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The other day, I talked about how many of the EU’s most populous cities I’ve visited. But what about the UK?

As Citymonitor describes, it’s quite difficult to make a list of UK cities by population, so let’s assume we’re talking about the UK’s most populous urban areas as defined by Demographia, instead. And I can’t remember everything I did as a child, so let’s limit it to the last two decades.

By this measure, I’ve been to all the top five, and seven of the top ten. I haven’t been to Southampton-Portsmouth, Nottingham or Sheffield in the past twenty years. Perhaps I should try to correct that in 2024. I like to explore new cities.

The image at the top of this post was generated by DALL·E 3.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, Travel.

Europe is on the right track

I would have guessed that I’d visited almost all of the most populous cities in the European Union. However, on checking a list, it turns out that I’ve only been to five of the top ten, and ten of the top twenty. Somehow, I’ve never visited the EU’s biggest city: Berlin.

The news in Le Monde of the return of night trains from Paris to Berlin might just change that. The idea of hopping down from Newcastle to London on a Saturday morning, taking the Eurostar on a Saturday afternoon, wandering across Paris to connect with the Nightjet at 19.12 and waking in Berlin at 08.26 on Sunday sounds impossibly relaxing, and certainly more luxurious than a connecting flight.

My history with sleeper trains is limited. I vaguely remember taking Motorail night trains through France in my youth, with the family car on board: those services were all discontinued more than a decade ago.

I enjoyed a trip on Britain’s very own Caledonian Sleeper last year. While I’ve had no call to do so this year, I would prefer the sleeper to an evening on the East Coast Mainline and a cheap London hotel if I need to be in London early for work purposes. Showering on a moving train was a strange and memorable experience: I’m pleased to see that, like the Caledonian Sleeper, the Paris to Berlin Nightjets similarly have deluxe compartments with their own bathrooms. I’m a deluxe kind of guy: I read Midnight Trains’s weekly newsletter without fail, and look forward to the day when I’ll be able to check into their ‘luxury hotel on rails’.

While I don’t have a great deal of experience with sleeper trains, I have become increasingly fond of using trains for international travel. That’s only partly attributable to flygskam; the better part of it is that train travel feels so much more laid back and relaxing than flying. It typically takes a little longer, but that’s a virtue: it really allows time to sink into the experience of travelling and to enjoy it for its own sake, rather than as a means to an end. There’s something ineffably luxurious about spending time in the act of travelling rather than rushing from place to place. I’m in the small proportion of travellers who intentionally book very long layovers on connecting flights for that exact reason: I’d rather have time to collect my thoughts and fill my stomach in an airport lounge than to be harried from gate to gate.

The European sleeper train renaissance therefore feels right up my street.

The image at the top of this post was generated by DALL·E 3.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, Travel, .


This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, .

Door hangers

There seems to be a trend for these to have more and more words on them. Someone must have determined that door hangers are a ‘brand touchpoint’ or some such nonsense.

Keeping them as simple as possible would make them maximally functional. Sacrificing function for ‘brand personality’ is probably not the best decision.

This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel.


This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, .


This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, .

I’ve been to see ‘Longing for Nature’

Whenever I’m at Schiphol, provided I’m in the non-Schengen zone, I try to make time to pop into the tiny branch of the Rijksmuseum. The current exhibition is ‘Longing for Nature’, and I thought it made quite a nice partner to the ‘Essence of Nature’ exhibition I saw at The Laing earlier this summer.

Whereas ‘Essence of Nature’ was about the changing artistic representations of nature, ‘Longing for Nature’ is about the shifting relationship between humankind and the natural world. The exhibition focuses on the 19th century, which was a period of immense change in this relationship. The exhibition posits that, in the early 19th century, nature was considered indestructible and immutable. The Industrial Revolution clearly challenged that perception.

I think that’s a hard case to demonstrate with such a small exhibition. Yet, I was struck by this painting: Orchard at Eemnes by Richard Roland Holst. From ‘Essence of Nature’ I’d learned about how art moved from aiming to be photorealistic in the pre-Raphaelite era to being more about character and atmosphere later on. Seeing this in the context of ‘Longing for Nature’ made me realise that the latter is filtering the scene through the human experience.

Just as popular perception shifts from nature being immutable to humans having an impact, we also started to consider nature in art through the human experience, rather than appreciating its essential quality. That surely can’t be coincidental.

‘Longing for Nature’ doesn’t have a publicly advertised end date but is on now at Rijksmuseum Schiphol.

‘Essence of Nature’ continues at The Laing until 14 October.

This post was filed under: Art, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, , , , , .

Wandering the immeasurable

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The first web server

Yesterday, I had the entirely unexpected pleasure of seeing the world’s first web server at CERN in Meyrin, Switzerland.

Over the years, I’ve read a lot about the early development of the world wide web, and I’ve also read about the storied history of Apple, including Steve Jobs’s period at NeXT computers.

Yet somehow, it had spectacularly failed to lodge in my mind that the first web server was a NeXTCube. Before I peered into the display case, my assumption was that I’d see a beige tower, probably with an IBM badge on it. It’s strange to contemplate how assumptions like that take hold, even though I must have read many times over the years that it wasn’t the case.

I also loved the sticker for its real-world mundanity. Not shown in the picture above is the handwritten comment on the top of Berners-Lee’s paper describing his system: “vague but exciting…”

It’s also fascinating to ponder the problem he was trying to solve—managing information about complex, evolving systems—and how we really haven’t applied it in healthcare more than three decades on. Even at the very simplest level, we really haven’t embraced the idea of hypertext, and of live-updating bits of guidance as new evidence emerges—or even just as new policies emerge. Most healthcare guidance remains static, with whole documents being refreshed in cycles.

For example, even the boilerplate description of many organisations at the front of documents is baked in, and only refreshed when the document is updated. If only we had learned from Berners-Lee, that could be a ‘do-once’ update that would be linked into all relevant documents.

Or, more relevantly, look at COVID guidance: each time the isolation period changed, hundreds of pages of guidance documents, including even all of those hosted on gov.uk, needed manual revision. If they’d been more thoughtfully constructed, that too could have been a ‘do-once’ update.

The counter argument, of course, is that changing ‘bits’ can substantially change the meaning of the whole, and a standing document needs approval and sign-off at regular intervals. But really, nothing in medical guidance is more complex than particle physics, for goodness’ sake, and there’s no reason that approvals to updates couldn’t be sought with an eye to where they propogate.

Perhaps we’ll get there one day.

This post was filed under: Health, Post-a-day 2023, Technology, Travel, , , , .

Hi, Stockton

It’s been way too long…

This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, .

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