Mon 24 – Sun 30 Oct 2016
Fear can stop us doing so much. It is so easy to decide not to deal with the fear that stops us from doing something, often for the first time. That is so important because as we become used to things, we forget that fear totally. But this fear barrier is frequently what stops adoption of new ways of doing things and slows the rate of innovation instead encouraging inactivity. That works on a macro and a micro level. So a theme of last week was trying some new stuff and challenging my own fear of doing so. Indeed I challenged my fear and trepidation at different times and each one went well.
Fear 1: Going to an event out of my comfort zone
I received a free ticket to a Tech Expo (via a contact on Linked In). It’s too easy to think ‘that looks interesting but I won’t know anybody there’. Plus the agenda was very much about emerging technology in the private sector. But there is a danger that I am just immersing myself in the charity digital world – working with adoption rather than innovation and dealing with the same group of friendly tech people. So I took my chance and went along to the Tech Expo doing Mon all day and Tues afternoon (gym in the morning).
I am glad I went. A day and a half of listening to the latest tech ideas and adding to my own learning in this area via the internet. And I really do think I was as up to date on my knowledge as many people there; I certainly understood what people were talking about. I also discovered that many people in the private sector face the same tech problems and have the same tech questions as people in the voluntary or public sector. This includes lots of excitement about the potential (rather than the current reality) of Blockchain, the Internet of Things, and Virtual + Augmented Reality. But also strong awareness of issues around Data Protection and Privacy. And I realised more about the key roles of narrative, story-telling, and intervening at the right moments in order to engage people via tech
Fear 2: Getting over previous (tech) failures
It is very easy to dwell on failures over successes. I love the potential of video-conferencing. Remember the way in sci-fi films and TV that spaceships always make visual contact with each other on the main screen with no effort? However, in my experience, currently it is more about the theory of how it should work rather than the experience. So many times in the past video-conferencing events have turned into an embarrassment of failed connections and people dropping out.
Wednesday was a whole day of group interviews to find an agency to do research on Social Tech Ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa. We decided to do group interviews over Skype but just voice and not using video. Ambitious because nearly all the calls involved participants in several different parts of the world including Africa. A few teething problems but, overall, it went well. And this was repeated for the last interview on Fri plus also the post-interview deliberations.
Fear 3: Return to swimming
When I was a student I used to swim most days at the ULU pool doing around 50 lengths of breast stroke. I’ve developed a bit of a fear about the cleanliness of swimming water having seen various things in the water and picking up ear infections. I love going to the gym and doing my jog-runs. The latter causing some joint and muscle problems. But I know swimming is great all over exercise and will help my muscles and joints especially my favourite, back stroke. So Thur morning off and did about 40 mins in the pool covering about 24 lengths. It is a good start. I even had fear on the way there seeing all sorts of potential problems such as being full of kids due to half term. Pointless fear.
Digital and work
In the office all day Wed and Fri as well as Thurs afternoon. It’s now public that my job-share colleague Nissa is pregnant and will be off on maternity leave in April. Stuff that happened:
- We dealt with a mass of queries related to our Tech for Good grants programme. The deadline to apply is on Tues at 3pm. Amazing the way applications (for jobs and grants) always come in at the last minute no matter how long people have to apply.
- Running with Nissa a workshop for shortlisters who will be looking at the video applications for Tech for Good.
- Doing an interview with a potential agency to undertake the evaluation on the Tech for Good programme including in relation to similar initiatives going on.
Also ongoing catching-up on emails as well as 1:1 with my boss.
Tues evening went to an event out of personal interest but also linked to work. Another event I had never been to and had a bit of trepidation about. It is the monthly meeting of people interested in civic tech – Citizen Beta. Basically how tech can be used to reinforce the fabric of a democratic society. Part of the reason for not attending before is simply due to practicalities. The meeting happens in Bethnal Green which is the other side of London from me. But I was at the Tech Expo in Liverpool St and it was not much further to travel. An interesting evening dealing with issues around Freedom of Information (very much linked to the work of mySociety ) as well as the use of comics to distribute information. Very interesting and I hope to attend again.
