Matt Gemmell

Raw Materials book cover image

My book Raw Materials is out now!

A collection of personal essays, with exclusive content and author's notes.

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Sponsor: The Whisky Cabinet

My sincere thanks to The Whisky Cabinet for sponsoring my writing this week. I have an advance copy of the book, which is a thing of beauty - and it includes my beloved Balvenie DoubleWood.

In today’s whisky culture of hype and jargon, The Whisky Cabinet navigates straight to the centre of what really matters: enjoying some of the most delicious whiskies in the world.

In Winter

The clocks have gone back.

The evenings are darker now, which is grim, but it’s a small price to pay for light in the mornings. I wake with the dawn spreading below the hem of the curtains, and it’s always a relief.

Temperatures are dropping, but it’s a very mild November so far. That first truly cutting breath of frozen air that heralds the real beginning of the final season - Winter’s edge - hasn’t yet arrived. There are even rare years where it never comes at all.

Trying

The University of Glasgow has some magnificent buildings, but The Boyd Orr Building (known affectionately and universally as the Boy George) is not among them. Indeed, it’s widely accepted to be the ugliest building in the university.

I’ve spent untold hours in there, during my Computing Science degree. We had some lectures in the building, but mostly my time was spent in the various labs upstairs. I whiled away a big chunk of each week of term-time in those labs, then when the Summer of 2004 arrived (after the third year of my degree), I thought I’d take a break.

I was sitting at home when an email came through on my academic address mentioning a couple of Summer scholarships, to work on research projects for the department. I left the email sitting in my inbox for a few hours, then decided to make a phonecall.

Workout

On the last day of December 2013, I was getting dressed to go out and celebrate the New Year (which we call Hogmanay here in Scotland). As always, I was wearing a suit. I hadn’t made any resolutions yet.

I noticed that my trousers were a little tight around the waist, but I struggled through. By the time I was undressing again at home in the early hours of January 1st, I had a red mark around my middle.

Two years earlier, in November 2011, I got married. I remember my wedding suit fitting comfortably, and those trousers were a 30” waist. The ones I wore last New Year were 32”, and I had trouble fitting into them. Those don’t sound like big numbers, but I’m short (5’6”), and I have a very slim build - thanks to my mother’s ballerina DNA. I’d let myself go a bit.

My 2014 resolution followed naturally: my project was going to be myself. I’d like to talk a little bit about my journey towards getting back in shape.

Incipio Feather for iPhone 6

I’m currently trying out an iPhone 6. I’ll probably write about that in due course, but for the moment I can summarise my feelings as: great build quality, improved battery life, but it’s just too big.

I’ve been trying a few cases for the new phone too, and I’ve found one that suits my needs perfectly. You might also be interested in taking a look at it.

Watch

Last month, Apple announced their entry into the wearable computing device market with the Apple Watch, which will be released early next year.

I’d like to share a few of my thoughts on the product, and its category of devices in general.

Portable

My active set of computing devices has changed a lot during the last year.

I started off with the usual arsenal of gadgets that you’d expect from an iOS developer: half a dozen old and new iPhones, several iPads, and a monster of an over-powered iMac to run Xcode, Photoshop, and the iOS Simulator - complete with dual screens.

It was a stressful setup, and that’s without even mentioning OS upgrades.

My current situation is very different. I’m no longer a developer, and I spend my days writing instead. My needs are modest. So, I’ve taken the opportunity to strip down my device inventory, and achieve a sort of zen simplicity of computing.

Page-specific assets with Jekyll

I recently redesigned this site, and it’s now built statically with the excellent Jekyll.

One of my goals was to reduce the number and size of assets in each page, and particularly to trim down the CSS and eliminate as much JavaScript as possible. This very brief article is about how I did that while preserving functionality where needed.

True

I’d like to talk to you about truth.

You already know what truth is, of course - but that’s not the kind I mean. There’s nothing new I can tell you about facts, or accuracy. Those things have their place, and they’re essential.

But there’s another sort of truth, and it’s important too. I’d argue that it might even be more important than the first kind.