Mon 13 – Sun 19 Feb 2017
Hmmm, another strange week in strange times. The weather improves with the weekend being positively balmy, + 10 degrees. Meanwhile Trump held one of the most weirdest press conferences ever for a US President followed by one of his Nuremberg-type rallies. The UK govt continues to drive us off the cliff; Brexit at any cost. And Tony Blair returned to warn us we are making a massive mistake. Putin must be pissing himself laughing at the mess the West is in. Some glimmers of hope – Macron in France, Merkel in Germany, and Trudeau in Canada. And Brexit ain’t over till it’s over.
I’m on leave for this week. I just booked a week off to chill after the stress of getting the Tech for Good stuff done (and boost my recovery from being ill). So last week was frequently about getting stuff sorted and getting to that lovely point when I am on leave!
One of my big achievements in recent times has not been related to digital at all. I managed the grants given to recovery projects with money raised by Russell Brand via his Give It Up gig. These projects all work around the principle of abstinence-based recovery – giving up an addiction for good rather than just trying to reduce it. I have seen the damage that drink and drug addictions can do. Just reducing your intake is not enough i.e. ‘I only get completely twatted at the weekend’ means you are still harming your own physical and mental health as well as hurting other people. We made a video about the projects which is on YouTube but can be viewed below. If you are trying to deal with an addiction then three good charities to talk to: Changes-UK, Nelson Trust, SCT.
Work all day on Tues and Wed plus a half day on Thurs. Three big things dominated my work time:
- Giving feedback to projects that got declined a grant from our Tech for Good programme. Not a nice bit of my job but tis only fair and someone has to do it. Also sometimes difficult to explain why they were rejected when it was about the strengths of the ones funded whose names are confidential for another month.
- Discussing ideas with potential applicants for our TechVsAbuse programme and answering their questions. Looks like there are going to be some good applications and proof that tech does have a role in tackling abuse.
- Hosting a meeting of funders who do Tech for Good. I was a bit nervous about this as the host though it went well and some good connections were made and reinforced.
As hoped for at the end of my previous blog, last week saw me catching up with several good friends. Poor sods had to listen to my story about being ill and my recovery from that illness. Strange how everybody keeps assuming because I’ve had the flu jab that I wouldn’t get ill.
- Mon it was Philip who has retired to Andalucia. He is fine and loving Spain though the winter turned out to be colder than expected. I am so glad that he is not pining for London. He’s in London before going off to catch up with some friends in Singapore for a fortnight.
- Tues after work I had a coffee with Peter who is a priest. He is such a good friend and we have known each other for over a decade. He’s getting older and dealing with issues around what his retirement might look like.
- Fri lunchtime was a coffee catch-up with Jamie. Since we met in Dec neither of us has been on holiday which is pretty unusual. He is doing fine and developing his career writing and directing plays.
Sun I came down to Brighton. I had to travel on the coach because the trains were buggered. It was alright though surprisingly busy and slow – two and a quarter hours. Lots of time to read and check emails. I just chilled around town as I was not seeing my old chaps until Mon. Went to the sauna to clean up and unwind.
Evening I met up with my mate Rob for food and the cinema to see ‘Moonlight’. There has been lots of good noise about this film and it is justified. The story of a black kid growing up in a dysfunctional setting in America. Befriended by a drug dealer which is what he becomes but after being bullied. He has a sexual experience with a friend and the film comes full circle to them meeting again. The ending is slightly unsatisfying as the big question is ‘what next’? But it is a beautiful film and well recommended.
Health and efficiency
Weight and gym
13-8 how did that happen? My lightest since April 2016. Primarily due to being ill and not eating. I think this shows the definite importance of changing behaviour to achieve breakthroughs – vital for any part of recovery including recovery from over-eating. Beyond being so ill I can’t eat, my thing is avoiding breakfast before I do exercise. It goes against accepted wisdom but works for me. I can work through the hunger. I eat when I am bored or stressed i.e. work days.
Managed to get to the gym twice – Mon and Fri mornings. Had hoped for Thurs before work but too little time.
Not 100% sure my recovery was sufficiently advanced for my jog-run but you’ve got to start sometime. Managed to do the full 10K but the time disappointed me particularly knowing I had lost weight. Oh well, a starting point to build on though my left knee was hurting afterwards. That’s a new injury. Hurt through Sat night so that I didn’t sleep well and on Sun as I pottered around Brighton. I bought a knee support to see if that helped which it did seem to.
