Mon 12 – Sun 18 Dec 2016
A summary of 2016:
Happy but topsy-turvy pre-Christmas time
We are in that time when suddenly Christmas is a few days away and everything is busy. I love this pre-Christmas time when things happen and people are in a chilled mood. Indeed so much happens that there isn’t time to do everything. Sometimes everything gets too much and something has to give. In particular last week, Fri and Sat went off kilter and my planned trip to Brighton (to see the old chaps I keep an eye on) had to be cancelled.
Getting in the pre-Christmas spirit…
I started to send off my Christmas cards (finally) though I am sending less of them each year as is everybody. Two big pre-Christmas events last week and another I had to forego. My work team Christmas lunch happened and was very enjoyable. We went to a local pub. The owner was a bit stroppy and the vegetarian options were pretty poor. My Christmas pudding was also disappointing but the roast turkey main course was lovely. I do love traditional Christmas dinner which is strange because I don’t normally like roast dinners. We stayed for drinks afterwards and people chilled in a great Christmasy way.
…but all too much sometimes
I was supposed to go on to the pre-Christmas drinks arranged by my colleagues Chris and Ana at the digital outfits Zing and Yoti. It would have been great to see them but by the time I left the work’s lunch I felt tired and a bit merry. Such that I just wanted to go home and crash. It’s always the same at this time of the year that there is just too much going on. I did send them a contrite apology email the next day.
Also had to skip out of my friend James’ 50th birthday meal last Fri. Would have been lovely to go but again just too much going on and I was in danger of having that frazzled feeling that can come from over-doing it. Fridays are an especially bad day for me where after the week gone I am just physically exhausted. It is very usual for me to be in bed by 9 on Fri evening.
On the day I had to go to the Nominet Trust 100 event (see below), we also had our regular work work Christmas Fair. This is a nice idea where people can bring in to sell things that they make themselves. Me and my colleague Cathy last year ran a tombola to raise money. This went to a group Cathy volunteers at which provides a Christmas lunch to refugee and asylum seeker children. We ran the tombola again this year. For £1 everyone wins a prize which is basically interesting things we’ve collected during the year. I helped set it up before going out to the NT event and found out the next day that £245 was raised for the kids’ lunch. Excellent news though the young people want to go to Nando’s….
Your other half’s work Christmas party
Then on another evening it was the Christmas work party of my partner. This was a pretty grand affair and slightly intimidating. Frankly I was a bit nervous about going. There is always an element of fearing that one doesn’t impress as much as one hopes. Lots of chats with different people and that in itself made the evening, mixing with people I wouldn’t normally mingle with and hearing their stories. Dave and I popped into a new cafe/restaurant afterwards as a diet of canapes was insufficient though I was very tired and again crashed out on getting home.
In work all day Tues and Wed plus Thurs afternoon. Still sorting Tech for Good assessments to take place in Jan – 22 back-to-back. And linking in with our colleagues at Nominet Trust who recently ran their Social Tech Seed Fund. We need to ensure that if we jointly fund some projects then it isn’t just by accident. That would not be a good representation of funders working together.
Nominet Trust 100 2016
Nominet Trust ran their annual reception on Wed to launch the NT 100: 100 examples of great social tech / tech for good from around the world. I was involved with the judging and some of the winners are absolutely amazing. All of them can be found at socialtech.org.uk It was also really nice to see some old friends and put faces to names of new people I had linked with recently.
Other tech stuff
Couple of other tech things which happened last week that are useful to recall. First I did a check-in on Mon afternoon re the Social Tech Ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa research being done by M-ITI. The M-ITI worker was doing field work in Ethiopia and told us about how it was impossible to access the web there as the govt controls internet access and had shut it down for ‘security’ reasons. Second, I had a useful meeting with people from Accenture Development Partners. We chewed the cud and explored potential ways to work together in the future.
The joys of upgrading
A bit of personal digital last week when I decided to upgrade my phone. I’m on a contract but I really wanted something more modern compared to what I had. This was exacerbated when I found out that the forward facing camera (i.e. for selfies) is not working properly. Fri afternoon I popped into the mobile shop and decided to make a payment of £300 to opt out of my current contract, put myself on a better tariff, and get a new phone. All went well though the assistant didn’t actually set up my phone. I have switched to a new make and so I spent a fruitless evening trying to work out how to load the new SIM card. Basic problem was that I was worried about mishandling the SIM card and damaging it.
