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The Best UK Craft Ale Breweries 2018 – a map detailing the best breweries in the UK (and some beyond)

I love a good craft ale and have tried beers from many different breweries over the years.

Below is a map plotting what I think are currently within 2018 some of the best craft ale breweries in the UK (and some beyond). For many I have first-hand experience of their excellent beers (BrewDog, Cloudwater, Odyssey, Verdant etc), or I’ve added them simply because I’ve heard many good things about them (Alphabet, Atom Beers, Glen Affric Brewery etc).

Nearly all of these breweries sell beers online, so if you fancy being adventurous then follow the links and have a go at buying directly from them. There’s some fantastic beers on sale nowadays. It’s an exciting scene to get involved in.

I may well have missed some great breweries – in which case please do say and I’ll get them added.

Cheers and enjoy your next Pale ale, DIPA, Imperial stout, Sour beer or indeed whatever you choose..!

See the below Google map in a separate tab.

Categories: Food and Drink

Feel the love for Electric Six – videos from their album Fire

19 October 2017 Leave a comment
Electric Six's 2003 album debut 'Fire' earned the group significant critical success

Electric Six’s 2003 album debut ‘Fire’ earned the group significant critical success

This is the 2nd post (in what I plan to be a series of posts) about the music I listen to and enjoy. My first was about Darwin Deez.

This post is about the very unique band that is Electric 6, and specifically about their 2003 debut album ‘Fire’ which earned the group significant critical success. It’s a fun album with some brilliant tracks which will put a smile on any face.

“Danger! High Voltage” achieved number 2 on the UK singles chart. Their second single “Gay Bar”, released in 2003, reached No. 5. “Dance Commander”, finally gave Electric Six its third Top 40 single (from this album) in the UK. The album itself reached the top 10 in the UK album chart.

Hailing from Detroit in Michigan, USA, their videos are very amusing and well worth watching. Deliberately low budget, they often don’t feature the band at all and instead feature actors pretending to be the singer – Dick Valentine.

The band’s eccentricity

One thing that also amuses me about their whole persona is the germanesque feel, like they’re a dodgy euro-pop/rock band. Just listen to the singer’s pronunciation of words throughout their songs (“rrrr-ight!”) or for example how he’s dressed in the Danger! High Voltage video to see what I mean (nice tache!). All of which is very eccentric, slightly bizarre or awkward (some would even say creepy) depending on how serious you want to take it all. I personally find it really funny and great entertainment. Which is what you want a band to be.

Dance Commander

This music video features the band’s frontman Dick Valentine dancing erratically around a house.

It’s a slightly different mix of the song and received significant airplay on MTV.

Danger! High Voltage

Now depending on who you believe, this track features Dick Valentine and Jack White (of the White Stripes) singing together. The lady in the video with a brightly flashing codpiece and bra is actress Tina Kanarek. Dick Valentine, the band’s singer, is the strange man looking straight at the camera and giving seductive looks.

Gay Bar

In the video an actor impersonating Dick Valentine is dressed as Abraham Lincoln, for no real apparent reason.


Another tongue-in-cheek video. Excellent.

Categories: Music Tags:

A Google Map of all 2017-18 English football clubs from the Premier League down to the National League

19 October 2017 Leave a comment

Google maps is a great tool to use – you can pin places of interest to a map before visiting anywhere, or jump to street view to see what a particular location looks like before hopefully not getting lost in your car.

The other great thing is the ability to make your own maps. Which I’ve done below.

This is a Google Map of all 2017-18 English football clubs from the Premier League down to the National League. All pinned in layers so you can view each of the different leagues.

There’s also links to each football club, details on their football stadium or ground etc

Inspired by a Sporcle game

I was inspired to create this on the back of one of the best Sporcle games I play every now and then – the fantastic Can you name the English football clubs from the Premier League down to Conferences North and South? In this game you have 18 minutes to name as many clubs as you can. I fully recommend you have a go. The below may even help…

A Google Map of all 2017-18 English football clubs from the Premier League down to the National League

View the below Google map in it’s own tab

What’s it like to go to the BrewDog AGM? – an unofficial write-up of #brewdog #punkagm2016

28 April 2016 1 comment

BrewDog logoEarly in April 2016 I had the great experience of travelling up to Aberdeen and attending the BrewDog Punk AGM 2016, along with 6,000 other happy Equity for Punk shareholders at the UK’s largest Annual General Meeting.

This post describes a bit about the overall experience. Plus there are some tips for other shareholders who are thinking of going in future. Hint: I highly, highly recommend going out of your way to attend! #brewdog #punkagm2016

So who are BrewDog?

