Carrying on the struggle and keeping hope alive

Mon 20th – Sun 26th Nov

Farewell Torremolinos, until next time

Last week started with me finishing my holiday on the Costa del Sol. A much maligned part of Spain, portrayed as simply being inhabited by trashy tourists (moi?). It’s a lovely part of the world and a wonderful place to relax. Mon was my last full day and I had a nice time drinking coffee and wine in the sun whilst reading. Also nice food and walks. Tues I chilled in the morning then my flight back which went perfectly. It is amazingly easy to get from Malaga airport to the nearby towns and resorts.

Great to see Dave again on Tues night – we are really cool about holidaying separately and it makes seeing each other again so much more exciting. However we were both knacked and went to bed around 9pm. I read for a while. Dave woke to complain that I still had the light on; he shut up when I pointed out it was only 9.30.

Books and Reading

Another week of solid reading. If holidays aren’t for that then what the hell are they for?

‘The Gustav Sonata’ by Rose Tremain

One of my favourite contemporary authors having written an array of novels all with very different themes. This is a wonderfully self-contained story centring on two friends but diffusing out from them to cover the stories of their families. There is a sense of melancholy with this being a book about a series of wasted or not fully fulfilled lives. But it is redeemed in the end by the two friends finding happiness together albeit after a lot of pain and wasted years. A very uplifting, highly recommended.

‘Dictator’ by Robert Harris

Another excellent book by a brilliant modern author. This is the third of his trilogy about the life of Cicero. I studied the history of the Roman Republic at school and it was a period of amazing drama such as the rise and assassination of Julius Caesar (the Dictator here). Cicero is an interesting character. He features prominently in the history of this period in part because he was a vociferous writer and so much of his writing has survived to modern times. I’m still not sure if he is a modern, aspirational politician to be admired or a stuffy, self-obsessed anti-modernist.

roman oratorThe book, and the story it tells, are great reminders of how we can make amazing plans and they all fall to shit in the light of real events. And how one just has to ride with things rather than always trying to stay in control. Ultimately everything Cicero believes in and tries to save is swept aside. In so many ways, his life is a study in failure with the redeeming features being his writing and speeches saved for posterity. He wanted to save the Republic but failed and is remembered for being simply a good orator.

Dr Who audio adventures

‘Hunters of Earth’

I listened to this adventure pottering around Torremolinos – creativity is often about mixing things up. It’s part of the BBC’s Destiny of the Doctor series. Basically a story from each of the Doctor’s incarnations. This was about the first Doctor and his grand-daughter Susan. It’s set in their early days when the Tardis sat in a junk yard. Not a great story but interesting to reflect on the period when the Doctor’s adventures were so new and fragile as was the Doctor himself having just run away from Gallifrey.

‘Frost Fire’

phoenix in the flamesAnother adventure listened to in Spain. The first of Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles – stories told from the perspective of the companions. This one sees the first Doctor’s companion Vicki living in Carthage and reflecting on the time she travelled with the Doctor. She tells us about finding a phoenix in nineteenth century London but it is a far from benevolent and benign creature. Indeed, she is ultimately talking to it in Carthage with them both having the knowledge that it will be reborn in London in the future and brought back to Carthage such that it is stuck in a time loop.

Tech for Good

Tech for Good 2018 – apply now!

Back to the office on Wed. No face to face catch-up with Nis as she was attending Josh Russell’s impact breakfast then working at home. There was a tech event run by NDCS (National Deaf Children’s Society) that I was invited to. I had said I would think about going but it was impossible because I just had to take time to catch up with stuff (emails). Main thing for me and Nis is promoting the Tech for Good 2018 programme now open and dealing with all the prep around when the video applications are submitted after the 20 Dec deadline – shortlisting, etc. We are working on an idea to get previously funded TfG projects involved in selecting the longlist for publication and those to be assessed for a grant.

GDS stuff to be used by Tech for Good projects

Then Wed afternoon I had to attend the ‘Funders who tech’ meeting. Great to meet similar minded colleagues though we are still a small group. Our role is to get funding of tech more mainstream. A good general discussion after an excellent presentation by Kieron from CAST. He has done a secondment to GDS (the people who created the brilliant gov.uk) and talked us through their excellent design principles and digital service standard. There is actually a wealth of good guidance and online services available from GDS that more Tech for Good projects could pay attention to; details here. GDS and government’s policy around digital is going through a strange time, let’s hope they don’t lose the best practice they’ve established.

