🎙 Great idea at the end of this week’s Risky Business podcast. Get software to ship with a ‘bill of behaviours’ manifest so that you know what it will try to connect to and why. So simple, you wonder why nobody has thought of it before.
Troy Hunt was given the Coinhive cryptominer domain, and has done some interesting work to repurpose it for good. Websites or that embedded a Coinhive miner in your browser now instead show a modal dialogue box to warn the user, and send them to where they can get more info.
Finished reading Mr Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds’ Gene Clark by John Einarson. Such a waste of talent, with an end that comes far too soon. I’m only a couple of years younger than Gene Clark was when he died at 46, and its hard to understand how much damage he did to himself through alcohol and drugs. He seemed to be caught in a loop of being in the wrong place at the wrong time from a career perspective, exacerbated by his tendency towards self-destructive behaviour, lack of self-confidence and unwillingness to promote himself. The fact that No Other wasn’t recognised as a masterpiece in his lifetime, and how much that must have hurt, has parallels with the career and personal decline of Nick Drake.
His music is wonderful, straddling a wide variety of styles. Despite not being a reader his lyrics have an incredible poetic quality about them. When I read this passage it struck me as to how much of a double-edged sword his creativity must have been:
“A typical hour when we came home,” David continues, “was three or four in the morning, after we did the recording sessions, went out to dinner, went to the Sunset Strip, then went home. One night we came home, the sun was ready to come up, and he sat down at the kitchen table and started dragging pieces of paper, napkins, matchbook covers, and he laid them out on the table. He asked me for a pen and he asked me for some coffee. So I got the coffee on and he started writing. He would be working away and he would stop, sit back and look at it, scribble something out and write something else. This went on all night. It was a marathon. At one point he asked, ‘Can you make me a sandwich?’ So I made him a grilled cheese sandwich and he continued to down the coffee. It turned out what he was doing was working on three different ideas at the same time, flipping back and forth between them, taking things from one and putting them in another. By about noon I was completely fuzzy. I didn’t need drugs; I was already spacey. But he kept on working. I said to him, ‘You’ve got to get some sleep! You’ve got to be at the studio at two o’clock, and he said, ‘Nah, man, I’ve got to get these done. I’m just about done. We were two hours late getting to the studio and had no sleep whatsoever. But he had finished what he was doing. He had completed these three projects together in the space of from about four o’clock in the morning until four in the afternoon after being up the day before at the sessions all night on the Sunset Strip with about three bites of a grilled cheese sandwich and about a gallon of coffee. He was just so focused. When he got into something he had to see it through the way he wanted it. He would not settle for ‘that’s good enough’ and that’s why he couldn’t settle with what some people were doing in some of the bands he was in. He drove them nuts and they drove him nuts. It was a two-way street.
It was great to learn more about Gene Clark, but it’s such a sad story, with a terrible, pathetic ending.
🎙 I love this quote I heard on episode two of the Agile Engineering Podcast:
If you want to go fast go alone
If you want to go far go together
It’s still very cold here in the UK, and strange to think that we are only a few weeks away from the longest day of the year. Since signing up to the 300km Audax ride in July my spare brain cycles have been spent thinking about cycling. I do so hope that the sun is shining by then — or, at least, that the rain stays away.
This was a week in which I:
- Got my first COVID-19 vaccine. The whole process was incredible from start to finish. I booked both of my vaccinations online, choosing Hemel Hempstead Hospital as the place where I wanted to go. So many volunteers were on hand to welcome us, direct us to parking and through the screening to the waiting room. Sitting there waiting to be called into the vaccination room was quite an emotional moment, reflecting on what has happened over the past year and a half. The day after my vaccine I felt rubbish, like I was about to come down with something; although the worst of it was over quickly I’ve spent most of the week feeling like I have a mild hangover that gets worse in the evenings. Still, I suppose it’s good to know that they actually administered something to me and it wasn’t just a placebo.
- Reviewed a number of documents relating to our infrastructure programme, reconciling a completion report for one of our recent projects to our document library and refining statements of work for two projects that we plan to complete this year in Beijing and São Paulo.
- Had a few meetings and vendor discussions in preparation for our investor conference in June, reviewing what was done last year and planning our activities for the next few weeks.
- Spent more time in meetings for our large group programme, understanding how the processes work to obtain funding for projects.
- Discussed the concepts of customer journey mapping and how it applies to our work.
- Completed the sessions to review the Kanban board for our Infrastructure and Operations team. One of the team members said the process was “cathartic” and I know what he means — everyone is now up to speed with the content of the board and knows what is in the backlog.
- Saw another product demonstration for analysing large volumes of news feeds and generating leads.