First of all for those of you who have never heard of BrewDog, here’s some quick facts:

  • Established in 2007, it’s the #1 craft brewery in the UK ‘selling awesome tasting beer’ and leading a ‘craft beer revolution’. I’d certainly agree with both statements; they do make very excellent beer and is the main reason why they’re doing so well in such a short space of time. Their flagship beer, Punk IPA, is great quality, really tasty and by far their best seller, making up 55% of all BrewDog sales.
  • They broke the world record for online equity crowd funding. The company has undergone a massive transformation, which is all down to how easily it has been for shareholders to invest in the company – all online. There are now 40,000 shareholders, all enjoying discounts on BrewDog beers, both through buying online or via 31 BrewDog bars in the UK and 45 globally. 16 new bars were opened in 2015 alone, including London, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Rome. Equity for Punks 4 was the latest selling of shares which finished in April 2016 having raised £19m. See right to the end of this post for more about the benefits of being an EFP.
  • They are the fastest growing food and drinks company in the UK for the last four years. Their revenue was £45m in 2015 (51% growth from last year). They’re still minnows in the market though, with sales of only 0.1% of the market. They employ over 580 people and ship beers to over 60 countries around the world.
  • The company has great values. They’re a good employer and are heavily investing in their future. They’ve massively upped brewing capacity, have a new canning facility (the largest in Europe) and have even opened a new state of the art brewery in the USA which will help them really break into the largest craft beer market in the world.
  • They also have a very strong and distinctive brand which is instantly recognisable. They’re overall quite anti-establishment and don’t mind pissing others off, such as CAMRA where they’ve been banned from the GBBF.
A few BrewDog beers to enjoy beforehand..

A few BrewDog beers to enjoy beforehand..

Aberdeen and the Castlegate BrewDog and BottleDog

After arriving from Birmingham by plane that morning and before we hit the main event, we went into Aberdeen to have a look around and grab a quick beer (like we needed it with the day ahead..).

A rainy Aberdeen

Looking down Union St in a rainy Aberdeen. BrewDog Castegate is the main building on the left

Aberdeen itself is a lovely city. Though we were unfortunate in that in April, it is a wet, cold and blustery place to walk around (which I’ll come to later).

The main street – Union St – in the middle of the city is lovely. A wide tree lined avenue, full of shops, taxis, as well as a great BrewDog Bar – Castlegate – which has recently opened. We stopped off here to enjoy a couple of Gamma-ray beers and then gawp at the sheer beauty of their in-bar bottle-dog, which is basically a mini-off licence and merchandise store, sectioned off within the pub.

Regarding accommodation, we stayed at the Premier Inn (Premier Inn, Aberdeen City Centresee it on Google maps) which was great and cheap too at £50 a night. The staff there were lovely and so were the rooms – so a big thumbs up to them.


Unfortunately transport was pretty poor overall. Aberdeen just doesn’t have decent enough transport networks to assist that many people all in one place – and it wasn’t just ourselves feeling that. On our trip we met others expressing the same concerns.

We got a bus from the airport to the city centre and bought a day-rider, only to be told later it wasn’t allowed for use on other buses – for example the one to get to the exhibition centre. Undeterred we waited around for another bus – after being advised by staff from the new Castlegate brewdog (which did I mention is really great and well worth visiting?) – only to be told it was the wrong bus! To get to the venue, we ended up sharing a taxi with some other shareholders, a nice friendly bunch from elsewhere in Scotland – Glasgow I think. If it wasn’t them, then we could easily recognise many other BrewDog AGM-goers milling about in Aberdeen, so we could have asked them instead. All it takes is a quick ‘you going to the AGM?’ to broach a conversation with people.

The lack of transport also came back later to bite us. Which I’ll come to explain further on in this post.

First I want to ramble on about just how great the actual event was.

The AGM and the AECC venue

After a short taxi ride we arrived at the venue at about 1:30pm. This I believe was the 4th AGM – or Annual General Mayhem as they like to call it – and the first that I’ve ever attended. It was set in the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), situated about 3-4 miles north of the Aberdeen city centre.

The BrewDog AGM agenda

The BrewDog AGM agenda

The AECC venue is an ideal place. From what I know they’ve expanded and opened up the AGM so that it takes place over a lot more space than compared to previous years. We had the whole complex to ourselves and the conference was spread out across 3 main areas, giving plenty of room for the 6,000-odd AGM goers.

We didn’t queue and walked straight in. The staff were really friendly and told us what to do and where to go.

We were given 10 complimentary tokens to start with, which you could then use to buy beers and food. After that, 6 tokens cost £10. Two tokens could generally buy you most drinks – which depending on what it was you were buying, would get a pint, 2/3rds or a half (see the beers section below for why this is), with some drinks even costing three tokens or more. There was a cash machine on site but we thought it a good idea to bring plenty of cash as no doubt the ATM would have been busy or even empty fairly quickly.

