Weeknotes #269 — Captain, we’re being hailed

The blossom even looks good at night.

The blossom even looks good at night.

Another overwhelming week. I felt I carried a bit of last weekend’s funky malaise into the start of this week. And then, before I knew it, it was Friday. There’s a lot going on at both work and home at the moment. I’m getting a bit frustrated at myself for dropping things. Going too fast also means that quality suffers and the work ends up taking even more time anyway.

Years ago I read this quote from cyclist Steven Abraham as he abandoned his attempt to break the record of the most miles ever ridden in one year:

“The only way I can do more is by getting faster, but the only way I can get faster is by doing less.”

I’m trying to do less so that I can go faster, but there’s not much more that I can cut out.

This was a week in which I:

  • Held all of the weekly programme and project meetings.
  • Wrote up and circulated the minutes from last week’s programme Steering Committee. I’ve now also started a thread in Teams where I’ve published the minutes from every Steering Committee to date so that there is more transparency.
  • Started to receive responses for a technology RFP for fitting out one of our new offices.
  • Onboarded a technology consultant that we have worked with in the past. I am hoping that he will help to ease the pressure on at least one of our projects.
  • Met with our sister company to agree in principle how we move forward with spaces that we share.
  • Held my second weekly team meeting. Things seem to go well when we have everyone in the same meeting together.
  • Had a guest speaker from our Global Markets team at our weekly Learning Hour, giving us an insight into Foreign Exchange.
  • Had my regular catch-up with our head of APIs.
  • Started the process to recruit for a couple of roles in my team.
  • Was fortunate to get a call for a same-day medical consultant appointment on a day that I was working from home. Private healthcare is such a privilege and I am grateful for it, although I would rather it was the same standard for everyone. They are trying to diagnose something which I am hoping isn’t much of anything.
  • Seem to have become addicted to Garbanzos falafel bowls for lunch. I’m not sure deep fried falafels are strictly a health food but I find myself drawn there anyway.
Garbanzos. Unbelievably good.

Garbanzos. Unbelievably good.

  • Enjoyed a brilliant Cycling Club talk from Andy and Becky Kervell. They rode the length of Patagonia for six weeks on a tandem during November and December last year. The photos were stunning, so seeing the sights in real life must have been mind blowing.
Patagonia by Tandem

Patagonia by Tandem

  • Felt a little bit out of my depth with the speed of the club ride on Saturday. Spring is still in an epic battle with Winter, which doesn’t seem to want to leave. We set out in 3°C weather, but it felt much colder. Everyone seems to have a collective malaise with how long it’s taking for the weather to turn.
  • As our kitchen has become increasingly out of action with the refit, we’ve drifted heavily into regular takeaway territory. This week I tried the Szen noodle bar in Berkhamsted. Again, not a health food but quite delicious.
Noodles and tofu from Szen in Berkhamsted

Noodles and tofu from Szen in Berkhamsted

  • Spent Sunday afternoon with a bunch of geeky friends at Bridge Command in Vauxhall, playing at piloting a starship. We’d booked ourselves in months ago, and the venue had only been open a few weeks. The idea is brilliant and the environment is very well done, with lots of stations and computer systems that all work in tandem with each other. I was channelling my inner Lieutenant Uhura, sitting at the communications console with an audio headset on. I have to admit it felt magical to get ‘hailed’ by another ship, to speak to them and then to pass the video feed to the ‘main screen’ at the front. The whole setup feels a little bit too complex and ambitious as it took a long time to go through a very extensive in-person tutorial before we were handed the controls. But I get the feeling that it will only get better over time as more people play and they fine-tune the scenarios. I would definitely go back.
The entrance to Bridge Command

The entrance to Bridge Command

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Not in the least because if these tools were as productive and useful as promise, we’d be flooded with new and useful end-user software created by these newly productive organisations. If these products were the productivity boon boosters claim they are, workplaces everywhere would have been transformed by now.