- Attended a session on changes to our performance management approach and the system that will be supporting the process from this year. There is an emphasis on developing staff even beyond the boundaries of the organisation, which seems very forward-thinking.
- Learnt that trying to help isn’t always the right thing to do, and that you should always check ahead of time whether a presenter can still make a session.
- Attended an online event organised by our Marketing and Communications team and hosted by Mr Plant Geek. Gardening and botany aren’t really my thing, but the attendees seemed to really enjoy it. Our team do a fabulous job of thinking up new themed events every few months, which is great for keeping connected and making everyone feel like they are part of something bigger.
- Pulled back from evening Meetup sessions in order to try and get a bit more balance in my life again. Although meeting up with people from other organisations is great, I’m not sure how healthy it really is just to have another couple of hours of video calls after a long day at the desk.
- Reviewed the school budget for 2021–2022 as well as our draft financial self-audit.
- Rode 50 miles with my eldest son, his first half-century. He asked me if we could plan a route and go for a long ride — I know that the answer almost always needs to be yes. It was so lovely to do something together. I’m now planning to take him on his first 100km ride.
- Rounded off our Saturday of cycling with a family dinner at The Alford Arms in Frithsden. Although it was outside, like in many pubs the area we ate in was pretty self-contained and shielded from the weather which I am not sure how COVID-safe it really is. Having been vaccinated and knowing that cases and transmission rates are low right now I definitely feel much more relaxed than at any point in the past year and a half. They took good care of us and did everything they could to make us feel as safe as possible.
- Booked my bike in for a service at the end of May. There’s nothing immediate that needs an emergency fix, but I do want to make sure that everything is running well before I set out on my monster ride. The bike shop said that they are still busy, but the wait for a service is much shorter than it was last year.
- (Eventually) successfully changed the chain on my bike for the first time, getting through a few pairs of disposable vinyl gloves in the process. Twice (twice!) had to undo my good work to find that I had threaded the chain around the derailleur incorrectly. Every day’s a school day.
- Continued our journey through police dramas by watching Spiral season 4 and Line of Duty season 3, which are both excellent in their own way. It’s good to know we still have lots of episodes of both to get through.
Next week: A four-day week, with a focus on all of the usual projects and trying to get the statements of work agreed for the pieces of work we need to kick off.
Why are Microsoft Word table defaults so poorly chosen?
- Rows break across pages
- If your design has a header, it doesn’t repeat on each page
- Headers get detached from the first data row if there is too much content above
I’ve spent so many hours over the years fixing tables.
🚲 Signed up for my first Audax ride, the Mid Bucks Vale of Evesham 300 in July. I’m putting it out there now that if the weather is terrible, I reserve the right not to set out! Hoping for a glorious day in the saddle, and a sense of achievement at the end of it.
Post-vaccine update: Feeling nauseous and shivery today, like the start of a fever or food poisoning. But it’s mild. And an incredibly small price to pay given what is happening in some ‘majority world’ countries at the moment.
I am so grateful for the luck I have to be here at this time, doing the work that I do, for a company that has been keeping me safe.
I know it has almost become a cliche, but the amount of volunteers and the scale of the operation to roll out the vaccine in the UK is mind-boggling. I can’t believe that what I saw yesterday is replicated up and down the country. An incredible operation.
The weekend was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to write up my weeknotes until Monday. Once again it felt like a heck of a lot of meetings, with any spare time focused on getting things over the line. I struggled to prioritise work for school and have a few governor things piling up which I need to address during the coming week.
This was a week in which I:
- Welcomed new members of the team. Although it has been sad to say goodbye to colleagues in recent months, it is great to have some new minds and fresh thinking as new people join.
- Spent a number of hours reviewing Kanban boards and cards with the IT team and coaching them on the best ways to work with the boards. The timing is good given that we have a number of new people in the team.
- Created some templates on one of the team Kanban boards for our joiner/leaver checklists.
- Reviewed a vendor proposal for assistance with our flagship conference to be held later this year. Agreed in principle how we will approach it with our internal team.
- Spent a lot of time on the large group programme, attending design authority forums and co-authoring a presentation to get our closest business colleagues aligned with our thinking.
- Reviewed and submitted materials for our company governance committee, in a colleague’s absence.
- Reviewed our self-assessed risk controls.
- Saw a demo of a powerful desktop analytics tool that examines and processes news feeds, with a view to looking at whether we could make use of it for client work.
- Attended a leadership talk hosted by the CEOs of our offices in China and Kenya.
- Hosted a talk by one of our colleagues in the Finance department on the impact of our automation work over the past few months. It was very powerful to hear not just about the time saved, but what it has meant that he can do with the additional time each month.
- Enjoyed a lovely, inspirational ‘random coffee’ with an IT colleague. They have been going through some personal challenges over the past few years and it was great to have the space to understand more about them.