BrewDog AGM 2016 Main Arena full for James and Martin's talk

The Main Arena full for James and Martin’s talk

After grabbing our tokens we walked straight in to the packed main arena, which could easily fit 5,000 people, and instantly felt the great buzz about the place. This large arena-hall was massive – a large floor surrounded by banked seating.

We arrived half-way through the formal talk by the founders of the company – James Wyatt and Martin Dickie. They were both explaining to the assembled army of investors (called EFPs) just how much their investment had made a difference to the company, as well as the great things in store for the year ahead.

The talk was very funny and engaging. The company is clearly making great progress.

Regarding the two founders:

  • James is the brains behind the company’s business-dealings – with a degree in Law & Economics, he traded in his former career as a deep-sea captain (!), and ‘pursued his passion for great craft beer by setting up the company with Martin Dickie. James was awarded Great British Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014, and was Europe’s first Master Cicerone‘.
  • Martin Dickie is the brains behind the brewing – ‘with a first class honours degree in Brewing & Distilling from Herriot Watt University. He is a renegade artist on a mission to change people’s  perceptions about beer and challenge their taste-buds’.

You may have seen a recent TV show all about BrewDog (which I admit I haven’t watched yet) where unfortunately James didn’t come across in the most flattering light – and this I’ve heard from multiple people. All I can say was they both were very charming on stage and clearly passionate about the company – so to my mind very good figureheads for the company.

Swedish Death Candy in the The Punk AGM main arena

Swedish Death Candy in the main arena

After the talk, staff descended and cleared the main arena area of seats, so that bands could start to play. The bands included Idlewild, Swedish Death Candy, Hunter and the Bear, Honeyblood, Smash Williams, Frightened Rabbit – all playing long into the night. My particular favourite was UK Subs who were last on.

Linking off from the main arena within a short walk were several other areas and rooms. These contained a variety of different food stalls, seating, long tables, tasting rooms, outside smoking areas, art work, activities and lots more.

So while they were clearing the seats, this gave us a chance to look around. Such as at the Boyd Orr room (see further below) and at the many various food outlets and beer stalls.

The vibe

There was an overall really good feel and buzz to the event. A bit of a festival-type community feel to it, which is lovely to be a part of.


The Boyd Orr room had a great vibe to it

Everyone was smiling and being polite; holding doors open etc. All the people we met were talkative. We chatted to people from across the UK – from Scotland, the north of England, London etc. We even got chatting to a bunch of lads who had specially travelled all the way from Sweden.

Generally the average age of stakeholders was around 30-ish. I think. The majority of them men at a rough 80-20 split.

We saw absolutely no trouble. There were no football hooligans or other idiots that you may see at similar events where everyone’s drinking beer all day. Everyone seemed to pace themselves, which the promoters are keen for everyone to stick to.

We didn’t see anybody falling over or being sick, or any argy-bargy at all. Though admittedly by the end of the night the main toilets were a bit grim…

The beers

There was an amazing selection of beers – more than you could possibly ever try. These included both BrewDog beers and guest beers. Drinks either came in 1/2 pint, 2/3 pint or pint glasses. No cash was taken at the many beer stalls. Only tokens. Generally it was 2 tokens per drink but some were 3 tokens. 3 tokens being the equivalent of £5. All was served refreshingly cold in plastic glasses.

First Punk IPAs of the day

First Punk IPAs of the day

As mentioned the beers are really very good and the key reason for BrewDog’s success. Punk IPA is clearly one of the best all-rounder they have and this shows as it accounts for a massive 55% of all their sales.

We set out to try as many beers as we realistically could, aiming for experiencing the beers in low-volumes rather than blitzing them (ourselves?) with too much quantity. A marathon, not a race, and all that.

Some of the beers really stood out for me. It was the first time I tried ‘This is Elvis’, which is a wonderful grapefruit-infused beer. ‘Grapefruit-infused beer’ sounds pretty awful, but it’s sheer zestiness, it’s refreshingness and drink-ability is truly amazing and something to be experienced. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend you do when you get a chance.

Apart from ‘This is Elvis’, a complaint that could be levelled at BrewDog is that a lot of their beers are very similar to Punk IPA.

I wrote some notes on my phone (before it died mid-afternoon) about the beers we were tasting, which to my admittedly basic and unsophisticated palette went something like this:

  • Gamma Ray – Like Punk IPA, but less flavoursome
  • 5am Saint – Bitter. Smooth. Punk IPA like.
  • Born to die – Stronger IPA. Tasty. A lot of fuss about it.
  • Zeitgeist – Very tasty Porter stout thing. Black lager. Nice.
  • This is Elvis – Lovely and fruity. Really tasty and refreshing.
  • Hardcore IPA – Really strong Punk-IPA like beer. Bit too strong to enjoy.
  • Arcade Nation – Tasty IPA mixed with stout-like flavours. Interesting.
  • Jet Black Heart – Gorgeous, creamy stout. Full of flavour. Definitely a favourite.
  • Ace of Simcoe – Light hoppy beer. Very tasty.
  • Vagabond Pale Ale – Another light hoppy beer. OK.
A selection of beer for the weekend

A selection of beer for the weekend

There were also other drinks, like Jack Hammer and Albino Squid Assassin, which I cannot exactly remember now but thought they were very good too.