All very frustrating and to another branch on Sat morning. The SIM card was sorted such that the phone worked perfectly. Only problem then being the transfer of contacts and messages was more difficult than expected due to the phones being different makes. In the end I went through my numbers and did a manual transfer. This was eye-opening because I realised that there were only really about 20 numbers I regularly use. There were also names I didn’t recognise and I realised how many I contact now via messenging apps. Overall, a personal prod on the problems that can come with changing tech.
Health and efficiency
Gym and a hard massage
I did mum’s laundry on Mon so no work but also no gym that day. I did get to the gym on Thurs and Fri mornings. Thurs it was all about legs plus 20 mins rowing and 15 mins on the cycle. Fri it was upper body and core. Fri I was not working and it felt like breathing space after a very busy period. Does the whole job-share/part-time thing really work?
On Fri, as well as changing my phone I also got new headphones (which were the wrong ones and had to be changed – doh!) and new trainers. I decided to treat myself to a massage at my gym. It’s reasonable at £39 and used to be done by a Spanish guy. However he has left and there is a new Bulgarian masseur. I like a hard massage and that is what he did. To the point that I really ached for the rest of the day and all day on Sat. My aching back and chest as well as frustration over my new phone meant a very poor night’s sleep. Indeed I didn’t feel up to doing any exercise on Sat apart from some walking.
I wasn’t totally sure about this due to my body still hurting after the massage plus feelings of chestiness – I think I may have a cold. But I went for it and it was OK though only OK. I got round but my time was the worst ever. It doesn’t help that I am trying to do a more hilly course but it was also that my body just was not working efficiently.
Managed 10K but pretty rubbish time and pace pic.twitter.com/bPfFhmh3co
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) December 18, 2016
My plan was to go to Brighton on Sun, stay over, see my old chaps on Mon then return on Mon afternoon. Indeed tickets and hotel room were booked with no cancellation possible. And this would have been my last chance to see them before Christmas. Last week was the train drivers’ strike on Southern Trains with major disruption. Indeed, on Tues this was made worse by big problems on the tube. I saw at first hand the problems my work colleagues had. There is another strike due on Mon. Conductors not drivers but a major part of me felt I just didn’t want to take the chance of getting back taking infinitely more than the 60 mins predicted. So I made a call and cancelled my Brighton visit.
I will re-arrange for Jan and hopefully that won’t be affected by the train strikes though the unions have talked about on-off disruption lasting for years. Apparently we should view it as being like the miners’ strike. Deep joy.
Books and reading
‘Zugzwang’ by Ronan Bennett
Ronan Bennett is a very good Irish writer and I have read some of his previous novels. This one is a thriller set in 1914 St Petersburg, Russia. It suffers from the problem of many thrillers being both contrived and complex. Indeed I think Bennett has written better. However, this is a perfectly decent book and is wonderfully atmospheric of this Russian city on the edge of war and revolution overseen by an autocratic Tsar backed up by his secret police.
Dr Who audio adventures
‘The Boy That Time Forgot’ (fifth Doctor Peter Davidson + companions Nyssa and Adric)
A curious tale. The Doctor and Nyssa are in search of the Tardis and use modern technology in Victorian England that takes them and two unfortunates to an alternative dimension. There they find an ageing and vindictive Adric, the Doctor’s companion thought dead. I’m still not totally sure how he survived the spaceship he was in crashing into the atmosphere. But still great fun including a race of intelligent scorpion creatures. And an interesting reflection on the arrogance of the Victorians. That feeling of superiority that comes before a fall.
‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’ (Peter Davidson + Nyssa)
Another curious DW adventure that comes across in large part as a Radio 4 Victorian drama. Elements of sci-fi and ghosts with the Doctor and Nyssa not coming in till later and many parts of the story not featuring them. Indeed the focus is on the orphan Thomas Brewster haunted and ‘guided’ by the spirit of his dead mother (or that is what he thinks). It’s an OK adventure thought with lots of things thrown in and bits of the story just not totally adding up. Overall, good in parts but not a classic unfortunately.