Web

Next week: Our house goes full ‘Steptoe & Son’ — having no kitchen means that you can’t move anywhere in the house without bumping into things that used to be in the kitchen.

Weeknotes #268 — Unlicensed ice cream trading

I must have walked past this sign a hundred times without noticing it. Quite a specific restriction for a particular road junction.

I must have walked past this sign a hundred times without noticing it. Quite a specific restriction for a particular road junction.

The week wore me out. It steadily built towards the fortnightly programme Steering Committee meeting on Friday afternoon; after that I crashed. I’ve spent a lot of the weekend in a sleepy stupor. On Saturday afternoon I wandered into town for an errand and found myself browsing lazily through the bookshops. It was good to be doing something that wasn’t thinking about the work I haven’t done yet.

Spring is breaking through. Trees are blossoming and down by a footbridge that crosses the little river that runs through town a swan has built its nest. It didn’t seem bothered by the crowd of people that had stopped on their walks to take a close look.

Blossom everywhere.

Blossom everywhere.

The swan was more focused on making tweaks to her nest than to the people passing a couple of feet away from her.

The swan was more focused on making tweaks to her nest than to the people passing a couple of feet away from her.

This was a week in which I:

  • Enjoyed a near-empty train on Monday morning and suffered from massive overcrowding on the same train on Tuesday. There were less trains running because of strikes, so presumably each one was carrying the people that would usually be on two or three different services. Do people not go in on Mondays anymore and I just haven’t noticed?
  • Had the weekly programme meetings.
  • Met with our sister company for our monthly programme check-in.
  • Reviewed and consolidated the documents to issue as an RFP for the technology, audio/visual and security fit-out of one of our new offices.
  • Had a number of meetings to review the financial forecast for the same office in preparation for the programme Steering Committee meeting.
  • Started a new weekly meeting with my entire Digital Product team.
  • Met with a cross-functional team who have been making good progress in making improvements to one of our long-standing, and much derided, critical business processes.
  • Enjoyed a Learning Hour session that gave an overview of the technical processes we use for building digital products. We also explored the concept of an internal Technology Radar.
  • Had my six-weekly check-in with our Technology research and advisory team.
  • Had a lovely Random Coffee with a colleague that works in our Marketing and Communications team.
  • Caught up with Matt Ballantine for a virtual coffee and a chat.
  • Revised the dates of my upcoming business trips to fit in better with everything else that is going on.
  • Enjoyed another wonderful club ride on Saturday morning. We had 10 riders in our group; I don’t think I’ve ever ridden with such an evenly-matched set of cyclists. I appreciate TrainerRoad’s new ‘Red Light Green Light’ feature as it looks at what work I’ve been doing and adapts my planned rides accordingly. After Saturday’s club ride, a planned two-hour indoor push on Sunday was relaxed to a one-hour near-recovery ride.
  • Moved to the next stage of kitchen renovations as we said goodbye to our trusty old oven. Some close friends have lent us a portable induction hob which will help us avoid microwave meals and takeaways for the next few weeks.
It’s the ‘getting worse before it gets better’ stage.

It’s the ‘getting worse before it gets better’ stage.

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“I am not saying anyone’s particular policies are wrong, but if the premise that generative AI is going to be bigger than fire and electricity turns out to be mistaken, or at least doesn’t bear out in the next decade, it’s certainly possible that we could wind up with what in hindsight is a lot of needless extra tension with China, possibly even a war in Taiwan, over a mirage, along with a social-media level fiasco in which consumers are exploited in news, and misinformation rules the day because governments were afraid to clamp down hard enough. It’s hard to put odds on any of this, but it’s a sobering thought, and one that I hope will get some consideration both in Washington and Beijing.” — What if Generative AI turned out to be a Dud? (substack.com)

Audio

So my argument, in brief, is that humans had a play-based childhood for millions of years, because that’s what mammals do. All mammals play. They have to play to wire up their brains. But that play-based childhood began to fade out in the 1980s in United States, and it was gone by 2010. And that’s because right around 2010 is when the phone-based childhood sweeps in. Our children are now raised largely with a phone at the center of everything. And let’s talk about what happened when that change happened. Another way I can summarize my book is by saying we have overprotected our children in the real world and we have underprotected them online. And both of those are mistakes.