I know my beer tasting palette is poor and needs improvement – for example, even after drinking it many times, I only realised the other day how much Punk IPA tasted like grapefruit!

I’m sure after time that my tastes will become far better as distinguishing the different flavours of each beer. Really this I can only look forward to as a fun journey!

All in all you can definitely tell their beers are a premium product. You really do pay for what you get, which on reflection I’m more and more happy to subscribe to. I definitely think drinking less but drinking far better quality beer is the best direction to head in. Though I do draw the line at £10 for a can of Black Eyed King Imp however amazing it’s supposed to be.

The BrewDog Headliners range

The BrewDog Headliners range – No added ingredients or preservatives. No chemicals. No cheap substitutes. Just barley, hops, yeast, water and mind-blowing flavour.

Regular and enhanced ranges

Little book of Hops and Dreams

Little book of Hops and Dreams – click to open

The BrewDog range of beers is split up into several different overall groups/sections:

The Headliners range is the regular range and includes:

  • Punk IPA, 5.4% – Post Modern Classic.
  • Dead Pony Club, 3.8% – Session Pale ale.
  • 5 AM Saint, 5.0% – American Red Ale.
  • Jet Black Heart, 4.7% – Oatmeal Milk Stout.
  • Kingpin, 4.7% – 21st Century Lager.

Whereas the Amplified range includes:

  • Hardcore IPA, 9.2% – Explicit Adult Hops.
  • Elvis Juice, 6.5% – Grapefruit Infused IPA.
  • Jack Hammer, 7.2% – Ruthless India Pale Ale.
  • Cocoa Psycho, 10% – Russian Imperial Stout.
  • Tokyo, 16.5% – Intergalactic Stout.

Take part in the quick Apester poll below

If you’ve tried them, click on the below to take part in this quick poll to tell us what your favourite regular and enhanced BrewDog beers are:

BrewDog Apester poll - what's your favourite Headliner and Amplified beer?

BrewDog Apester poll – what’s your favourite Headliner and Amplified beer?

Beer tastings

As well as enjoying the beers on general sale throughout the event, there was the option to also attend separate beer tastings at £5 per ticket. These you had to buy tickets for in advance of the event and quickly sold out.

Two Gamma Rays at BrewDog Castlegate Aberdeen

Two Gamma Rays – a lovely dark ale

We attended the BrewDog tasting session at 5:45pm. It was 3 staff brewers at the front giving a slide-less stand-up talk about 2 beers which we got to taste. There were easily 400 people in the room. It was fairly noisy with all the chattering of the crowd, making it hard to hear was was being said by the mic-less presenters, but everyone was well behaved.

As we tried the 2 beers – one handed out after the other – we were told about the ideas for their creation, the brewing process and the presenters took questions. Both beers were again really tasty, though one was Marmite-inducing in that you either loved it or hated it. Unfortunately I cannot recall what the beers were.

The other tastings were put on by:

The food

Everyone knows drinking lots of beer makes food taste a whole-lot better and there was loads of choice. Some really tasty grub. Choices included Pieminster, vegetarian stuff, Mexican food, hot dogs, burgers. So everyone was more than well catered for.

Longhorn grub

Tasty Longhorn grub

Mid afternoon I bought a chilli for 3 tokens, which amazingly was literally just chilli with several doritos on top. No rice or anything alongside. I voiced my surprise to the chap who was serving and he sheepishly shrugged and apologised with a ‘yes I can’t believe it too’ look.

Outside were quite a few food outlets, along with the mobile Truck Norris BrewDog bar – which would be awesome to hire for your own party. One of the food outlets ‘Longhorn’ were selling some amazing looking burgers, but at a whopping £10 per burger! We were hungry and they looked well worth it, so we joined the back of the long queue. After 10 mins it started to rain, which then got heavier and heavier. We waited for 40 mins in the cold, but it wasn’t really that bad – we stood chatting to others in the queue, sharing umbrellas with others. It was a really very funny experience. Beer makes every one relaxed so the conversation flows and there was lots of laughter.

We also enjoyed the food afterwards. So well worth the wait.

The Boyd Orr room

Over the other side of the arena, via a short flight of stairs and a covered walkway over the road, was an ideal room in which to sit – the Boyd Orr room. Around the sides were more food stalls, plus large banks of stepped seating. At one end was a a massive screen showing a live feed from the main arena such as the many bands on during the day. The room had a great buzz and was very relaxing to sit in.

