Mon 30th Oct – Sun 5th Nov
Halloween is usually one of my favourite times of the year. I love the creativity that surrounds it. People getting dressed up in amazing costumes. However, this year my old friend depression is rearing its head. It’s like the chickenpox virus that never leaves your spinal column and can resurrect itself as shingles – very painful, I’ve had it once. Indeed, I suppose it’s like the HIV virus I host kept under control by various meds. Being analytical, I think the resurfaced depression is due to the weather, the longer nights, the dark mornings, and uncertainty about the future. Not going to crash and burn, I wouldn’t give various people the pleasure. It’s worth staying alive just to annoy certain fuckers. Me and Dave were saying that life in theory should get easier and better as you get older but it doesn’t unless you are rich.
Books and Reading
I never put this section first, but last week I tried to put my reading to the fore as I enjoy it and it makes me feel good. Paradise would be sitting drinking coffee all day whilst reading and watching the people and the world go by. Unfortunate that I had to miss the monthly Velvet Page Book Club as it was on the same night as the Shift research launch – see below. But I did spend some nice time on Sat looking around the moderately sized library near Victoria station. Although I don’t live in Westminster, the library card for my borough allows me to take books out from there. And they regularly have book sales. Limited myself to taking out 2 books and buying just 4, could have been a lot more.
‘Foxglove Summer’ by Ben Aaronovitch
Ben is an author I really respect. He’s written various stuff for Dr Who and has since moved onto the Rivers of London series. The stories of apprentice wizard PC Peter Grant as he inter-acts with the world of magic to solve various crimes. This is the fifth book in the saga. It’s good but not the best. PC Grant has to leave London to solve a rural crime – I hate the countryside and rural life. The story doesn’t always work smoothly and there are some real ‘deux ex machina’ moments to push the plot in the right direction. But still great fun and it reminded me in parts of the brilliant ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ especially with the journey into the land of the fairies.
‘Grief is this Thing with Feathers’ by Max Porter
One of those books I have been meaning to read for ages. Published in 2015 and a very short book. It’s not a novel, indeed it’s more like poetry than anything else. And it is one of those books that has won loads of plaudits. It’s definitely a strange one. The reflections of a father and his two sons (from their respective points of view) on how they deal with the death of their wife / mother. In this they are guided by a crow. I liked it and it is certainly more than pompous poetry. But for such a short book it is actually quite hard to grapple with. It needs to be taken in small chunks and then re-read. More than just arty-farty though I note Max hasn’t written another book yet.
‘The Seed Collectors’ by Scarlett Thomas
I’ve always had a soft spot for Scarlett, ever since reading the brilliant ‘The End of Mr Y’. She has produced several novels since and they have a wonderful quirkiness about them. About real life blurring with the unexpected. A bit new age but OK. This one is alright. It reminds me enormously of Patrick Gale as it is about a group of very middle class people with very middle class names. Fundamentally it’s the story of the members of a family who all seem to be shagging each other. There’s a story inter-weaving it about mind-altering seeds. Overall it does feel a bit messy and I wouldn’t recommend this as the first book to find out about this author. I wonder if she’s lost her way a bit?
Dr Who Audio Adventures
‘The Dark Husband’ (seventh Doctor + Ace & Hex)
A very throw-away adventure to listen to. Doctor and companions land on a planet constantly in civil war over hair. It is a slightly tongue-in-cheek story. To end the war, the Doctor commits to sacrificing himself but it goes wrong and ends up with Ace and Hex getting married. Turns out that the villain of the story is the planet itself which has been artificially created and has gone wrong. Well that’s what I think the story is. It’s all a bit knock-about and not totally original. But it is also a nice, easy listen with fun characters it is lovely to listen to. Impressive at the end to find it is the same actor who plays the two main protagonists from each side in the civil war as well as providing the voice of the planet.
Health and Efficiency
Finally got back to my weekly 10k jog-run. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen as the threat was of heavy rain on Sat morning. Woke up and went for a coffee; wet underfoot but not raining. So went off for my run and it poured down! There is something nice about running in rain – it’s cooling. Though I suppose it makes your clothes heavier. A lot of the run was under trees with some leaf coverage so not too awful. In the end, crap time but I did the full 10K and without injuries. Video can be seen here.
Three sessions last week which is pretty cool: the mornings of Mon (after I had helped mum with the washing), Thurs and Fri. Did weights + cross trainer on the first two dates. Left off the cross-trainer on Fri as I wanted to rest my legs and not aggravate any injuries for the next day’s jog-run. Fri’s work-out was a bit of a struggle full-stop with my body pleading with me to consider just skipping it. But mind won out over body 🙂
Went for my INR check on Fri to make sure I’m not producing blood clots nor that my blood is too thin. Result was 2.1 which is just OK and means stay on the same warfarin dosage plus no need to go back for the next check till the end of Dec – happy days.
Doing the order of my blog a bit topsy-turvey this week – and why not? I loved the reactions to a post I put on Facebook which basically said I already am a mad old man. Hmm, in that case perhaps I should act more like one.
