Relocation Relocation Relocation

As part of my pretty sweet relocation package from Google, I have the help of a “flat search consultant”. If you’ve ever watched Location Location Location or A Place in the Sun, you’ll more or less know what this is. If not: why not?

I have a couple of friends in the Kingston area (and several others in South London as a whole), and now work in Victoria, so my plan was quite scientific: throw darts at a map.

Not really. I basically drew a line between between these two areas and declared that I wanted to live somewhere along it. Furthermore, this place should neither be shit, not overlay expensive. In particular I thought Richmond looked like a very cool place to live, and seemed to be in reach of many of the places I wanted to go. That said, it has the potential to be a bit of a slog into the centre, and unfortunately it’s quite expensive. Thus, my flat search consultant wanted me to look at a couple of other places.

We started in Richmond and straight away viewed a really nice flat, which set the bar a little high. It already had offers, and thus I would have make a decision fast if I was interested. This is generally the case with rentals in London at the moment, though this one had a particularly short fuse. I came very close to putting in an offer, but n the end came to the conclusion that it was too small.

Next we went and had a look at the outside of a flat the agent wasn’t able to show us, to get an idea of the area. I’ll come back to this one. We also viewed a flat in a quite cool art deco development, which was a bit crap on the inside. Single glazing and on a main road? I think not…

After this we checked out a slightly dingy  flat which was essentially in the landlord’s basement. I don’t, quite frankly, want to feel quite that much like a tenant. This was the last spot in Richmond, so it was on to Clapham, via a fairly spectacular drive through Richmond Park.

The first flat in Clapham was amazing. Really big, nicely finished and in a decent area, if a little ways off the main drag. This was probably my favourite from the entire day. I’m not sure how I feel about the location. Transport wise it’s very cool, and you can get just about anywhere from it, but… I don’t know. You know?

Next we viewed a couple of really nice new builds in an utterly unspectacular area of Battersea. Nice price (for London!), nice size, nice big garden (in one case), nice finish (aside from the one wonky switch in one of the kitchens, so that flat was out). But… right on a busy main road, in part of Battersea which seems to mostly be a place people pass through when going to other places? No. Well… probably not.

Lastly was had a look at a mansion flat in a gorgeous building… but that’s about all it had going for it. If you gutted it, it could become something spectacular, but work would be required.

On the whole, non of the flats I saw were utterly terrible, and all of them will get rented. This is definitely a seller’s market. We’re going to go back to the Richmond flat we couldn’t see today, because the pictures look great, then it’ll be a straight choice between it and the Clapham flat. Perhaps there’ll also be a couple more viewings. We’ll see. Tomorrow, a choice must be made, otherwise I have nowhere to live after I get back from Mountain View. No pressure!

In other news, I stopped by the office to finish of a last bit of admin, and then attend my first ever Google meeting, which also included participants from Mountain View and Dublin. I’m starting to understanding things more, which is good, because I have an absolute ton of stuff to learn. I also briefly petted a very cute West Island terrier, which either belongs to one of my colleagues, or IS one of my colleagues.


Spending to make…

While it’s a fairly common and reasonably accurate maxim that you have to spend money to make money, I find myself wondering if the same is true of energy. To reword and disentangle the metaphor: Can you save energy by using energy?

Here’s a my train of thought: You have curtains in your house. It’s possible to fit a motorised unit and automate the opening and closing of the same. This would same ostentatious, lazy and wasteful. To have a computer, sitting, always on, in your house, which decides when this should happen would seem to increase these negative factors.


During winter, you try to close the curtains to keep heat in. Doing this early means you miss out on daylight and, furthermore, you have to turn on artificial lights. Doing this too late means that you loose heat through the windows. There’s is probably a converse example in hotter climates than this, in which your house gets too hot in the middle of the day if you don’t close the binds, meaning you have to turn on the air conditioning.

So then, at what point does the energy used to run the computer become a good investment? What if it has sensors inside and outside in order to measure the temperature gradient, and so it can choose the best time to close the curtains? What if it also manages your heating? What if it intelligently turns out the lights in rooms you’re not in? Reminds you that you turned the oven on but haven’t actually put anything in it… Makes damn sure that you get out of bed in the morning… and so on…

Objects of Desire

I haven’t blogged in some, so it seemed only natural that I should do the churlish thing and write about items I would like, but do not have, post Christmas.