The Boyd Orr Room

One of the several bars in the Boyd Orr Room

The centre of the room was full of long, long tables where you could easily chat to others. There were various board games dotted about, similar to BrewDog bars. We tried playing Cluedo, but it didn’t work with only 2 of us and there was no-one else free nearby in which to join us (they were busy having fun chatting or playing their own games). So we had a go at playing Jenga. After we got bored of that, we built a massive tower, easily 4-5 foot high above the table on which we managed to precariously rest a pint of beer – much to the delight of everyone nearby. I unfortunately didn’t get to snap it though as my phone ran out of juice.

There was also a small stage at the front where various activities and demonstrations were on show. At one point a table tennis table was set up and two expert players were smashing Ping pong balls back and forth. They then got people up from the audience to try and knock over empty beer can lined-up on the far edge. It was obviously much more difficult than it looked with many hopelessly hooning the ping pong ball as powerfully as they could well wide of the mark.

The Good..

The experience was really positive. I’d definitely go again. The event was well run and very enjoyable to attend. The variety of excellent beer to try was great and the experience of a full day spent drinking the many choices whilst listening to bands and chilling in a relaxed environment was really fun.

It is an expensive day out though. Much like the beer which is a premium product.  It really would be a very expensive hobby if you were to solely drink their beer. For example I looked afterwards at buying some beer online, but a mixed batch of 24x 330ml cans are £44, plus you’ve got p&p on top. Though you do have a 20% discount if you’re a shareholder which helps massively.

.. and the bad

We left at event close – I think about 11pm-ish – to once again enjoy the cold, wet and blustery weather. There was a massive queue for taxis though – easily 50+ people and taxis were only arriving every 5-10 mins apart. After a bit we decided it was too cold to stand around waiting so walked round the block to the bus stop, which we discovered had an even bigger queue.

The Leicester BrewDog

Enjoy delicious beer at a BrewDog near you – such as the Leicester BrewDog

So we decided to start walking the 3 miles or so back to Aberdeen – and the rain just got heavier and heavier. We were justified in that on the walk back, only one packed-to-the-brim bus passed us. There were also no available taxis, even heading in the opposite direction to us going back towards the AECC.

We would have loved to end up that night back in the Castlegate BrewDog, but the weather finished us off, so a warm bed beckoned instead.

Tips for going in the future

  • Take good walking shoes.
  • Take a water-proof, warm jacket.
  • Read up on the beers beforehand so you know which ones to target.
  • Try new beers, including those from guest brewers.
  • Pace yourself – have only halves where you can.
  • Take lots of money.
  • Share taxis with others where you can.
  • Don’t worry about queuing for food. It’s worth it and you’ll get to know people in the queue with you.
  • Don’t stay to the end unless you want to see all the bands.
  • Enjoy yourself and talk to others. All are like minded people having a fun time.
  • If you have time – go visit the Aberdeen Brewery.
  • Overnight, stay in your own single room at the hotel and away from loved ones. That much beer doesn’t do any wonders for the stomach!

So, should you join the club?

So if you’re not a BrewDog shareholder, firstly well done for getting this far in the post. But should you invest in BrewDog and become a shareholder? What are the costs and benefits etc?

BrewDog Equity for Punks

BrewDog Equity for Punks – click to see the Equity for Punks IV prospectus

To invest and get a shareholder card costs upwards from £95, which buys you 2 shares and brings you plenty of benefits. See the Benefits of investing in BrewDog. This describes benefits such as the discounts you can get in bars and online, the exclusive first options on all new beers and more.

Upwards from £95, you can access some pretty amazing bonus shareholder perks, such as free beer for life, be the brewer, your own sour beer cask, behind the scenes tours, beer truck parties and loads more. These benefits though start from £5,000, so you have to be pretty special benefactor and/or have the spare cash to go for these. See Boosted Benefits for details.

So the last bit of advice I can leave you with, is if you like awesome beer and you fancy being part of a community of like-minded craft-beer lovers, then this would be right up your street.

I’ve certainly very much enjoyed being part of this wonderful community. I always enjoy visiting their bars in any city I stay at and have started to buy from their excellent online shop.

Use my referral code

If you do want to join then this is an ideal opportunity for me to shamelessly promote my referral code. Please do use this when you join as it gives me referral points, which add up and give me some fab benefits.

So when Equity for Punks is next open, visit the Equity for Punks webpage and use: R036212. A big thank you from me if you do, and please contact me so I can arrange to buy you a pint – maybe at the next BrewDog Punk AGM!