…multiplayer video games take up a huge amount of time. They’re great fun. They’re incredibly immersive. And so anyway, the point is boys’ lives have been upended too. It doesn’t show up as much in depression and anxiety. It shows up as just withdrawing from effort in the real world. Boys are just not really doing the things. They’re not making the efforts and experiencing the failures and setbacks that would strengthen them to grow into men. So Tristan and I will talk about this, but there’s actually a way out, because almost all the parents hate what’s going on. All the teachers hate what’s going on. All the principals and heads of school hate what’s going on. And guess what? Gen Z hates what’s going on. They see it. They’re not in denial.

They really see that they’re trapped. And you say, “Well, why do you waste your life this way? Why don’t you just get off?” I can’t because everyone else is on. So it’s a social dilemma, it’s a collective action problem.

And then the final point is in every previous moral panic, one of the features is lurid stories about this thing that happened. A kid smoked marijuana and then he chopped off his parent’s head or whatever, some thing. And I read it in a newspaper. And, “Oh, my God, this is terrible.” And so maybe most of them didn’t happen. Maybe some did. This one is entirely different. As I go around, almost every journalist who interviews me, either before the interview or during the interview, they say, “I’ve seen this in my own kids,” or, “I’ve seen this in my kids’ friends.” Everyone sees it. This is not lurid examples trumped up to make people afraid.

Books

Next week: Going even deeper on the projects and looking at how we need to re-gear the work for the next stage.

📚 Finished reading  Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck by William Souder. I’d been saving this until I had almost completed my read-through of all of Steinbeck’s works. Over 20 years ago I read Jackson J Benson’s biography of Steinbeck which comes in at around three times the length. Both are great books. I enjoyed Souder’s writing and appreciated his use of more recent sources to build a picture of the man, although the end felt rushed. I also remember Benson going into a lot more detail about Steinbeck’s practice of writing. If you don’t have the time or interest to tackle over 1,100 pages, this is a good place to start.

20 years of blogging

Twenty years ago today, I started writing here. When I say ‘here’, I don’t mean at andrewdoran.uk — domain names ending in ‘uk’ weren’t a thing back then — but at this digital home of mine on the web. I feel so lucky to have been in my late teens when the Internet started to make inroads to our lives. As a child I voraciously read computer magazines of all shapes and sizes, getting through piles of back issues for computers I didn’t own or had never seen. The articles that talked enthusiastically about modems and dial-up bulletin board systems were fascinating. Being part of it seemed so out of reach; even if I could save up to buy the equipment there was no way my parents would agree to pay the eye-watering call charges. 5p a minute is a lot, even in 2024.

The regular ‘Communications’ feature in Acorn User. I used to eat this stuff up despite never going anywhere near a modem.

The regular ‘Communications’ feature in Acorn User. I used to eat this stuff up despite never going anywhere near a modem.

Back in the early 1990s, ‘getting online’ effectively meant getting an email address. The web followed close behind. I can’t be sure, but I think that my first email account was the one I was given at a summer job at Cable & Wireless. They paid me as a temp to learn HTML and set up the first internal website for the Purchasing & Logistics department. Having the freedom to email anyone else in the world who also had an email account fascinated me, as did websites with digital ‘guestbooks’ to say that you had stopped by. Later, after a decade spent with emails, Usenet posts and chatrooms, getting a blog up and running felt like the next step. I had opinions to share. Putting them out there in the world for anyone else to see meant that I could speak my mind and let them go.

Despite blogs having been around for a few years before I got involved, getting one up and running in 2004 wasn’t as simple as it is today. I bought myself some web space, registered a domain name (applecrumble.net, a name chosen for no particular reason that I can remember), downloaded Movable Type and went through a whole bunch of steps to install the files and the database to get it set up. My friend Mat used his web design skills to make it look pretty; I still don’t understand quite how he did it.