- Attended a Meetup on the use of coaching and mentoring as a way for teams to ‘get back to normal’ after the pandemic. I’ve made a resolution to be a bit more selective about the Meetups that I join.
- Joined, and spoke, in a Twitter space for the first time. It’s like an even more ephemeral version of Clubhouse.
- Heard a rumour that the NHS were taking vaccine bookings for the under-45s and got myself booked in for both appointments.
- Found out about and signed up to the St George’s Sportive, along with my friend Ian. Many thanks to my colleague Dan (photo above) who let me know it was happening. It was great to see him after more than a year. I decided to ride there and back as well in order to make it a century ride. It was brilliant to be back outside again, riding with other people. So many hills, but it meant that the views were beautiful. The food wasn’t brilliant — cheap flapjacks, as many fig rolls as you can handle, and no hot drinks — but it didn’t take the shine off of the day. Many thanks to another Andrew who showed me the way out of Princes Risborough and into Great Missenden so that I could navigate my way home.
- Spent a lot of my spare time thinking about cycling. I stumbled across Katie Kookaburra’s brilliant YouTube channel and have spent time lining up videos from her archive to watch. She started cycling around the same time as me but now looks like she has made it her career. Such infectious enthusiasm for riding — it’s a joy to dip into any of her videos. I’m now pondering a 300km Audax ride that is scheduled for July. It would be a massive personal challenge, but that’s the attraction.
- Loved hearing Counting Crows’ August And Everything After again at Album Club. It had been a while.
Next week: My first vaccine! A plethora of documents to review for work and school, a couple of evening Meetups and the next F1 race of a very exciting season.
First dose! Incredible operation from start to finish, with so many volunteers. To think of the scale of this effort going on up and down the country is mind-boggling. I’m so grateful. 🙏
Enjoying myself at Album Club #122.
🚲 Just found out about the St George’s Sportive happening this Sunday, starting in Princes Risborough. Signed up. Looking forward to riding in a group event again, it’s been so long.
On every iOS training app, my heart rate is never detected properly at the very start. My HR should have been >100 but <150 for this whole run. TrainerRoad on my iPad never has this problem. Are all the apps using the same buggy software library, or is it something else?
Friends don’t let friends use pie charts.
Great to see George Russell swallowing his pride after this weekend’s F1 accident. There’s no way I would have been mature enough to deal with all of the pressures of an F1 career at 23. Hopefully he’ll put it behind him quickly.
Said goodbye to a colleague last week. Thankbox was a brilliant way to collect messages, videos and money for their goodbye — I think I even prefer it to passing round a card and an envelope full of cash in the office as everyone across the global team could contribute.
This week wore me out. I slept badly on a number of nights, waking up in a panic and then seeing that it was an hour before my alarm was due to go off. The week was packed to the rafters with meetings, leaving only a few odd hours here and there free for any focused work.
We’re only two months away from the longest day of the year but it’s still very cold here in the mornings. Spring is making it hard for summer to move in.
This was a week in which I:
- Managed the communications for an issue we uncovered on one of our systems. The problem had gone unnoticed for a few years. It was frustrating as I had asked questions about the tool on multiple occasions but never saw it through to a conclusion. There’s no major damage done, but gathering the facts and writing the communications was an additional overhead to an already busy week.
- Took part in a pre-kick-off meeting for the next stage of IT infrastructure work in our Beijing office. We’re aligned internally on the big picture of what needs to be done and now need to move fast to get the work lined up with our external technical partner.
- Attended a presentation where we got an excellent overview about how our part of the firm sources new clients.
- Completed a review of an early draft proposal for support and maintenance of our New York office IT infrastructure.
- Attended many meetings relating to the big Group-wide programme, including another ‘masterclass’ session held in conjunction with the software vendor. Refined our thinking on the presentation we are scheduled to give next Thursday.
- Joined a webinar with the business head of our division and met new members of his immediate senior management team. Very impressed with how he responded to a question on gender diversity in that team.
- Made progress with staff contract renewals.
- Reviewed quotes for renewals of infrastructure licences in London and Dubai.
- Attended the quarterly IT and Real Estate Services review for the Dubai office.
- Said goodbye to a colleague who has been on the team for the past three or four years, first in Johannesburg and more recently in London. We’re sad to see him go, but it’s great that he’s driving his career and moving onto the next chapter in his working life.
- Met with our new Head of Infrastructure and Operations who joins the team as a peer next month.
- Had a productive risk review session with my peers in the IT management team.
- Met up with a colleague in our Compliance team for a ‘random coffee’. A lovely half-hour covering a lot of topics, including our recent performances in Learned League.
- Spent an evening catching up with all of my handwritten notes from the past couple of weeks, getting them into my to-do list system.