What I’d like to see next for BrewDog

By far the cheapest way to currently enjoy their beer is oddly not directly via BrewDog (either online or via a bar) but instead via Sainsbury’s who stock the larger BrewDog Punk IPA 660ml bottle at only £2.50. You can buy this in store or via their website.

I’m not sure how long this deal will last but I’m definitely taking advantage of it whilst I can.

I’d love to see these larger bottles rolled out for the entire Headliners range. This, in my opinion, would open up and allow these lovely beers to be bought and enjoyed far more cost effectively by many more people. It’d even be great if other supermarkets such as Tesco etc could be brought on-board to sell these too.

Your comments

So did you go yourself to the Punk AGM? Please leave me any thoughts below. Thanks.

Slowly falling in love with Evernote – ideas for using it effectively in real life

27 October 2015 Leave a comment

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Via a brilliant app called Blinkist, I’ve just read ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen – a key business title outlining ‘proven principles’ for good personal organisation, on approaching professional and personal tasks and getting control and focus.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

‘GTD’ by David Allen

One of the main concepts of the book is that in order to devote ourselves fully to our tasks, our minds need space. That’s why we should bundle all important information in a reliable productivity system outside our own heads.

Such ‘collection’ buckets’ as he calls them, include calendars, lists, notebooks and other storage – the key idea being these should be easily accessible anywhere you go and should be used frequently to de-clutter your mind and to organise your time more productively and focus on key tasks.

Fortunately all the ideas he describes I pretty much already do. I’ve always used my calendar to book future time out and section-off set periods to focus on key tasks. That way I ensure the most important tasks get the most attention etc. Outlook Tasks are also wonderful to use and invaluable to remember things, highlight key emails and more.

However none of these have been quite as useful as Evernote, and the purpose of this post is to explain why!


A key tool which I have fallen into heavily using over the last year is the wonderful and amazing Evernote, which I’ve been slowly falling in love with as it’s really that good!

Evernote logo with Remember Everything tagline

It’s a tool which over the years I’d always heard great reviews about but never properly tried until recently. So I started trialling the free version in early 2015 and moved over to the premium version later that summer.

It’s really helped organise both my work life and personal life. There’s loads of great features which together add loads of value. I use it every day now for a variety of things.

You can read the Evernote website for a full list of all the features. I just wanted to go through and outline a few real life uses and how I use them to help organise my own time and work.

Access synced notes, on any device

Add the App to your iPad, add it to your Android phone plus also to both your work and home PC browsers. All points of access are fully synced, meaning you can access the exact same content anywhere – simply by refreshing.

Synced content makes Evernote really useful for:

  • Making notes during a meeting on an iPad, then editing and completing them on your PC browser. I always go to my PC to finish notes as the interface is far easier and quicker in which to format notes and make them look good. Hint: if you’re taking notes on a tablet or smartphone, download and use a swipe keyboard such as Swiftkey, Swype of Fleksy. They’re brilliant keyboards and will save you loads of time when typing on such a portable device.
  • Adding content from your PC so that you can access it quickly and easily on a mobile device. I find this works well when going to a meeting. Beforehand I forward the email or text from a calendar appointment to Evernote. I can then switch to my iPad to use the same note as an agenda during the meeting and flesh out / make notes within that same note during that meeting. After which I switch back to my PC browser to edit the note.
  • During Astronomy groups, I can quickly call up key resources about constellations and planets. These are far easier to collate materials via your web browser. By using the Evernote Web-clipper I can save images of constellations and websites directly into Evernote. All fit under an ‘Astronomy’ category in my Evernote profile, so the use of tags i.e. ‘Orion’, ‘Cygnus’, Capricornus’ , ‘Neptune’ etc makes it far easier to quickly access related materials saved into Evernote about that constellation or planet. Incidentally, another app which works really well for this is Flipboard, which presents your curated collections of websites in a much more pleasingly graphical way – see my Astronomy and the night sky Flipboard – – for an example of what you can do in Flipboard.

Sharing content

For any note you create, you can share the note and via a link you send via email to your recipient, you can set whether that person can just view the note, or even be a contributor and edit that note.

Sharing notes in this way makes Evernote very good for:

  • Taking notes during a meeting with a client or work colleague, then forwarding your notes to them afterwards so that they can see notes and actions (for them and ones for you). The ability to insert tick-boxes into notes helps for such actions to stand out. You can also then ‘tick them off’ when these actions have been completed.
  • I also find sharing notes easily lets you set out key resources for the other person to be aware of. This includes sharing websites by inserting hyperlinks into notes, or even adding attachments such as PDFs so that they can access a document.
  • I also find that the ability to go into and update the shared note works really well too. So for example, if I’ve already shared the note with someone, and then afterwards remembered that there’s something else I needed to add, then that’s fine. I just go into the same shared note and update it. The next time they access it, they see the updated content.
  • If they have edit rights, they can update notes, add new content, ‘tick off’ any actions they were assigned to them and more!
  • You can communicate and discuss with those that you have shared notes with using the work chat function within Evernote. So for example, comment on notes you’ve shared, provide advice and talk to them within Evernote instead of switching to your email.

