The video shows the borders and populations of each country in Europe for every year between 400 BCE and 2017 CE.
This is one of the things that I think about whenever I hear people arguing about the ‘problems of immigration’. Immigration, my dictionary tells me, is “the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.” And a ‘foreign country’ is simply one that is not my own.
But look at this map—look at the boundaries, look how fluid they are. Look how completely and utterly man-made (and it was mostly men) most of these are. Some are dictated by coastlines but the majority are, I’m sure, dictated by ambition and greed.
I think it would do Europe a world of good right now if every citizen had to have their DNA analysed to show us where we have come from. It would show that we are all more connected than we think, and as such we need one another.
When I moved to Crail a couple of months ago, I quickly ran into a problem: I don’t have good mobile phone reception in my house. I’m on EE.
After making a couple of calls standing out on the road, I knew that I needed to find a better solution.
While searching online to see if I could buy some kind of mobile signal extender, I discovered that EE offers WiFi Calling.
A bit like Skype Calling, EE WiFi Calling uses your broadband connection to route calls to the EE network. So you can make phone calls or send and receive text messages even if you don’t have a phone signal.
There are a couple of caveats, though:
It only works if you are on an EE pay monthly plan (not pay as you go, yet).
If you’re on an EE monthly contract and your phone supports it, I wholeheartedly recommend switching on EE WiFi Calling.
When I have a good signal my phone uses the EE network, but as soon as I don’t then my phone automatically switches to using WiFi to route calls and text messages. And as I’m also a BT customer, I can use BT WiFi to use any of the 5 million WiFi hotspots around the UK. Bonus!
This week marks the end of an era. On Sunday 5 August, after 4,480 days—12 years, 3 months and 5 days—I ended my employment at the University of St Andrews.
Over these 147 months, I’ve seen a huge change in the web development landscape. When I joined the team (of one—the perfect introvert’s team size) in May 2006 as assistant web manager/information architect, the second browser war was still going on. Internet Explorer 6 was still the dominant Windows browser, Firefox was a four-year old upstart and Chrome was still two and a half years away.
My first proper project—after dabbling with some designs for a Press Office website redesign that didn’t come to anything—was to wrestle with Saulcat, the University’s library catalogue system. Who can fail to be impressed with online documentation for a third-party system that you’ve barely ever used that runs to literally tens of thousands of pages? That was also the first project that ever made me cry.
There was an excitement back then. We were on the cutting edge. Pulling an almost all-nighter to get the new site launched in TERMINALFOUR Site Manager v5.0, only to discover that some part of the design didn’t work in IE7 as soon as we went live, and the frantic scramble to get it fixed.
Our focus was so much on the technology: the browser wars were still going.
LUKE SKYWALKER You fought in the Browser Wars?
OBI-WAN KENOBI Yes. I was once a Web developer, the same as your father.
LUKE SKYWALKER No, my father didn’t fight in the Browser Wars. He simply used Netscape Navigator on a spice freighter.
OBI-WAN KENOBI That’s what your uncle told you. He didn’t hold with your father’s ideals—an open, accessible and universal web.
Having come through some pretty hairy health problems (viral meningitis, anyone?), plus a divorce, wardenning in hall (“I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”), and then a recent bowel cancer health-scare (from January through to April), I realised that I needed to start looking after myself for a while. That’s not something that comes easily to me—I find it more natural to care for others.
I have worked pretty much flat out for at least the last 21 years—I’ve poured myself out into each job and given everything that I can. Earlier this year I simply felt broken, burned out with little left to give.
The last four months have provided a useful buffer to rest and heal and reflect on my future. When I was going through the pros and cons of leaving the University, the biggest pro of staying was being with people that I’ve been fortunate to call my friends, in some cases, for the last 26.24% of my life. But that wasn’t enough to keep me at St Andrews—I can always keep up with my friends outside of work-hours.
I am proud of what I have achieved at St Andrews, and what we as a team have achieved. I have been blessed by the friendships that I have made there. But it is time to change pace for a while and allow myself to heal more fully and gain a little more perspective.
One phrase in particular has been going around my head for the last few months as I’ve journeyed towards this decision: “you cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick”, and in the words of Ozzy Osbourne, “I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.”
So, I have decided to take a short sabbatical.
I will focus on my health, on eating more healthily, on cycling and walking, on resting and focusing on my mental health too. Then I will turn my attention to whatever is next.
As far as employment goes, it’s not as though I’ll be falling off the edge of the world. I have a few irons in the fire, as they say—all still in digital/web development. I’m excited about what’s next. All will be revealed in due course. In the meantime, I am simply enjoying life, enjoying being with my children, and with those I love. Feels good to me.
Fun fact: as I’m taking a sabbatical, I decided to use a lot of Black Sabbath (geddit?) song titles in this post. See if you can find them all.
One of my favourite board games is the excellent Carcassonne from Z-Man. It’s a simple but fun tile-based game where you build and claim cities and roads, farms and monasteries and gardens to acquire points.
Over the last few months, I’ve been enjoying playing the latest official version of Carcassonne for Android but it wasn’t until last week that I realised the game was also available for Windows via Steam.
I wonder if any of the Tour de France cycling teams will be playing Carcassonne on the rest day in the city that inspired it this year?
After 871 days (that is 2 years, 4 months and 20 days) as warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall, University of St Andrews, I’ve hung up my gown and moved on.
I loved being warden, living and working amongst around 540 students and supporting a team of six assistant wardens. But it wasn’t great for my health, to be honest. It turns out you sometimes need sleep and time for yourself. And for many weeks I got little of either.
So I have moved back down the Fife coast to the East Neuk and am living in a wee two-bedroom mid-terrace house in Crail.
This is my third house move in as many years.
I’m much closer to my children now, and it’s an area that I used to cycle around over the years so I’m looking forward to getting out on my (newly serviced) bike over the next few months and gently improving my fitness.
The boys like my wee house and have been over to stay for a few weeks, and a few overnights during the week too.
I needed to buy a dining table and benches and a couple of chests of drawers (at Ikea, of course) plus a bunch of storage boxes for linen and shoes. But two weeks in and I have fully unpacked now and organised almost everything the way that I’d like it.
Here is to relaxing for a bit, regaining my fitness, losing the 2 inches or more than I put on my waist over the last 871 days, and figuring out where life will take me next. It’s exciting…
Here’s a video I found online from the developers. My house is featured about 17 seconds in.