First of all is a pod based coffee maker. When walking through House of Fraiser pre Christmas my beautiful and wonderful girlfriend had cause to exclaim “These are so cool*!” What she was talking about was a Nespresso machine (or more precisely a table full of them). Basically you pop a little pod of coffee in the top, push a button and really quite good espresso (or something a lot like it) comes out of the spout. Boom. Simple and fast, without any fuss or the need to do much in the way of cleaning. This appeals to me. A lot.

There is of course a problem. The clue is in the name, and being the intelligent general reader you may have already spotted it. The whole shebang is made (or at least owned) by Nestle, who are are (by my own personal set of benchmarks) evil. Like, actually killing babies evil. They make all the coffee which can be used with the machines, meaning there is a limited selection, and have patented the design thoroughly enough that this will be the case for ever-more. So, refillable pods are not an option and the pre-filled ones are aluminium and only recycle-able in Switzerland. Unacceptable. Bugger.

So I did a bit of reading about the other pod based systems out there, and discounted almost all of them for one reason or another. It generally comes down to either evil companies or an unacceptable degree of waste. The one I didn’t discount is the Senseo, which doesn’t produce such good coffee (it has a 2 bar pump versus the nespresso’s 19 bar), but you can buy refillable pods for it. Also, it’s cheaper. A lot cheaper since Sainsbury has it on sale at half price. Problem solved. I’ll probably pick one up tomorrow.

What I won’t b picking up tomorrow is one of Sony’s eBook readers. While I think they’re completely awesome (eInk rules, I though it was actual paper when I first saw it and didn’t even believe it was a screen until I saw it change) £350 is just too high an asking price. That’s a lot of books. Check them out if you get the chance, though. One day, when its price goes down and mine goes up, I’ll get myself one.

Lastly come the controversial one. Women carry bags. This is accepted. The size varies, though. I’ve seen at least one girl with a bag which, though clearly a handbag in terms of design, was about a metre long. Men on the other hand, are expected not to. If they do it is derisively referred to as a “Man Bag.” Frankly, though, it’s bloody useful. I tend to carry a messenger bag around a lot of the time as a result. It holds my tiny laptop, a notebook, some pens (duh), a reusable shopping bag and generally a book and some uni related things. The one I originally bought doesn’t really measure up, though, in either form or function. What I’m looking for is something stylish on the outside, but nerd-tastically well organised on the inside. Stylish that is, again, by my own personal set of benchmarks. I kinda like this one: . Now, if I could only find somewhere that actually sells it…


* Even though she, in fact, does not drink coffee. No one, it seems, is perfect.


I’ve been traveling around for work for the vast majority of the last month, so generally speaking I’ve been anything but at a loose end. Evenings were full of work or spent with the colleagues / friends I was traveling with. But now I’m back and finding that I don’t know what to do with myself a lot of the time. It’s giving me time to think about things, and that never ends well.

I think my PhD is in better shape than I had been supposing. I found a couple of stupid mistakes in my code today and now it actually seems to be working quite well. With a bit of tweaking of settings it might produce valid, or even impressive, output. This is good. It means I can stick to my plan to only put in eight hour days at the lab (though I might do a bit of writing up at home). An eight hour days feels pretty short just now. Thus the stress levels may reduce. I’ve more or less been running on stress and adrenaline/caffeine for the last few months though, so once again: time and head space to think about things.

It’s making me very uncertain about a lot of things. The financial market is clearly well up shit creak, and it ate its paddle some miles back. This also coincides with a financial meltdown of my own, precipited by my funding running out and exaserbated by my purchase of a car. Yep, I reckon I’ll look back on that one as a particularly retarded mistake in years to come. I’ve got things on a more or less stable footing now, but my long term security is… clouded… not what I’d like it to be… in a lot of respects.

I also find myself thinking about sex, love, friendship, their relationship to each other, and my relationship to each. Things I had, things I’ve lost, and things I want in the future. I’m not feeling quite introspective enough to textualise any of that just now, but you should probably be thankful for that.

These are indeed uncertain times.

I’ve also decided to try and get back into going to the gym. I’ve had no time for excersise in the last month and have probably been eating a little too well and it’s stating to show. I went for the first time in what feels like an age last night, and, you know what, it felt pretty good. I’ve missed that post gym sensation of having actually done something and made my muscles (such as they are) work for a living.

I just looked out of the window. The sun is shining! Time to go out into it, I suspect!