- Attended the latest Microsoft 365 UK User Group meeting which had some excellent presentations on apps and customisations for Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Viva.
- Made a bit of progress with planning some home improvements. Took a trip to Milton Keynes with my wife to look at sofas, and ended up indulging in a Pret-A-Manger lunch while we were there. I do miss office lunches.
- Enjoyed a sunny Sunday morning bike ride with my eldest son. I had to raise his seat post by about four inches as he hadn’t been out on his road bike in a year or so. It was lovely to spend some time with him.
- Collapsed in the evening with my wife in front of TV crime dramas. We’re making our way through both Spiral and Line of Duty, alternating between them as we finish each series.
- Loved watching the Emilio Romagna F1 Grand Prix from Imola. It had all of the ingredients of a great race and lived up to expectations.
Next week: A hectic one, with lots more meetings again plus some deadlines to meet. I have a couple of evening Meetups in the diary but they may need to make way for getting stuff done instead.
🎶 This live cover of Gene Clark’s Some Misunderstanding by Erin Rae is superb. Probably my favourite track on his No Other album.
📚 I find it incredible how quickly books on current events get conceived, written and published. It makes me reflect on what I get done over a similar time period. John Sopel’s book on the 2020 US election is the latest one that Amazon alerted me to. Published in mid-January!
Another short week ‘in the office’ following my six-day weekend. Wednesday felt like a Monday, and I felt a little guilty about not feeling well-rested whilst everyone else on the team had worked a couple of extra days. The three days at my desk were productive, and it was good to be back at work.
Monday and Tuesday were spent pottering. My wife and I had a lovely long walk through the fields in our house. The weather has been crazy — snowing one minute and then glorious sunshine the next. When we started our walk we were freezing but by the time we finished it was beautiful.
This was a week in which I:
- Spent some time at the weekend finishing off my presentation on my Ride 999 adventure in 2015, which I rebranded as Couch to 1,400km. I presented this to our team on Wednesday, a great opportunity to get some experience at delivering a presentation as opposed to reviewing and collaborating on a document.
- Attended a ‘masterclass’ session for the big group programme we are becoming more and more involved with. I took full advantage of the Q&A function in the meeting and it is good to know that my perception of key issues we need to navigate isn’t wrong.
- Agreed to a meeting later this month where we’ll take people through the programme and how our part of the organisation will interact with it. For a while it has felt like I’ve had more questions than answers, but over recent days things have started to become clearer. We’re not completely there yet, but I’m comfortable that we have enough to review with a wider set of people.
- Logged a couple of risks that my brain had surfaced during the downtime over the weekend. My mind really does ‘join the dots’ when I’m busy doing something completely different.
- Finally said hello to our new IT team member in our Beijing office. It’s taken a while to get the paperwork in place to on-board him and he joins us at a great time. We will now have a ‘follow the sun’ setup across our three regions for any ongoing issues that come up.
- Reviewed a number of documents, including a project closure report for some work we’ve done over the past 18 months in London, an engineering standard, and our existing support and maintenance agreement for two of our locations that we want to use as a basis for a third.
- Had a meeting on how we will refine and communicate our strategy to our team.
- Dug into the setup of a couple of our key systems, trying to get myself and a number of other technical team members on the same page as to how they work.
- Worked on some staff contract renewals.
- Gave my body a treat by investing in a Roost laptop stand and Logitech MX Keys keyboard. Now I’ve made the change, I can’t believe I spent a year at home hunched over my laptop. My back is already thanking me.
- Attended the first part of a webinar on Advanced Story Mapping with Kevin Callahan, but left early. I’m getting quite good at managing an exit when I no longer think I’m going to get value from a session. Lockdown has made me acutely aware of how valuable my time is. The session was good, but it isn’t directly related to any work I’m doing right now.
- Had a short meeting with an old friend who has an upcoming interview with a high-profile technology company. He has a background in academia and is just finishing a PhD, so is doing his research ahead of his conversation.
- Paid to get our washing machine repaired. Although I’m sure it isn’t the cheapest way of doing it, going back to the manufacturer website and getting their own engineer to come out and do the job is always fast, seems honest, and the cost doesn’t feel too outrageous.
- Replaced a toilet seat. Never a fun job, but it’s lovely when it’s done.
- Gave outdoor cycling a miss in favour of some long stints on the turbo trainer and a long run. I have loved going back outside on my bike over the past couple of weekends, but I’m waiting for the temperature to rise by just a couple of degrees before heading out again.
- Saw my youngest son’s team get a well-earned draw in their football match against the strongest, unbeaten team in the league.
Next week: Another one packed full of meetings and online events, but there is a Formula 1 race to look forward to at the end of it.