Hello friends. My name is Duncan, and this is “Hello From Duncan” - a newsletter that I send every ten days rounding up my recent creative input and output. It’s free to receive, but if you don’t want to hear from me any more then there’s an unsubscribe link in the footer below.
I’ve been in Sweden now for ten years. On 27 August 2012, I got on a plane and flew from London to Gothenburg - a city where I didn’t know a single person.
The original purpose of the move was to study a masters degree, after finding out that it was free for EU citizens to study in Sweden. I signed up for an MSc in Environmental Science at the University of Gothenburg - supporting myself on the side with freelance journalism. But I was very much also trying to get out of the UK - a country that I had a feeling was taking a turn for the worse. Sadly I couldn’t have been more right.
My integration into society came fast at first. I made plenty of friends through my course - initially a lot of internationals who left again, but then more Swedish people. I learnt the basics of the language very fast (it’s kind of a mix of English and German). But it’s been harder in recent years - working from home means that I rarely get any opportunity to have more than a surface-level conversation in Swedish, and honestly I think I’m speaking worse Swedish today than I was three or four years ago.
You can become a citizen in Sweden after you’ve been in the country legally for five years, and the process is pretty simple. You fill out a form online, attach PDFs of a few supporting documents, and pay a small application fee. Then you wait for the immigration authorities to make a decision. It took them two years to decide for me, which was a bit of a scary time as the process of Brexit was rolling along. But they got there in the end and I’m now a British-Swedish dual citizen.
I don’t know what the next ten years hold. I’m unlikely to stay in Helsingborg (where I moved a year ago) forever, but I don’t see myself coming back to the UK any time soon either, that’s for sure. Returning to Gothenburg at some point is an attractive idea, and so is trying out Malmö. Honestly, though, it would also be nice to live in a place where it’s possible to get the train back to the UK to see my parents in less than a day’s travel. Maybe Europe’s investment in its rail network will make that realistic from Sweden in a few years.
In the meantime, allow me to paraphrase my words from nine years ago: It’s been a hell of a decade, and I have a sneaky suspicion that the next one is going to be just as amazing.
Here’s the recording of the sonification workshop that I mentioned last time, which I streamed for the folks on the Lines forum. It was a fun hour and a half - talking about how I turn datasets into sound and music, and the tools I’ve built to help. It was a nice opportunity to level up my OBS skills too, so enjoy the blue filter and overlay experimentation.
I’m enormously enjoying Xenoblade Chronicles 3, the game I mentioned last time, despite not being particularly into JRPGs or having played a Xeno game before. I think it’s the writing. There are little moments of joy sprinkled all over it that are wholly unnecessary in terms of the narrative, but just make it so much more fun. Like the characters forgetting a password someone has just told them, or having an intense conversation about the merits of short vs long hair, or there being a cooking-oriented fighting style called the “Yumsmith”. The ridiculous range of English accents in the game is also a joy.
I set up a Spring ‘83 board, which contains preview versions of some of these notes before they go into the main newsletter.
Not sure how long I’ll stick with updating it, network effects means that its usefulness depends greatly on whether anyone else I know has a board that they’re actively updating. If that’s you, then let me know your board URL and I’ll add you to my Springfile.
If you don’t know what all this is about, then head this way.
Thanks to Vas for alerting me to the existence of The Beths, a power-pop quartet from New Zealand. They’re a lot of fun - my favourite track so far is Expert in a Dying Field.
Quite often I use Adobe’s web service to compress PDFs without losing image quality. But it turns out that MacOS Preview has an inbuilt compression tool - Quartz Filters. Unfortunately the default settings suck, but with a little tweaking, you can get them to work much better - chopping down the size of images while still maintaining a reasonable quality level for anything that doesn’t have to be printed.
Glacier mice!! 😍
The Guardian covered some of my team at Possible’s research into the cost of parking cars vs residents using the space for other things, in 10 cities across Britain. Here’s the graphic I made to promote the work on socials.
On 15 September, cryptocurrency Ethereum will switch from a carbon-emissions-intensive proof-of-work system to a much more efficient proof-of-stake system. It has been promising to do this for years and years, and has missed many self-imposed deadlines to do so, but this time seems to be the real deal. And it’s a big deal too, as cryptocurrencies at one point last year (before the crash) resulted in the same amount of carbon emissions as a major European country.
The Guardian’s Alex Hern has a nice, human-readable explainer on the whole situation and how no-one exactly knows what’s going to happen next.
The preparation for the merge is now live in the code that runs the ethereum network. It could still be delayed, but the default case, if no further action is taken, is that the merge will happen as planned.
Let’s hope that it does.
The Street Network is a lovely short film about how a small network that allowed a handful of Cubans to play videogames with each other turned into a DIY internet that connected most of the island. The authorities initially tolerated the explosion of creativity that came alongside but then slowly began to work against it. It’s about 20 minutes long, and well worth your time.
Finally, in the first signs of an impending mid-life crisis, I have bought a bass guitar. Specifically a cheap, second-hand Squier P-bass. A bass was the first instrument that I properly learnt to play about 15 years ago, but I haven’t owned one for a very long time. Luckily, my Eurorack setup can easily handle external instruments, so it’s a fun addition that allows me to play along with whatever generative thing I’ve got going on. Now to build up my long-disappeared finger calluses again - roundwound bass strings hurt.
See you again in 10 days.