First Jog-run in 3 weeks due to illness. Bit disappointing but something to build on. pic.twitter.com/SFtmyscIVf
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) February 18, 2017
My worries about a hernia are over. I had to go to GP on Mon for renewal of meds. Whilst there I asked about the lump on my stomach. Apparently it is the wrong place for a hernia and is probably just a fatty lump. Good news though my life does seem to be full of fatty lumps…
My leave started on Fri so after the gym and seeing my mate Jamie, I went with Dave to the Royal Academy to see the exhibition ‘Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932’. Main thing to note was how busy it was. Partly to do with being a nice day and half-term but there were also a lot of grey-haired trendies. It’s the sort of exhibition that urbanites with a soft spot for Corbyn would love. Is it a good exhibition? I’m torn.
Clearly there is a flowering of ‘worker’s art’ post-revolution though inevitably lots of it is propaganda. There are some lovely images of old Russia and some great modernist stuff. But then social realism kicks in and there’s art that’s semi-fascistic with its portrayal of bodies and industry. Plus it’s dull – painting of tractor factory 69, etc. There were two very poignant things for me at the end of the exhibition. First a short film (just over 90 seconds) showing the destruction of a beautiful cathedral. Surely cultural vandalism comparable to what Daesh and the Taliban have done? Second, a montage of photos of people arrested in the purges including their careers and fates such as being shot or sent into exile. Incredibly talented real people murdered for ideological reasons.
Duolingo and coding
Missed out one day on Duolingo so didn’t meet my target of doing a bit each day. My bad day was Thurs where just so much seemed to happen (but didn’t really as I was only working a half day and then went to spend time with mum). Lesson is to do at least one session when I get the chance each day. Good to report that I did do some coding practice on Khan Academy.
To help with my Spanish I watched the DVD film ‘Cuatro Lunas’ – Four Moons. It’s a Spanish language film with four stories intertwined. Two lovers trying to rescue their relationship. A young boy’s gay awakening and disgrace by falling in love with his cousin. A man falling in love for the first time with another who says he is straight. And an old man who falls for a rent-boy in a sauna.
Books and reading
Last week really was a good one in that I read two great books that I would highly recommend.
‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton
I picked up this book the other week when I visited my local library. I had read her previous book ‘The Miniaturist’ which people raved about but, to be honest, I found slightly over-rated. Again there have been plaudits for The Muse and I decided to give it a chance. And I am glad I did. It reminded me of Sarah Waters at her best but without lesbians. A nice historical novel that twists and turns linking two separate places in time. One is always left trying to guess the direction in which it is heading. Some amazing coincidences but this is fiction and a joy to read.
‘Roadside Picnic’ by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
Now this was the normal secondhand book I picked up in a charity shop. Sci-fi and written by two brothers who lived in the time of the Soviet Union. The book was actually written in 1972 but looks like it wasn’t published till the 80s. A really thought-provoking story about the aliens having come and gone from Earth without making any attempt to communicate. They leave patches around the planet that are too dangerous to enter and causing mutations. But people go in to try to take alien objects (are they valuable or just alien junk?). A great meditation on how we give things meanings of value that sometimes they were never supposed to have.
Also interesting are the authors’ reflections in a addendum about the problems they had in getting the book printed. How they had to deal with the stifling bureaucracy of the different committees within the Soviet Union. And the general censorship. This book in no way attacks the Soviet Union and, indeed, is set in Canada. And yet various apparatchiks deemed it unwholesome. Never under-estimate the cultural vandalism that comes from censorship.
Dr Who audio adventures
‘Survival of the Fittest’ / ‘Klein’s story’ (seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy)
A fascinating couple of stories. Klein’s story comes first and details how a character from the Colditz story ended up saving the Doctor. But in doing so she destroys her timeline where the Nazis won WW2. The Doctor then takes her as a companion to an insect planet. She tricks the Doctor and escapes in his Tardis to try to recreate her timeline. There are some clear holes in the story (how can someone steal the Doctor’s Tardis without any linkage to it?) and there’s lots of padding. But it’s a good meditation for anybody who wants to dabble in fascism and authoritarianism thinking they create order and ‘purity’ i.e. UKIP, Farage, and Trump.
I pretty much achieved most of the stuff I was looking forwards to for last week. My highlights for this week:
- A whole fucking week-off to chill, drink coffee, read books
- Just one little work thing – a phone call catch-up on Tues with M-ITI people. Hopefully this will put the research onto a good foot moving forward.
- Seeing the old chaps in Brighton and not having to race back to London so an evening all to myself to chill and do nothing
- Possibility of four gym sessions and one swim though the latter doesn’t entice me – cold water. Currently not sure my jog-run will happen because left knee feels quite screwed and I think recovery will take a fortnight at least.
- A massage – it’s been ages
- DuoLingo to be done everyday and some more coding practice
- Time with Dave and mum (+ bro & dog) on separate evenings
- Watching some DVDs and getting to the cinema.
- Keeping on top of work and personal emails.
- At least two books read and a couple of Dr Who audio books listened to.