word is this service has recently been withdrawn which is a massive shame.

Paris was hot. 32c when we arrived. The train had been sat in the siding all day. The air conditioning was off and the windows closed. We’d booked a two ‘bed’ sleeper compartment. A step up from the couchettes which are little more than a bunk bed. The compartment was very comfortable, but don’t expect too much in the way of luxury. It was like camping but on a fast moving train.

None of this matters though, because less than 24 hours after stepping on a train in Essex we stepped off a train in Italy!

Swiss trains are the best

The goal of our trip was to visit Switzerland. My wife’s grandfather collected and built model Swiss trains, and we wanted to see them for real.

All the stereotypes about Swiss trains are true: On time, beautifully comfortable, smooth. Imagine the UK but if we’d never listened to Beeching.

One of the longest legs of our journey was from Basel to Paris. 3 hours on the TGV-Lyria. This is a French/Swiss joint venture and one of the most amazing trains I have ever been on. 300 km/h through the French and Swiss countryside, non stop, no signals.

Coming home: Eurostar and Liverpool Street

After Switzerland and Paris it was time to come home. On the Eurostar.

The Eurostar has always felt rather romantic to me. Where you can skid under the Channel and emerge in France in the blink of an eye, with the giddy excitement of different electricity pylons, louchely spoken French and the social acceptance of shandy as a pre-dinner drink.

That giddiness was burnt away quite quickly. Once you’ve tasted ambrosia anything else tastes like a shrink wrapped sandwich. Eurostar looked old. 1990’s decor and Parisien customer service.

Liverpool Street was even worse. I have the worst kind of pavlovian reaction there. 10 years of commuting has taught me to seek out Platform 9, 10 or 11 with laser guided precision. Its almost pointless to say that this was the only leg of our trip which was delayed. But we didn’t care, we’d just been to Europe and back on the train.

Let the train take the strain

Until last year, I’d never ever considered taking a holiday where I’d rely entirely on a train. Right now, I can’t think of a better way to vacation. One where you can enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Give it a go.

  1. The gorgeous and largely unknown town of Arbon, in Switzerland. My wife’s family come from here.  ↩

  2. Granted it does take eight days, but that’s not the point. Its 5 trains. It takes 3 to get from Colchester to Thurso in Scotland.  ↩

  3. I’m not on commission. They are however, changing names soon to VoyagesSNCF as part of an expansion.  ↩

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BBC targets social media users with Instagram video news

BBC News is stepping up its efforts to reach new audiences on social media platforms after mobile and tablet viewing figures overtook desktop use for the first time in December.

On 16 January, BBC News launched Instafax, a new short-form video news service delivered to Instagram users. The project is a month-long experiment, with three 15-second videos uploaded a day, intended to serve as a roundup of the day’s news.

The name is a throwback to the BBC’s former Ceefax service – the world’s first teletext service that ran on UK television until 2012. This is described as the updated version of a text-based, short-form news service for the digital age.

The bit that’s missing from all of these stories is probably its most brilliant:

For 38 years, the BBC ran an information service called Ceefax which delivered the news in short four-sentence blurbs.

In order to create news copy for Ceefax, every BBC News staffer was required to file their stories in a way where the entire story could be understood in the first four lines.

Although the Ceefax service shut down in 2012, staffers never stopped writing using the four sentence summary format.

That’s when Matt Danzico realized that he could just grab the first four lines of a story, pair it with already cleared footage + images to create posts for Instagram, and Bob’s your uncle.

Seeing as this text is actually marked up (view source on any BBC News article and search for <p class=”introductionid=”story_continues_1“>) scripting this process would be the next interesting step to take.

From ancient tech breaks new news:

Do something real.



Copyright 1994-1996 Sierra Entertainment

The first video of the Moon orbiting the Earth


In a fly-by of Earth on its way to Jupiter, NASA’s Juno probe took a short movie of the Moon orbiting the Earth. It’s the first time the Moon’s orbit has been captured on film.

(via @DavidGrann)

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