TechShare Pro – digital improving the life of people with disabilities

Thurs could have been a day off but I decided to attend this event run by the brilliant AbilityNet and RNIB. Basically it was a one day conference looking at how digital can be more useful for people with disabilities (PWDs) and improve their lives. A very good event though lots of demos rather than discussion about what are the barriers for more PWDs accessing these tools.

A lot of emphasis throughout the day on the benefits that can come from AI (Artificial Intelligence – ‘thinking computers’) and voice recognition / activation software. Both are becoming very normal in digital and happening without us even realising i.e. predictive text and speaking to our mobiles. The AI emphasis was partly linked to the event being at IBM which is investing a lot into its AI service ‘Watson’ – though I would like more on how AI can be used for social rather than just business benefit. The benefit of voice software is obvious for blind people.

There could have been more about other types of tech that could help PWDs such as better braille services and video services. Plus more things for people with learning disabilities. And simply how to roll all of these amazing things out to PWDs many of whom are poor or have limited social networks.

Health and Efficiency

Gym 

Twice last week, on Fri and Sat. I don’t like doing heavy workouts back to back so both were strenuous but concentrating on waking up my muscles and making them feel worked rather than over-worked. No treadmill as I didn’t want to exhaust my body before Sun’s jog-run. I was also aware of the need to stretch my leg and joint muscles rather than doing any temporary damage that again could impact on my beloved jog-run.

Jog-run 

Hard to motivate myself because of such a cold Sun morning. Several times whilst jogging / running, my head (and body) were saying ‘give up’. Didn’t help that I had to wear several layers to keep warm with the result that I was sweating my balls off by the mid-way point. Overall, not a great time (1 hour, 4 mins, 30 secs) but I made it round which was the main thing. Video on it can be seen here.

Health

I remember the AIDS crisis so well and lost several friends. The article below is how I remember it. Whatever life is like now, I thank God that I haven’t suffered the way these poor sods did. 

Personal Development and Culture

Languages, coding, emails

Started back on Duolingo but lots of work still to do to improve my language skills. Good news that also did some coding practice on the brilliant Code Academy. Email situation is still pretty bad but starting to get things back under control.

Films

Saw a couple of movies last week.

A Single Man

Picked this up at the charity shop on DVD for £1. I had been meaning to see it for ages. I read the book by Christopher Isherwood and that is wonderful. A beautiful study in getting old though it is a long time since I read it so I cannot remember all the details. I was worried about the film despite it getting great reviews. For me, Colin Firth was too young to be playing the main character. However, he had been aged though still retaining a great body – hey it’s Hollywood, nobody gets saggy as they get old.

It is a very good film and worth watching. Actually anti-Hollywood in some ways. It’s not about happy endings and fluffy niceness. It’s the story of a man getting old and dealing with the death of his partner. I am not sure everybody would have been so OK with being gay even in 60s California but it is also a wonderful evocation of that time. Very good.

Beach Rats

Me and Dave went to see this film at the ICA at 11.15 on Sun morning in-between me doing my jog-run and us meeting our friends Stephen and Patrick for lunch. This film was at Flare (the London LGBT film festival) but I didn’t manage to get a ticket. It is now on general release and getting good reviews. It’s about a young guy meeting older guys online but also dealing with gangs and drugs. The main character is fundamentally a screwed-up young man trying to work out his sexuality with little going for himself apart from his looks. A quite traditional gay film being about a young person in a bad place trying to deal with who he is. But that is the real world for many. Good but don’t expect to leave the cinema on a high.

The Week Ahead

  • Gym two or three times, one jog-run, and possibly a yoga session
  • Would like to finish reading a couple of books and listen to a couple more Dr Who audio adventures
  • Looks like a very busy week at work with calls coming in from people wanting to discuss ideas they have for applications to TfG18
  • Catch-up with the people from Stoke Wavemaker on Wed and then an evening session celebrating 5 years of Nominet Trust’s NT100
  • Coffee with the brilliant Ume of Wayfindr on Thurs
  • I really would like to get to the Notting Hill Exchange this week with some old books and DVDs
  • Gonna try and do regular Duolingo and coding practice as well as get back on top of emails

And finally…

 

 

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