To do lists

A big part of Evernote is the ability to create and easily manage lists, such as to-do lists.

Evernote tick-able actions

I use Evernote to capture ideas for blog posts and then tick them off when done.

The ability to create lists of tick-able items works really well – see the image to the right to see what this looks like in practice.

Ticking off items within these lists also induces that wonderful sense of satisfaction in getting thing done!

When viewing them using the PC web browser, such reminders also rise to the top and are visible above all other notes. You can tick off whole notes, edit them, plus add reminders so that alerts pop-up at relevant times.

Plus of course you can update them on any device or share them and collaborate with others to complete lists.

I find that if I’m on holiday I make a list of what I want to additionally achieve in my life when I get back – like look into a qualification, go swimming more, try certain sports or clubs etc. You can then keep this list and tick them off as you achieve them.

Capture ideas whenever and wherever

The ability to create or update notes whenever and wherever, also helps to capture those ideas or moments of inspiration that pop into your mind whenever they hit you.

Evernote widget options on a Samsung

Evernote widget options on a Samsung Galaxy 5

For example, if you’re reading a book, or walking to the car, or out on a bike ride, you can stop and via a widget on your smart phone, you can easily:

  • type quick notes
  • set reminders
  • create hand-written notes ie. using the screen as a pad of paper
  • record and capture spoken notes (this is really quick) OR even record speech and convert into text!
  • capture photos
  • scan documents – though I have to say, from what I’ve seen it’s not as effective as using Microsoft’s Office Lens, so I rely on that.
  • scan business cards – this is handy as it links with your contacts on your phone and converts a business card into a contact

When back at your PC or on your tablet, you can then decide what to do with these ideas and take action.

Capture everything else

Evernote Web Clipper

As well as easily capturing the above via the widget on your phone, you can add the Evernote Web Clipper extension to Chrome or to Firefox which enables you to clip whole pages or articles from the web and save them in Evernote. The best way to do this is to clip them as a ‘Simplified Article’, which strips out the webpage’s surrounding menu, adverts, widgets etc and saves it an easy to read article.

Evernote Web Clipper extension to Chrome

Evernote Web Clipper extension for Chrome

This works really well for saving interesting articles and content for later reading. It is very similar to using Pocket (another really fab web service and app to know about) – however Pocket is far better at saving condensed versions of web pages for reading offline on any device. The build in audio function within Pocket for reading content to you is very good too.

After using the Web Clipper to clip webpages, you can then annotate them:

  • If you’ve clipped the webpage as a screenshot, you can add text, shapes, arrows, and stamps, or use the highlighter to draw attention to particular text. This is great for explaining to someone how to perform an action, or to explain something further on a web page – like in this example where I’ve provided tips on how to use to another colleague. This was so easy to create.
  • If you’ve clipped it as a simplified article you can edit the webpage text, perhaps rephrase it or add your own further content and notes to the webpage. This is really useful if you’re learning something new, or if the web page is particularly content/text heavy, or needs amending. One thing that does work really well is then to share the Evernote notebook that you’ve clipped these articles to, such as in these examples – eLearning articles or HE Sector articles.

Email your Evernote account

As already mentioned, the ability to email directly to Evernote so that it creates a note is brilliantly useful too.

Use this to save key emails, including attachments and more.

Search and find anything you need easily

For anything added to Evernote, you can categorise it by adding it to a Notebook – for example ‘work’, ‘personal’, ‘interesting to read’, ‘Reminders’, ‘Holidays’ etc. This lets you add structure to all your notes.

Additionally you can also add tags to any note. Use tags like keywords so that you can draw and create links between notes that share the same topic but which sit in different notebooks.

Notebooks and tags can be easily used to find content. Alternatively simply use the inbuilt search function to quickly call up notes.

I’ve also noticed, you can share notebooks with people (e.g. eLearning articlesHE Sector articles), but not tags.

