Cities: Skylines

You can tell a lot about someone from the way they play The Sims: architect vs interior designer vs anthropologist (vs micro economist…).

As a lifelong”architect & interior designer” type, I can accept the suggestion that I prefer to control digital bricks, mortar & paint than simulated characters because they’re more reliable (no surprising adultery because you left a chair on Free Will Mode, either).

And so I, of course, hurried to buy Simcity as soon as it came out. I did enjoy it, but (like a lot of people), kept bumping up against the edges if what was possible within the game. Limited control of the terrain made city designs more controlled by the location than I’d have liked.

Later, my other half bought us Cities: Skylines, and it blew my tiny little city-designing mind. A wealth of objects come pre-designed & selectable (eg intersections) that make the game far less dependent on how long you’re willing to fight a snap-to-grid function. Different modes help see the city a different levels, to spot weaknesses or opportunities… or just to enjoy your creation 🙂

And that’s before you get onto user-created content!


Carrot salad

I have a friend who lives in a house with some vegans, a celiac, and every one of them a foodie. It makes for some fantastic dinners and food discoveries. I got this recipe from her – the mixed seeds (on top of the cumin) is my own addition.

Get a few carrots – 2 small-to-medium ones per person, if you’re having it as half your dinner (see below for suggested accompaniments). One big carrot each will work but they tend to be less tasty than their spindly brethren.

Scrub clean, or peel, whichever suits best.

Get a large orange and separate out a few segments.

Grate the carrots. If you have a food processor, employ it for this step. It will get it done in seconds. Transfer to serving bowl. Grate or chop up the orange – this will be messy. Add to bowl.

Heat small frying pan with no oil. Add a small handful of seeds per person once hot. Any seed will do but those snack mixes have the classics (pumpkin, etc). Add cumin seeds, too.

(NB if you have cumin powder but not seeds, just add that later – don’t dry-fry it)

Shake pan occasionally to prevent over-toasting. Once the seeds start popping, take off the heat and add to carrot. Stir through, and serve immediately. Add

Great paired with:
– patties, eg falafels, fishcakes, polenta things
– burgers
– gratins eg potato dauphinoise, courgette, beetroot
– baked potato, baked sweet potato (as a summery version of the dish)

Ikea Hackers: get inspired

When I think of DIY, it’s usually a fun, self-starter, “out there” project done in protest against poor quality and/or high prices, or to achieve something that nobody’s offering right now.

The reality is that the majority of the time I spend Doing It Myself is assembling stuff we’ve bought from Ikea.

If that’s you too, then you may already know about Ikea Hackers. The site provides the opportunity to share customisations or re-workings of Ikea products, often using other items in their product range to add on to or replace an element of the original design, and see other people’s projects to inspire your own.

Posts have tags, so there is a certain degree of sercheability; if you’re planning on furnishing your house with (eg) a kitchen kart, you can use these keywords to see what other people have done, to help you understand how you can “stretch” the offering from Ikea themselves.

As a community-created site, I must warn that you’ll see a volume of posts that you don’t like, or think are bad ideas. Stick with it, and bookmark pages you do like. There are diamonds a-plenty in that rough.

Friendship Bracelets – you can make them for yourself

My dad taught me how to make bracelets out of knotted colourful thread (or yarn) when I was younger. We stuck to the simple “diagonal stripes” design, but upon researching links for this post, I’ve discovered that the patterns you can do are almost endless, achieved by changing up the types of knot you tie at each stage. has a lot of information on this.

Think of it like knitting. A knitting pattern will tell you which type of stich to do and how many; similarly, the instructions will tell you what strand order to start with and which knots to tie in what order.

The great thing about these bracelets is that you can make them with whatever colours you can get, and you can change it up to get whatever you like. On top of that, it makes a soft, light, low maintenance piece of casual “jewellery”. The finished product will slowly fade and stretch out, and any time it gets wet it’s a little annoying, but it’s something that can make any outfit look more fun, summery and “boho”, and if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can make something (for a friend or for yourself) that’s 100% unique and personalised, for a very low cost.

Love Songs As Essays

I’m as guilty as the next person of bopping along to a new song without paying attention to the words beyond knowing which syllables to sound out if I want to sing along (and even then, not always successfully… for years, I thought that Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean was a song about frilly jeans – not joking).

But when I manage to sit down and listen to the words, I often find that the bands for whom I have a lot of time (read: will buy an album without having heard half of it already, will pick them in a clash between two or more bands at a festival, etc.) are the ones that are clearly putting in the hours when it comes to songwriting.

Today, I’d like to look at some love songs that go way beyond “I love you, baby”. Continue reading “Love Songs As Essays”

B Corporations

B Corporations is an initiative by B Labs, a “nonprofit organization that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good (TM)” (ref).

I wrote about a similar UK-only initiative recently, but there’s an article about this organisation in April 2016’s CIMA FM magazine, which I just read, and I wanted to get a post down about it asap.

Said article quotes co-founder Andrew Kassoy: “B Corp certification is to business what Fairtrade is to coffee”. If they are unlucky, the comparison may well become appropriate. Without going into too much detail about the issues facing Fairtrade certification, I want to use it as an example of the hurdles facing B Labs.

– Self perpetuation. Both Fairtrade and B Labs use money from performing audits and offering guidance to current and potential certificated organisations to cover their running costs. Therefore it is not in their financial interest to investigate, understand and disclose factors that threaten this certification, e.g. if there were a drop in demand for goods bearing the symbol in times of recession (or following controversies with the certification body).

– Self undermining. These organisations aim to exhalt organisations that bring benefits to local communities, the environment and wider society, in order to lead by example and turn good practice into a cause for profits. But, by taking (sometimes hefty) fees for doing so, they hamper those organisations’ ability to deliver those benefits, and the financial incentive of profits.

– Re-intermediation. Often, improving impact on connected stakeholders involves cutting out the middle man, as it allows a higher price to be paid to suppliers, protects customers against higher prices and usually improves transparency RE: ethical practices and integrity. But, by controlling who gets the seal of approval and laying administration burden on participants, certificating bodies may actually cause the number steps in the process (if not the actual number of middle men) to increase.

Overall, I think schemes like this are a good thing – certainly in the absence of legal criteria of such practices, it is a way for consumers to know that they’re buying “not awful” products. In the future, I’d hope to see it superseded by clever, informed consumers demanding ethical practices from individual organisations, without needing to see a pretty stamp to know whether to cheer or boo. I can only dream.