Getting better

Antonym, no. 14.

Vaccination stickers at a UK vaccination centre. Credit: John Cameron.

Dear Reader

Been a few weeks. I’ve been jabbed by medics, jostled by life and jerry-rigged into coherent service and am back with some links for your thinks.

Let’s kick off with good news (although you’d be forgiven for missing it)…

Vaccine breakthrough! (Not that one)

Good news! The geniuses behind the Astra Zeneca vaccine for Covid-19 have developed a vaccine for malaria, that is “the first to meet the WHO goal of 75% efficacy). 400,000 children die of malaria every year, a number which could be cut by more than three quarters in the next five years as a result. The Jenner Institute of Oxford University got 77% efficacy in a trial of a vaccine in Burkina Faso.

The essential bits of Essentialism

If you read a book on Kindle and take highlights or make notes with the device or app, you can then share them all on Goodreads, the social network owned by Amazon. I’m seeing more authors doing this with their older works as a new one comes up for publication and they get on the publicity trail. Emily St John Mandel and Jeff Vandermeer’s highlights for Station Eleven and Annihilation respectively were really special and led me back for rewarding re-reading.

Now Greg McKeown has done a notes/highlights job on his best-selling non-fiction self-help book Essentialism, which not at all ironically now has a sequel expanding on the theme of doing less but better. Two of the just 12 highlights from McKeown pretty much give you the whole case for the book:

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.


What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?

Yep. That’s it. The usefulness of a book like Essentialism is of course taking the time to think about a subject and reflect on it with an author.

"With digital becoming more important, the need for creativity is stepping up as well. We know that the biggest return on investment you drive is by having better creative." – Conny Braams, CMO of Unilever, in an AdAge interview

£13k to for a woke-wash of your web shadow

I wrote Me and My Web Shadow more than ten years ago intending it as a manual for people wanting to look after their online reputation. These days discreet digitalistas in Mayfair offices will purge your past-according-to–Google and keep an eye out for reputational threats for £13,000 a year.

Facebook worried it has been over-stating its ad-reach (and has maybe been understating its use by violent insurrectionists)

You can teach your marketing team how not to be bullshitted by their media agencies, but in a digital duopoly, what can you do when even the data Facebook and its questionable counterparts are proividing in the first place is unreliable? Digital advertising is a mess of misinformation, fraud and willful ignorance.

Meanwhile, remember when the company said its platforms weren’t the main ones used by participants in the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington in January. Well, I know this will come as a shock, but…

Wine label of the week

This lovely wine lived up to its fabulous label. From Quaff, Brighton (and there’s one in Hove too).

Apple’s dangerous walled garden

Apple’s upsetting Facebook and other big ad tech players with its insistence that people should be able to control whether they are tracked across the web by giant corporations. The downside of its protection? It might be weaker than many thought at stopping scams in its app store. Given the scale of its profits, this is embarrassing, to say the least.

Doctor, doctor - I think I’ve got hypochondria

That’s a cheap headline for a link to a thoughtful column from James Marriott about the stigma attached to psychosomatic illnesses. Things I learned from James’s piece include that in France (and only France) people suffer from “heavy leg syndrome” and can get meds for it at their local pharmacy and that asylum-seekers in Sweden suffer from “resignation syndrome”, where children fall asleep for years.

A post shared by @mikeljaso

NB: Worth clicking on this to see the animated version on Instagram.

WFH chairs

Herman Miller bought Knoll the other week. If you know your high end office chairs, you’ll know that’s big news.

Since we Brilliant Noise started a decent chair and screen for every team member have been the non-negotiable investments for our company. When lockdown started, I had an OK home office chair, but after a couple of months had devleoped a backache. When I moved in an office-issue Herman Miller Aeron and within a day or two I was back to feeling comfortable and focused again. 

We’ve recently moved Brilliant Noise from a leased space that we’d furnished ourselves to an innovation centre that comes with excellent chairs (Human Scale Diffrients) among other things. Accordingly, ur herd of Aeron chairs have been re-homed to people’s home offices where they are wanted and the rest sold. (More than anything else, including piles of shiny tech, the Aerons held their value and were easy to sell. I think we got back more than half what we paid for them about five years ago.)

The one thing I’d recommend if you buy a chair like this – and it sounds silly – is getting an ergonomics specialist, or someone who knows the chairs well – to train you in how to set them up. They’re comfortable by default but with a bit of adjusting, they are miraculously supportive and comfortable. I’m sure there are other high-end chairs that work as well, but Aerons are my choice always now. Although after my first few visits to our new offices (at Plus X Brighton) the Human Scale ones are winning me over.

Crypto for calzones

If all the Crypto IPOs and NFT sales weren’t enough to make us think something is finally happening in blockchain tech, perhaps this will: my local pizzeria announced it will soon be taking crypto payments for its (very decent) pizzas…