General filing

You’ll quickly find that Evernote will fill up with all sorts of useful information. In order to help you manage this mass of information (and it will quickly start to feel unwieldy), try these tips:

  • tag all notes with at least 2-3 tags – as well as making information generally easier to find, you’re also creating links between information. This can be really useful down the line as it helps you to notice and therefore make use of other related content, which you may not have thought to find and use.
  • merge notes – sadly you can only do this with the Evernote desktop app, which is a shame, as the ability to combine notes together can really help to organise an de-clutter. I would recommend you download and use the Windows Desktop app where you can as it’s really very good – it has more administrative functions and the general user experience is better.
  • periodically revisit your categories and tags – delete unused tags, convert categories to tags and vice versa, restructure content to make it fit better, rename categories and tags.
  • delete or merge notes – get rid of anything out of date, or merge notes together (this is find really useful for merging notes taken during project meetings after the project has finished).

he kind of stuff you can save in Evernote

To give you an idea, here’s the kind of stuff I save in Evernote, all which is easily accessible:

  • Key websites – either bookmarks them, or save them as a ‘simplified article’ which you can then add your own notes and make alterations.
  • Meeting minutes – take notes during a meeting, add tick lists etc, then improve them on your work PC afterwards, share them if you need to. Use them to remember what you need to do and chase actions.
  • Important emails – usually I merge these, makes notes in them, add attachments and more.
  • P60s, Insurance docs etc – all that kind of legal stuff which is usually filed away in some forgotten place. Read their security policy – – if you have any queries or concerns about saving secure information in Evernote. Disclaimer: it’s really up to you though if you want to use Evernote to save confidential info. If you’re concerned, don’t save any personal information in there.
  • Instruction manuals or guides – as well as saving PDF guides, snap any physical manuals (which usually have the same instructions in several different languages so are always far bigger than you actually need), then you can throw the paper manual away, rather than it sitting in a drawer being hidden and forgotten about.
  • Any CPD content – you’re probably using web page content for any learning and development you’re undertaking, so clip it to Evernote, make notes within it, link it to other content and more. All will help make your learning stick.
  • Brand documents and strategy – that way you have strategy, operational plans, competencies, behaviours, values, marketing docs, brand guidelines etc all easily to hand.
  • Reminders – set reminders on key notes. Or create ideas in Evernote first, then use a simpler, more focused task management app such as the brilliant Wunderlist or Trello and add links to Evernote notes in there. This is good for home projects too.
  • Key files – I have loads of training materials and project documents backed up in Evernote, should I ever need to retrieve them quickly. Either that or simply links to Google Drive documents or OneDrive documents or folders. As they’re tagged, I can easily retrieve links and access contently quickly without fuss.
  • Menus for restaurants and takeaways – That way you can discard the paper version.
  • Family stuff – Kids homework tips, or generally just photos of fun stuff they’ve created, or their achievements. Great for saving all the lovely materials from life.
  • Presents and gifts – Groupon vouchers or presents I must use by a certain date etc.
  • Highlighted content from Blinkist – this is automatically saved in Evernote and helps me to remember and recall key information learnt in books.
  • Misc. lists, lists, lists – Lists of books to read, videos to watch, Spotify music to download, apps to try, piano or guitar songs to learn, a wishlist for your dream car garage etc etc – the possibilities are endless…

Fancy giving Evernote a try?

Have I missed anything?

If you use Evernote, what do you find most useful? Please say below!

Categories: Technology

Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map

20 October 2015 Leave a comment

A really interesting post about the Dymaxion map

Joe Blogs

As I was looking through the RIBA Journal recently, I came across an article about a new Energy Report from the WWF. This beautiful looking document outlines an argument for a carbon free world by 2050 and was produced and designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his company OMA.

Apart from the obvious and rather worrying energy related issues, what caught my attention was the use of an unusual world projection to illustrate  the various statistics and findings of the report.

Designed by another architect, the American genius Richard Buckminster Fuller, and patented as long ago as 1946, the Dymaxion or Fuller Projection map, was his attempt to portray the spherical nature of our planet as a two dimensional flat projection, whilst retaining as much of the relative proportional integrity of the original globe.

The striking upshot of this approach is illustrated in the image above and…

View original post 416 more words

Categories: History

Why do toothbrushes fall over so easily?

27 August 2015 Leave a comment
Fallen over toothbrush

Dammit! Why do tooth brushes have to fall over all too easily?

I was thinking this morning, why do tooth brushes fall over on their side so easily?

Usually I put toothpaste on my wife’s toothbrush so it’s ready for her when she wakes up. It’s just a nice thing to do. It seems mean squirting toothpaste onto my brush (before I’m about to use it) but ignoring hers. She’s always up soon after me so the toothpaste won’t have a chance to go ‘hard’ and be yucky.

However the problem is that after you’ve put toothpaste on the toothbrush head and put it back down on the shelf/sink top/window ledge etc, instead of it staying upright, they’re too easy to knock so that they rock and fall over on their side. Thus getting a little dab of toothpaste on top of your bathroom shelf / sink or wherever, which you have to wipe off. Dammit!

A sturdier toothbrush base is required! One where it’s much more difficult for the toothbrush to rock and fall sideways.

Why have product designers at Colgate etc not realised this. It seems such common sense to me. You can surely still have a toothbrush with a nice grip etc, which they all seem to nowadays, but where it always sits well.

Categories: Everyday life Tags:
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