Every morning, without fail, within a minute or two of starting my cycle commute, my eyes start watering, and I look either like I’ve just had some incredibly traumatic news, or I’m having a St John of the Cross moment. I am not alone in this.
Many of the threads that address this issue (just google “watery eyes cycling“, and there’s a flood of them) suffer from the problem that there’s no common scale to describe the severity of the problem. For those with Sjögren’s syndrome, there’s the Schirmer Tear Test, but this is hard to implement in cycling conditions without endangering other road users.
I propose a new standard method for measuring the rate at which tears emerge when cycling:
OPM, or Osbornes Per Minute.
Single tear-track of UK Chancellor George Osborne
Recording the number of single tear-tracks, or Osbornes, per minute (an interval that permits sufficient drying to distinguish between successive individual lacrimal secretions, and additionally a workable measure of acceleration or deceleration of the phenomenon) is relatively easy for an individual patient (“cyclist”), and, judging by early tests conducted over the past three mornings, the reliability of self-reported incidences is quite high.
[Full text of paper forthcoming*]
*Not actually forthcoming
I rather like this roadmap for emerging technologies. One day I fully intend to find out what “arcologies” are.
Last October my organisation moved offices from West to Central London, reducing my commute from 9 miles each way to 5. I was running out of excuses not to cycle to work, reduced to arguing that there’s not much room in a flat with toddlers. Andrea suggested I try out his Brompton. Clever, sure, but how absurdly Lilliputian, I thought. Look:
But I climbed on, and rode round the courtyard outside. Something happened. In minutes, I went from feeling absurd and wobbly, to feeling exhilarated. This was genuine chemistry… I borrowed the bike for a week to cycle to Millbank, and it was heaven. I’d arrive at work wearing a broad grin – and returning the bike to him felt a real wrench.
So I decided to buy one through work. Little did I anticipate the knots I’d tie myself into, as first I confronted the Brompton order form, and then trawled website after website trying to understand what different options meant. (I haven’t cycled regularly since the early 90s…) What the hell was “lowered gearing”? Should I get 1 gear, 2, 3 or 6? Firm suspension or normal? Hub dynamo lighting? And as for the colour…
So, in case it’s helpful to others, here are the resources I found useful in deciding which Brompton configuration to buy.
Politico’s piece about NYT Executive Editor Jill Abramson is – rightly – causing a storm over double standards in the treatment of women in power. Emily Bell’s piece pins the problem quite precisely.
My one observation on this is to compare how Politico characterises Abramson:
In one meeting, Abramson was upset with a photograph that was on the homepage. Rather than asking for a change to be made after the meeting, she turned to the relevant editor and, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting, said bluntly, “I don’t know why you’re still here. If I were you, I would leave now and change the photo.”
with coverage of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s handling of an analogous situation:
Tim Cook arrived at Apple in 1998 from Compaq Computer. He was a 16-year computer-industry veteran – he’d worked for IBM for 12 of those years – with a mandate to clean up the atrocious state of Apple’s manufacturing, distribution, and supply apparatus. One day back then, he convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia.
“This is really bad,” Cook told the group. “Someone should be in China driving this.” Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, without a trace of emotion, “Why are you still here?”
Khan, who remains one of Cook’s top lieutenants to this day, immediately stood up, drove to San Francisco International Airport, and, without a change of clothes, booked a flight to China with no return date, according to people familiar with the episode. The story is vintage Cook: demanding and unemotional.
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
As citizens continue to play a critical role in supplying news and human rights footage from around the world, YouTube is committed to creating even better tools to help them. According to the international human rights organization WITNESS’ Cameras Everywhere report, “No video-sharing site or hardware manufacturer currently offers users the option to blur faces or protect identity.”
YouTube is excited to be among the first.
Today we’re launching face blurring – a new tool that allows you to obscure faces within videos with the click of a button.
(YouTube Global Blog, 18 July 2012)
Advocacy in any arena generally takes a long long time. In this context we’re talking about pressuring key Silicon Valley companies that have gone in under a decade from being simple technology providers to being an integral part of everyday human activity across much of the planet.
That one line quoted above was something we’d been talking to YouTube/Google about for 4 years (and that’s more than half of YouTube’s own existence). Those who can make seemingly simple changes like this happen are busy people operating within multiple sets of interlocking wheels of law and policy, and myriad competing internal demands. The conversations with these people started before I got to WITNESS, and they continued after I left in mid-2010 (and continue to this day) – and as the Cameras Everywhere report shows, there’s still plenty to discuss in the future.
Here are my personal recollections and reflections on how the conversations with YouTube that I was involved in developed – with the accent strongly on “personal”. Since I left WITNESS 2 years ago, I’m not party to the latest conversations between YouTube and WITNESS – but I do know where the seeds came from and how they took root. Over at the WITNESS blog Sam Gregory explains the human rights dimension of this move by YouTube.
I am sharing this therefore partial account in the hope that reading a little about our experience will give succour to other activists and researchers running into what seem like brick walls right now. Keep talking, keep trusting, and keep pushing… and embrace serendipity.
[Thurs 19 July - I've slightly clarified some of the written-at-1.30am-language...]
[Sun 22 July - further clarification, including of when I left WITNESS.]
UPDATE April 2013: Oh dear. No fortnotes, and it’s a good 10 months since then. Maybe it’s easier to aim for yearnotes…
A couple of Mondays ago I started work as a Program Officer in the Media Program at the Open Society Foundation in London. After a decade or more working largely for civil society groups, moving to work for one of the world’s most influential philanthropic organisations is both an exciting new challenge and a privilege.
As part of helping me get my bearings, I’m going to try to keep regular notes on this blog (taking a realism cue from Roo Reynolds, fortnotes rather than weeknotes) on what I’ve been up to and what I am learning. If this has any use or relevance for others, then so much the better. (I tried this once before, but it proved harder as a freelancer than I hoped.)
I’ll include a selection of:
- people and organisations I meet and learn about
- trends, ideas or terminology I encounter or research
- new research that I find useful (you can also find lots of what I encounter on Tumblr and pinboard)
- tools or other things that help me in my work
I will not breach any security, confidentiality or privacy, and, before you ask, no, I won’t be talking about anything to do with OSF funding or internal matters. As ever, what I do post is going to be a personal lens on my work, and, as you’ll be accustomed to reading all over the shop by now, does not represent or claim to represent my employer’s perspective.
When I worked at WITNESS, we debated hotly how to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2008. We wanted to do something that felt contemporary, that felt open as a campaign, and that anyone – anyone – would have a response to and could run with. What we came up with, and what ended up catching the imagination of quite a few people, was a simple question:
What image opened your eyes to human rights?
To kick things off, I recorded a load of interviews with interesting activists, researchers, journalists and filmmakers when I was at the GFMD conference in Athens. I’ve just put a playlist of these short, sometimes spine-tingling interviews onto YouTube. Here, as a taster, is Mary Robinson’s answer: