Weeknotes #55: connecting

  • Went out to see friends three times and it was mostly very tiring, cold and wet. But I’m trying to persevere with this socialising thing.
  • Elvis our dog’s separation anxiety is pretty extreme, which is understandable given that his owner of 10 years did simply disappear one day and never come back. We need to start a strict process to get him used to us not being around, but the pandemic has made that less important because we haven’t really needed to leave the house in 15 months.
  • Hitting the groove with work, smashing through acronyms, facilitating conversations, slowly seeing potential ways forward.
  • Eurovision happened! Poor James Newman. He didn’t deserve to come last. But the field was strong this year. Lots of treats and earworms.
  • I’ve been continuing to chat with film crew I met on the course I took a couple of weeks ago and we’ve agreed to set ourselves some peer assignments which I’m looking forward to completing. I’ve been nerding out since over various Logic Pro tutorials, books; videos about what makes the Marvel universe movie music so unmemorable, and this really quite instructive two-hour lecture on scoring a short film from start to finish by Jono Buchanan at Goldsmiths. A better advert for their degree courses is hard to imagine.
  • Talking of Logic, all this recent musicing made me want to open up and listen to some old creations, except I couldn’t. I made a lot of them in Logic Express on an old Windows XP machine between 2000-4. Converting them to be usable in 2021 involved finding a (licensed) copy of Logic Pro 7.2 from 2006 –with a valid USB-A dongle key – to save in a format that is openable by modern software. Luckily a very nice choir director in Germany did the converts for me for a nominal price. Moral of the story: digital housekeeping is a thing. I learned a lot about the potential and pitfalls of emulation on the way, mind.
  • Continuing with significant physio on my foot every day to fix the PTTD, but making really negligible progress, and this is getting me down a bit. Its’s a slow burn.
  • Struggled a bit lately with weeknotes (to the point where I even procrastinated into applying a new theme to the blog). Cory’s post on the memex method has given be a bit more inspiration to write and structure more often.
Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #54: injections

  • Thank you to the lovely Anke at the Francis Crick Institute for giving me a nice dose of lovely AstraZeneca make-feel-nice coronavirus-busting juice.
  • After the initial euphoria, I was knocked sideways for a day and had to stay in bed playing computer games, but I’m feeling a bit better now.
  • Otherwise, a really good week.
  • Work is very much in questioning and finding the challenges mode, so lots of conversations and whiteboarding and connecting dots. Adjusting to not being 100% in delivery mode is taking a bit of time.
  • I took a three day course (on zoom) with the NFTS on composing for screen, led by Mathias Nielsen. It was extremely inspiring, fun, and useful – and I need to keep the momentum from this going.
  • Decided to try out Line of Duty to see what all the fuss was about. Have already hoovered up Seasons 1 and 2. So drama! Such ethics! Or as they might say in Essex, effics.
  • It’s Eurovision week this week and I’m 100% ready.
  • Collecting samples of Elvis the dog noises using the Koala sampler is taking a while, but I’ve collected about 32 nuggets of arf and there’s probably enough to make a simple kick / plop / fizz drum backing.
Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #53: cold

  • It’s cold.
  • I also caught a cold and wham, it proper knocked me out for about five days. Properly hacking cough, the works.
  • So, apart from one really great courtyard dinner at Lurra last week, all other outdoor plans got cancelled.
  • A lot of tele and online courses and work instead.
  • Watched Nomadland, and was mesmerised throughout. Jessica Bruder the author of the book on which the film is based is a sort of distant cousin in the logical family of our Burning Man camp, and it’s no coincidence that the film begins and ends in Empire, Nevada – the penultimate desert outpost before the festival. It’s a place that I’ve always had a slightly grim fascination with due to the decline of the gypsum mine and the modern day parallels with 80s UK. I read a review that drew much deeper historical parallels with the pioneers and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.
  • What will the near-future incarnation of this look like when tech industry is redundant / replaced by bots? I woke up at 6am on Sunday and, inexplicably, wrote a poem musing on this. I don’t write poems. I’m not sure what happened. But it’s sitting in drafts to be looked at suspiciously later.
  • Also watched The Rider (to continue the Chloe Zhao binge) and, because we are apparently now suckers for films that follow outsiders, Sauvage (which contains pretty graphic violence & sex scenes in case you’re considering). All three are very good in their ways, although I think I need something lighter for the foreseeable.
  • Someone shared this tool with me which looks pretty good: WhatsFinished – a way of summarising and announcing a team’s work.
  • I tried again unsuccessfully to get a fly-by vaccine at the Crick last week, but it seems that new age groups are opening up about once or twice a week so it should be only a matter of time before I can worry slightly less about being an inadvertent super-spreader.
  • I can now play at least two chords pretty well on the guitar thanks to Yousician and Coursera’s introduction to guitar course. Knowing music theory is very helpful. My fingers are regularly numb.
  • Work ramps back up this week to a reasonable thrum so I’m really pleased I got everything on the life admin list done in the last couple of quieter weeks (I did not).

Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #52: Deadlines

  • I’ve only a couple of deadlines at the moment which feels pretty delicious.
  • Busier again from next week, so making the most of a final quieter week to tie up some life admin loose ends, and trying to assess and juggle various leads coming in to achieve the right fit of work over the summer.
  • Still no vaccine, but the progress through age cohorts seems faster than online calculators might suggest and I am keeping a little eye out for end-of-day surplus at the local centres. No dice so far.
  • Really saddened by the relentless new surge happening in India and thinking about all my friends in Rainbow Voices Mumbai for whom singing together must feel a long way off right now.
  • For many years now I’ve suffered from foot woe, most recent diagnosis and physio was last October. I’m getting really sick of it and have launched an all-out attack of 10 alternating physio exercises every day before breakfast (habit chaining), tracking using a spreadsheet. It’s a bit of a high governance approach but so far it’s working and I’ve managed to do it nearly every day for a few weeks. No sign of significant improvement yet but I’m in this one for the long haul.
  • I listened to the audiobook of Blood and Sugar and it was absolutely as gripping as reading it with my actual eyes.
  • Watching The Serpent. Never has one TV show contained so much vomit.
  • I got accepted onto a three day short course at the NFTS in May on composing for film – a bit of a side-step but a skill I want to try and rediscover in my spare time, having not really done anything like this for many years.
  • Yousician has taught me some basic guitar fingering. As a pianist it feels like I’m arriving on a different planet to see how they approach making music.
  • The long-term project to make a dance track out of noises Elvis the pug makes is coming along slowly but surely. I now have at least 16 samples of his various snuffle-pop-arfs thanks to Koala.
Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #51: on embracing the things we’re mediocre at

  • Because we’re allowed to meet up with people we know in three dimensions, I’ve jumped back on the unfamiliar bandwagon that is ‘socialising’.
  • Outside, with layers, of course.
  • I returned a guitar that I’d borrowed nine years ago from a friend, with the intention to learn. I am very glad to be able to return it. I failed to use it to learn, and my friend’s children now have a beautiful instrument around should they feel inclined. It was also a delight to catch up. She reflected on how lockdown has taught her to embrace the things we’re mediocre at. This really resonated with me: I left feeling sorry that I never properly made use of the opportunity to learn. So I have acquired a new guitar, and that is a little project for 2021. My aim is simply to double the number of chords I can remember from my teens from four to eight. Hopefully achievable.
  • But, I scalded my right thumb steaming carrots, so I’ll probably wait for that to heal up a bit first.
  • I’m extremely bored of (my own) cooking.
  • So many ideas come from these random conversations with others, that have completely dried up in the last year. I hope this year brings a bit more inspiration.
  • Which reminds me, in September last year I picked up a book on Jazz piano. I spent a good couple of hours going through it at first and have failed to return to it, partly because the piano is currently buried under a sea of life admin. So, that’s going on the project list too…
  • I read The Freelance Bible by Alison Grade on recommendation of Nigel and wish I’d read it about three years ago, nonetheless it is useful and contains lots of things I’ve learned through the MBA and/or the hard way and some good ideas of things to do next.
  • Trying to get a builder to come and do All The Things in our house has reminded me how much I hate trying to get builders to come and do all the things. Is there a way to shortcut this? I wish.
  • I’ve set up an (infrequent) monitoring service on the book a vaccine website and it’s telling me about every content design change that’s made, which is pleasing the inner nerd in me.
  • I’ve been watching Deutschland 86/89 and I feel like I need a miro board of plot just to keep a vague sense of wtf is happening // it’s a (somewhat ridiculous) reminder that messy is inevitable, and okay.
  • Baking bread again. Tasty AF (where AF stands for autolyse ferment of course)

Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #50: tilting to the light

  • The weather has decided to take the transition to British Summer Time quite literally by providing the most abrupt shift I’ve ever witnessed from frigid cloud to blazing sun and 23 degree days.
  • I’ve always thought it quite ironic that British Summer Time lasts seven months when we know full well it really lasts about five minutes
  • Really busy tying up loose ends with lots of things and discussing future work and and and. Lots and lots of context switching.
  • Loads of films this week too courtesy of BFI Flare: and they were all brilliant in different ways. Not a dud among the bunch. What a treat. All well worth a watch: Dramarama, Rurangi, Sweetheart, Sublet, Cowboys, Jump Darling, Cured, and P.S. Burn This Letter Please.
  • Watching a queer film every night has led to an unusual calm sense of belonging to the world: seeing something every day that features people like you. Makes you realise how much you miss it when it’s over.
  • Like Tom I’m impatient about getting a vaccine. I keep walking past the Francis Crick Institute, our most local vaccine centre, with fluttering eyelashes, but nothing. Will be at least another month I guess.
  • I’ve been trying to take a picture every day on Instagram this year. It’s been a real slog during the lockdown but it has been an exercise in appreciating the everyday in a way that works better for me than McMindfulness (thanks to Laura for this podcast tip)
  • Recently discovered the Duolingo spanish podcast which is genuinely pretty great.
  • Embarked on a new sourdough starter. Why not.
  • Genuinely incensed by this government claiming there is no structural racism in the UK. The BMJ sum it up quite well in their riposte.
  • Having a little week off, which also means a week off of weeknotes. Back mid April.

Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #49: planting seeds

  • A week of planning endings and new beginnings.
  • Since the pandemic began I’ve been working with the team on the Get help with technology service at Department for Education. It’s been a privilege to work on a service that has enabled over a million young people continue learn at home while schools have been fully or partially closed. It has also been a real rollercoaster and my first time adapting my skills to a civil service context, in a crisis. The service is now looking to the future and it feels like a good moment to step away, so I’ll be finishing working on it at the end of March and continuing with some of the other smaller engagements I’ve been keeping up around the edges. But I’m feeling proud of the incredible team I’ve been part of on this, and of the mission patches we created and shared as part of it.
  • Working on another virtual choir project for the Barberfellas at the moment. I hope it’s the last one of these that we do. In the meantime I’ll just enjoy hearing my friends in my ears and pretend we’re in the same room.
  • Plans are forming for the big choir to maybe start rehearsing again face to face in May after what will be fourteen months of Sunday zoom rehearsals.
  • Applying for some courses to do in April / May. I hope they will run, and maybe even in person.
  • BFI Flare is in session. The British Council’s Five Films for Freedom were all great in various ways, watched with mates over jitsi which is definitely the best watch party tool I’ve used this past year.
  • Also watched a couple of full features too which both had quite a lot of depth despite simple premises: Sweetheart and Cowboys. Loads more to come this week.
  • Matt Webb shared this neat experiment around social attention which reminded me of a lot of early learning design x social software thinking we experimented with FutureLearn back in 2013/14. Wish we’d built it.
  • Bought some lettuce and leek seeds to plant in the pots on the roof (and then probs fail to grow correctly).
  • Inching back towards some sort of new normal, maybe?

Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #48: it’s been a year

  • A year ago today I got some bits right and some bits wrong about impending lockdown.
  • I thought I would enter a lean period of work – instead I have worked 226 days of the last year, virtually all on good, impactful (although v stressful) covid response services. Yay (argh) yay.
  • Someone tried to rob J and I in the street. It was dark, but there were plenty of people around, so it was surprising. They failed, and we called the police, and we were fine. Not fine though, was a woman nearby who observed what happened and froze, too afraid to walk home, in case the perpetrator followed her next. We got talking to her while we waited, and in the end (when the police didn’t come) we asked permission and walked her home ourselves.
  • I can’t stop thinking about it. Given everything this week, and my relative privilege, as a gay who only ever gets a fair bit of low-level abuse.
  • I am grateful for my pink singers and a long, open and raw post-rehearsal zoom chat that really drove home the fact that well over half our population systematically fears the rest.
  • Channelling that energy into working on a proper evidence-based, progressive equal opportunities policy and action plan for the group, working with a diverse cross-section of people from within it.
  • Not surprisingly though, feeling quite flat and irritable.
  • Near the beginning of the stay-at-home-ness I took out a contract with Three Broadband for their 5G at home offer. It was pretty great to start with, being a continuation of Relish’s service, and I got consistently 150Mb down and about 50Mb up. But then, Three took it over properly and (I believe) turned off the ability for the router to roam networks to get the best signal, and now the service is much less reliable. There is no prospect of fibre anytime soon because of complicated Reasons, and so I continue to be plagued by crap internet. I’m intrigued by Starlink insofar as it might give a commercial incentive to avoid the calamity of space junk, but that is all. I would rather not deal with Technoking.
  • I have a chromecast plugged into our tele and my favourite thing about it was the way it could show a photo slideshow of better times sourced from Flickr albums. But Google took away that feature. But, they also do not support showing photos from my google account. So now I look at other people’s photos, which do not spark as much joy because they don’t include all the people I haven’t seen for a year. I want to find that product manager and give them a piece of my lockdown isolation pandemic mind.
  • In better service news, I switched business bank account a couple of weeks ago to Starling and it was very uneventful which is what you want from a bank.
  • I’m really, really enjoying Small Axe, which is educating me, nourishing me with musical discoveries, moving me with its cinematography and storytelling. Just great.
  • I completed 365 consecutive days of Spanish duolingo which means I’m now a bit better at putting a limited number of Spanish words in roughly the right order. Bueno.
  • Inspired by Chris I’ve downloaded the Koala app and I’m chasing Elvis around the house because I want to make a banging dance track made of growls. I’ve not been successful yet

Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #47: chosen family

  • It was St. David’s Day! Welsh cakes and hiraeth all round.
  • Baby Lamé’s Shit Show and Scottee’s Hamburger Queen ’21 gave some serious life. Can’t wait to see queer artists in person so we can all get messy and celebrate all types of humans regardless of their orientation, body image, skin colour, &c.
  • Especially in the week when the UK media basically disappeared up its own arse trying to convince us that Meghan Markle is a monster. 50 times in one day, for one tabloid. Incredible. Structural.
  • Finally finished an arrangement of Chosen Family by Rina Sawayama for the Pink Singers. It took me about 8 weeks, fit around everything else. It was a real treat to make, and the sentiment is 100% perfect for the group. And great to finally have a song to perform by a female pansexual artist.
  • Also check out this dress and those heels.
  • Starting to have some hope about seeing my actual family again within a few months after a long, long while.
  • Watched Girls Lost and Little Joe this week. Both entirely fantastical and surreal and aesthetically driven. I enjoyed Girls much more than Little Joe, because despite being quite teen-focussed it explores some reasonably complex gender issues with some sensitivity and care.
  • Consciously easing work down a bit in a few weeks and I’m definitely ready to not be working 60+ hour weeks for a while, and moving away from front-line covid-response services. I honestly have no idea how healthcare workers have sustained under the pressure considering the coincident work and life stress that the upswings in cases causes. This thing is going to take years to recover from.
  • I’m using Piascore on the iPad to read rehearsal music for choir rehearsals these days and I really appreciate not having to deal with this:
Category is: Weeknotes

Weeknotes #47: tales of the (empty) city

  • In normal times planes roar overhead, motorbikes screech down the main road, sirens ring out day and night. The air is tinged with pollution. And yet, right now, calls to prayer from afar can often be heard. Hushed conversations emanate a little more readily from behind closed doors. The sweet smoke of wood fires on narrow boats on the canal half a mile away wafts in through the open windows.
  • On the other hand, someone tried to rob us in the street pretty blatantly yesterday, and the police took an hour to come. And less than 500m away Swampy just emerged from a tunnel built under Euston to protest HS2.
  • This city is still mostly being itself.
  • Work is no longer consuming all of the energy, and firefighting is giving way to some strategic work. Finally. And I finally managed to get around to switching my business bank account. Fiscally exciting.
  • After spending so much time at home and inviting work into it, I idly wonder whether the reverse will happen in businesses that decide to keep their premises. Wear your pyjamas to the office day? Meeting rooms with beds in? Pets roaming wild? Lunchtime clubbing?
  • We ordered a biryani so huge from Darjeeling Express that it fed us for three meals. Totally delicious. Highly recommend.
  • Really enjoyed Lucky Grandma which features a knock-out performance from Tsai Chin, who I discovered was the first ever Chinese student at RADA. Also watched Prevenge, which is pretty unsettling despite being listed as a horror-comedy.
  • Mixed a Persepolis this weekend and it’s one of my favourite new cocktails.
  • LGBT+ history month has thrown up a few great online events this month, but the highlight was definitely Fierce Queens run by the Royal Museums Greenwich. What’s not to love about drag kings rapping about all the queer royals of yore, while dancing around the Queen’s house.
  • Zoom fatigue is a thing. I’m trying out some of the tips mentioned here to make it more bearable.
  • Farewell, Daft Punk. Or, more than likely, see you in a few years’ time.
  • I cycled 405km this month and I’m feeling pretty chuffed about that.

Category is: Weeknotes