Films I’ve watched since January 2014

12th January – Battlestar Galactica : The Plan. I watched this on the back of re-watching the whole TV show over Christmas. As a companion to the series it works well, and I really enjoyed it, but as a stand alone piece it is somewhat lacking. It’s set at various points throughout the series, but contains spoilers that mean it should only be watched after everything else. I guess it’s the Battlestar Galactica equivalent of Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me, and if it is considered as such then I suppose it works.

16th February – Angels and Demons. This was watched on holiday, and very much has the feel of a holiday read. It’s perfectly enjoyable, but doesn’t really compel me to think or write about it, which means it fails on some levels I suppose.

28th March – Kill Bill : Part 1 & 2. I’ve not watched these for what is probably the best part of 10 years. I watched them back to back, and I definitely think they work well as one single piece. This is in no way the sort of film I usually rave about, but I think they are well made, very visually stimulating, and they use music  excellently to set the mood. I also realised that parts of them are not in English, and I didn’t rip subtitles when I digitised the DVD. Oh well.

29th March – Antichrist . I had been meaning to watch some of Lars von Trier’s films for a while, after reading an article about him. I found two on Netflix this weekend, and started with this because it’s the older of the two. I found it beautiful and disturbing in equal parts, and it pretty much sent shivers down my spine from the first few seconds. William Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg both give really strong performances, with what must have been very difficult material to film, and although I found a lot of it quite uncomfortable, I am certainly glad I watched it. I should also probably point out that this film is triggering in quite a few ways, in that it centres around the death of a child, and is also graphically sexual and violent. It may not be to everyone’s taste, and it is something I would recommend watching alone and in a darkened room, if you watch it at all.

30th March – Melancholia. Following straight on from Antichrist I watched another Lars von Trier film, which again starred Charlotte Gainsbourg, along with Kirstin Dunst (who was particularly outstanding) and Kiefer Sutherland (who was about as wooden as he usually is). I’d read a fair bit about this film before watching it, and so I knew it was literally and metaphorically about depression, with a side order of end-of-the-world science fiction. None of this does it justice though, and it’s actually one of the best made, most moving, and most visually stunning films I’ve seen for a long time. The two female leads are outstanding, the dialogue is great, and the opening section of the film is one of the most emotive pieces of cinema I’ve seen for a while. I may not see a better film than this in 2014, and I would actually be fine with that.

It’s probably worth mentioning I also watched the whole 10 parts of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Dekalog during February and March 2014. It’s technically a TV series, but certainly warrants a mention at this point, because it’s something else I enjoyed a great deal, and would recommend to anyone who can get over the fact that it’s in Polish and was made on a very low budget.


I’m generally regarded as someone who is quite organised and productive, which still baffles me from time to time because I don’t think I’m that organised at all. Most of what I’m writing about here seems fairly instinctive to me, but in the hope that it might help someone ready this then I’ll try and outline how I organise my day, and how I maintain at least a demeanour of getting things done.

My first rule is to get up when my alarm goes off, and to automate as much of my early morning routine as possible. I do the same things each morning, so it shouldn’t require much thought at all, and generally it doesn’t. I can be up and out of the house in about 20 minutes, as long as there is nothing to disrupt my routine (one of my cats bringing me a gift is the usual suspect for that). I then have a 25 minute walk at the start of my commute, and I tend to use that to listen to music and think about the challenges of the day ahead. This is followed by a 25 minute train journey, during which I read either the Metro or whatever book I’m currently reading on my iPad. By the time I get to work I’m wide awake, and focused on the day ahead. I then have a cup of coffee and start work.

A few years ago I did an exercise where I recorded everything I did for a week, and tried to match time slots to specific sorts of task. I’ve repeated this regularly for a few years now, and I have a fairly good idea of how to plan my day to get the best out of the time and energy I have. Solitary tasks such as writing, answering email, and tasks that require technical focus get done first thing in the morning while I’m wide awake and the office is quiet. I then put aside two slots for meetings – a morning slot for collaborative work, ideas generation, and meetings where I need to contribute a lot, and then an afternoon slot for meetings where I need to be present, but am not one of the main contributors. The rest of my day I work though my todo list, and my email inbox (both of which which I like to keep as close to zero as possible).