Health and efficiency
My best ever jog-run. And most importantly I broke the 10 km barrier. A bit of surprise as I had a bad night’s sleep. The news broke on Fri evening about the FBI continuing their Hillary investigation. Oh God, Trump is going to win! Dave told me to stop worrying as there is nothing I can do about it.
My target was to achieve by Xmas a 10K each week and getting that under one hour. I thought this would be achieved incrementally. But it has come, in part, by a few big jumps. Up to 8.5 km last week and I felt OK as I was running on Sat so I just carried on. But not under one hour (1 hour & 2 minutes) so that is what I will work on. Worth noting my course is not totally flat as I run around Green Park several times which has lots of up and down. Thus on a flat course it may well already be under the magic one hour mark. And pleased to report no significant muscle or joint pain.
10K barrier broken ! pic.twitter.com/zHZKdPem6O
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) October 29, 2016
Gym and swim
I’ve mentioned my swim above. I felt good afterwards having got out of breath and with various muscles aching. £6 a go but I think I’m going to try it once a week as part of my fitness routine. Doing a swim meant losing a gym session. But I still got in two gym sessions last week, Tues and Sun morning. Tues included 5.5km on the rowing machine (about 25 mins) On Sun it was about gently exercising my legs after the previous day’s jog-run and working hard on my upper body.
The weekend was largely dominated by my great jog-run, a nice gym session, and sorting out work + home emails. Me and David did do lunch on Sun and 12 of his relatives popped in on Sat night because they were down visiting London. One of the highlights was also our visit to the Tyburn Convent on Sat for their Autumn Fayre. It was nice to get a chance to see inside this convent which sits by Marble Arch and is in memory of the people executed there (especially the Catholic martyrs). And the fayre was fun. Lots of religious stuff but I also bought some fun bits including a seventies serving pot, a 1958 paperback about life in Moscow, and some fudge made by the nuns for mum. I also got a ticket for the tombola and won a bottle of wine.
Books and reading
‘A Woman in Berlin. Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945’ by Anonymous
If you want a powerful read then this is it. The diary kept by a woman covering when Berlin fell to the Russians in 1945. It’s a totally different and alien world as I suppose are all war zones. A city left open to the invaders suffering deprivation and inhabited almost entirely by women. There followed an orgy of rape as a weapon against the oppressed and celebration for the victors. Looks like these diaries are genuine and fascinating that they were not able to be first published till well after the war (1954). The identity of the author remains a secret reflecting many people’s desire to forget or ignore this whole episode.
‘Binti’ by Nnedi Okorafor
I got alerted to this novella by a section I read in the Tor.com sampler I downloaded free to my kindle and read whilst visiting Philip in Torrox in Spain. It’s a good story following the adventures of a small girl as she meets aliens and goes to a space academy. Some horrific bits but it also felt very Harry Potter-like. What is fascinating is how it is a metaphor about how a young black girl fits into a white and discriminatory society.
Dr Who audio adventure
Frozen Time (seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, no companion)
Strange that there is no companion – I kept expecting one (or two) to pop up somewhere. The Doctor is discovered frozen in the Antarctic and whilst being unfrozen it comes to light that we are continuing a story that began centuries before. And an expedition looking for another lost expedition comes across Ice Warriors. Though looks like the previous expedition had actually come into contact with Silurians. A decent enough story though not a classic due to a clunky plot and some silly characterisations.
The Spectre of Lanyon Moor (sixth Doctor Colin Baker + companion Evelyn Smythe)
I found some Dr Who audio books on Big Finish’s website at a reduced price (only £2.99 each). So I bought them and spent about two hours on Mon evening trying to download them to my computer and then onto my i-pod! The story itself is an early one in the Big Finish Dr Who adventure and feels sophisticated compared to some of the later rushed ones. The Doctor and Evelyn meet up with the Brigadier and various unpleasant humans as well as a goblin-like alien trapped on Earth for over 20,000 years. Recommended as a wonderfully old-fashioned Dr Who adventure – it could easily have been a TV episode.