Some progress on Duolingo and language learning despite my depression resurfacing. Managed to do some good Duolingo on Mon, Tues and Wed but then nothing on Thurs and Fri cos of ‘busyness’ – sigh. Weekend was patchy. But I did get to do some coding practice on Mon so some gain.
Bloody emails are out of control. Work ones not too bad as I’ve been ruthless. However, personal ones have gone a bit loopy. Over 200 to be read. Ying and yang, I spend more time doing something I enjoy such as reading but the result is less time to deal with emails 🙁
Tech for Good
Quite right to stick this towards the end of my blog for once. I love writing about this theme but my life is more than just this. Though I kid myself not that my current value is very much linked to my knowledge and expertise in this area.
Shift research – Driving continuous improvement: Insights from funding social tech
— Shift (@shift_org) November 2, 2017
Several evening events last week including Cassie Robinson’s Community Squad on Mon, and a celebration of 5 years of BGV on Wed. I had to give my apologies to both. On top of my paid work, it would just have been too much. But on Thurs evening I did attend the launch of the Shift research that I have been involved with alongside a wider group of funders: ‘Driving continuous improvement: Insights from funding social tech’. The link to the report (and other open tools from Shift) can be found here. There is also an online tool (Progressively) to help projects and funders identify if social tech / tech for good projects are making appropriate progress. Indeed the report and access to everything can be accessed here.
— Shift (@shift_org) November 2, 2017
Most of last week was about getting things signed off. Had to go through the Shift research above ready for its launch. But also getting everything ready for the launch of the new Tech for Good 2018 programme on 13th Nov. A news article I wrote has gone out and I have also done the text for the initiative page. Application guidance signed off this week including the guidance on making the video as it’s a video-only application. We are also creating a Theory of Change to underpin the new programme and so work has been ongoing to formulate this so it can be put on the initiative page as well. Plus the evaluation of the last TfG programme. Phew! I am so glad my job-share Nissa is back next week 🙂
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) November 1, 2017
What was lost
In last week’s blog, I alluded that getting everything ready for Tech for Good 2018 would mean I could not attend either of two big tech events. And so it came to pass. Microsoft’s Decoded event (exploring the latest developments in tech) happened on Tues and Wed but no time to attend. And EHI Live was happening in Birmingham on the same two days. That’s all about #ehealth – the use of digital in improving health. But alas no time to be there.
Intros and exploratory conversations
Got lots of e-intros to make that I’ve promised to do. I suppose it’s the problem of knowing lots of people in the Tech for Good eco-system and wanting to connect them up so they can help each other. Of course the other thing that will start happening from now on is people wanting to talk through ideas to apply to TfG18. I had forgotten about that from last time and how consuming it can be. I love hearing about ideas and its great to try to guide people into moving out of their comfort zone. But it’s time-consuming.
Good Tech Lab
No real speculative conversations last week though it was great to catch up with the Good Tech Lab initiative. This is basically looking at how Tech for Good is happening in different parts of the world, particularly in the ‘developing’ world. And also looking at the different models of funding and investment for it. This can include mixed investment such as grants, loans, VC investment, and equity. Our angle is boosting civil society organisations to create social change. However, it is clear that the line between individual enterprises, private companies, and civil service organisations / non-governmental organisations can be very blurred. Entrepreneurship can come in many forms.
My usual arrangement for seeing my 2 old chaps (Bob and Brian) is down on Sun to chill, stay in a cheap hotel and see them on Mon before coming back to London. Big announcement at work on Mon I needed to be at and I had already booked the hotel. Be damned if I’m going to lose the money. So down early on Sun to Brighton and caught up with the boys during the day. Stayed in the hotel and back to London early on Mon morning. Probs with trains and very expensive so did coach both ways.
8am coach on Sun morning that was half hour late arriving at the coast due to road works and the bloody London to Brighton classic cars race. Saw Bob and took him out for coffee as it was a sunny Nov day. He’s fine though no real news. Then over to see Brian for coffee. He is coping well without his dog though dealing with new health problems. He’s off to York for a holiday the same time that I go to Torremolinos. Chilled in the evening before my early start the next day.
The week ahead
- Nissa is back! We will get everything finalised for the launch of TfG18 on 13th Nov
- Meeting with Mark Walker of AbilityNet on Wed to talk re next year’s Tech4Good Awards – we want to do our Tech4Good for Africa Award again
- I’m presenting alongside some other grants people on funding Tech for Good at the Association of Charitable Foundations conference on Wed afternoon
- Yoti launch on Thurs night (new visual recognition software with a commitment to apply it for Tech for Good)
- Gym three times and jog-run once
- Progress on Duolingo, coding practice, and culling emails
- Seeing my mate Jamie for coffee on Fri
- Catching up with my old friend Colin and his partner Chris for lunch on Sat
- Getting through a couple of books and a couple of Dr Who audio adventures
- Getting ready for Torremolinos the week after next 🙂
Always remember :