I also automate as much of my working week as possible. I have set weekly meetings with my manager, my co-worker, my team, and my direct reports. I also have set monthly meetings with a variety of other people and teams. All of my meetings are recorded in Google Calendar, and the agendas appear in Evernote 15 minutes prior to the meeting starting, thanks to the magic of IFTTT. I then make notes in Evernote on my iPad, and move any action points to my todo list as soon as the meeting finishes. Minutes are then archived to a workbook, so that my Evernote inbox contains only my todo list and things I am actually working on at that moment.

I used Google Calendar to organise everything I do (and everything I plan to do), and go back afterwards to ensure that how I spent my time is accurately recorded. This allows me to track how much time I spend on tasks, and how my work and personal schedule change over time. I also colour code everything, and have separate calendars for work and my life outside of work, which I strongly recommended as a compartmentalising exercise if nothing else.

I’m not a great fan of clutter, although anyone who has seen the inside of my study might debate that fact. I like to keep a clear desktop (physical and virtual), and I’ve been largely paper-free since November 2013, which has helped both with the reduction of clutter and with general productivity.

My Setup – 2014

I’ve not done a post about my setup for a couple of years, and as a few things have changed I thought it was worth an update.


Right now I seem to be a big believer in a two computer setup, but it’s not always the same two computers, because I split my time between two offices at the University plus my own study at home.

On the left hand side of each desk I work at, I have a large monitor. This could be plugged into a computer, waiting for a laptop, or plugged into my iPad and used as a TV.

On the right hand side I have a laptop, or a space for a laptop. My general philosophy regarding laptops is that it’s hard to beat a Mac with maxed out memory and an SSD drive, and as such I hardly use anything else now. I think it’s quite possible to get decent speed and performance out of a fairly old machine, as long as that machine is configured correctly for what it is being used for, and as long as I have access to one powerful computer for occasionally processing digital media then there is nothing else I do that requires me to have bleeding edge hardware.

I’m also currently using iPads a lot more than I thought I would. I have one for accessing work email and making notes at meetings, and another (smaller) one for carrying around with me at all times and acting as a portable media and internet machine. Since I started using iPads, I’ve found that my laptops hardly ever leave my desk, and I do toy with the idea of a setup that consists of one powerful desktop machine and an iPad.


All but one of my regularly used desktops/laptops are now Macs running OS X, although I do maintain several VMs running Linux (Ubuntu and Debian) and Windows. I sometimes need to test applications on every single OS/browser combination, and I’m actually not sure how I managed to do this sort of work before I started using VirtualBox.

I use three browsers on an everyday basis. Safari on my iOS devices, Firefox for work, and Chrome for personal web browsing. Firefox works better with some of the web applications the University use, and I like to compartmentalise data from the various areas of my life anyway. I also have one machine that runs the development versions of all three browsers, which I largely use for testing purposes.

I also use a wide variety of other software, most of which I’ve mentioned in pervious posts. The big changes are that I use Evernote for a lot of things now (which deserves a separate post), and I’m also increasingly managing my work email through Good for Enterprise on my iPad, which makes Inbox Zero achievable rather than just being a pipe dream.


As far as backup goes, any machine that stays in one place (or mainly stays in one place like my heaviest laptop) backs up nightly (via Carbon Copy Cloner) to an external hard drive. I also have a portable hard drive that I back up to weekly with a bootable copy of the two machines where I regularly create data (as opposed to consume it). When I’m not backing up to it, this drive is kept in a different physical location to the machines it is backing up. Additionally, all my music is in iTunes Match, my photos are in iCloud, my work laptop backs up to another machine via Crashplan, and everything text based I’m currently working on will exist in either Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive, depending on what it is and who else needs to access it.

I test my backups monthly (sometimes more than monthly), including booting all the full disk clones to make sure they actually boot. I think this is important.

My dream setup

I think I am probably fairly close. I would like some machines I use to be newer, lighter, or faster, but on the whole I think I am satisfied right now apart from wanting to put an SSD drive into my Mac Mini, which I plan on doing very soon. Of course, that doesn’t stop me looking wistfully at the 13” Macbook Pro with Retina Display and the new iPad Air, but I very much plan on waiting a few months until I buy anything else.

Previous versions of this post

July 2010 –
March 2012 –

A few thoughts about Evernote

I thought I should start using Evernote, at least to see what the feature set was actually like. I must say I am quite impressed, especially as there are quite a few other useful products that plug into it. So far I have taken and annoyed photographs, collected a few recipes, and even handwritten some notes in my horrible and very much unpractised scrawl. All of these things sync to all my devices, and can be viewed easily and via an interface that is aesthetically pleasing.

I should probably investigate these things further.