The first capture of applecrumble.net on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I was very proud of the Yahoo Messenger status button and the ‘on my speakers’ sidebar to share what I’d been listening to.

The first capture of applecrumble.net on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I was very proud of the Yahoo Messenger status button and the ‘on my speakers’ sidebar to share what I’d been listening to.

Running a Movable Type blog was challenging. The software was incredible in that it let you post something and all of the web pages and links between them would be auto-generated. But updates were manual and could be very tricky to fix if something broke. You had to check with your web hosting provider whether they ran the relevant Perl modules to power the software. Despite all of the ’back of house’ shenanigans, it was fun.

I remember getting hold of a copy of the book We:Blog, written by Paul Bausch, Meg Hourihan and Metafilter founder Matt Haughey. By the time I was reading it, the details in contained were out of date but the enthusiasm and general guiding principles were there.

In the days before Facebook and Twitter, blogs filled the ‘one to many’ communication niche. If you wanted to tell a few people, you would email. If you wanted to say something to the world (or nobody in particular), you could write a blog post. Most of the comments on this blog stem from that time where friends would check your website to see what you’ve been up to and comment on your posts. It doesn’t really happen very much these days.

I remember emailing Anil Dash, who at the time was working at SixApart, the company behind Movable Type. I’d started toying with the idea of getting blogs up and running at work, but my company’s stance was that if an application needed a database it would have to use Oracle. Anil was helpful — there had been requests from other people asking the same question — but I couldn’t get the initiative off the ground. Eventually I switched to WordPress.com and then to my own hosted instance of WordPress.

The things I wrote 20 years ago are usually trivial, sometimes embarrassing, and reflect someone who wasn’t really worked out why they are writing. The emergence of Twitter (and to a lesser extent, Facebook and Instagram) meant that posts here became extremely rare. Those platforms scratched my ‘connection itch’. Twitter was wonderful back in the day. We made friends and met up in real life.

Somewhere along the way I started to learn about IndieWeb thinking, where you own your content, publish it on your own site first and syndicate it to other services. I started worrying that all of the content I had posted to Twitter might disappear someday.

The struggle with blogging is that creating and publishing something always felt like a giant task. Micro.blog made me realise that publishing little ‘snippet’ updates to your own website is okay; not everything needs to be an essay. I started writing more frequently again. Becoming a weeknoter has also been a major help in keeping up a regular writing practice without having to think too much about what to write about. What could be simpler than writing about what you’ve been up to? A decade and a half after starting my blog, I felt like I’d finally found a bit of a rhythm to getting my thoughts out there.

Looking back, I didn’t expect the post that gave me the most satisfaction would be about the world of professional wrestling, something I haven’t watched since I was a teenager in the early 1990s. Starting to tap out a few notes on a book I had read on holiday quickly turned into something much bigger.

The most read post on this site is my response to a meeting of Berkhamsted Town Council where they debated the building of a multi-storey car park in our town. It had been shared on local Facebook groups and it felt a little intimidating to get a couple of thousand views in two or three days. I’m so glad that I didn’t have comments turned on at the time.

I still get so much joy from my little hobby of writing here. I don’t write longer posts as often as I would like to, but I love the fact that I have this place when I want to get something out of my head. Writing sometimes helps me to work out what I think, or lets me feel that I’ve been able to express myself and let go instead of carrying it with me. Writing recently about the Ofsted process comes to mind. It takes hours to wrestle with the words, but it’s worth it.

By any measure this is a teeny, minor corner of the Web. But it’s mine, and I can’t imagine wanting to be without it.

Weeknotes #267 — Electricity

Amazing new street art on my commute to the office

Amazing new street art on my commute to the office

A four-day week, but it didn’t feel like it.

On Monday our eldest boy turned 17. How I am suddenly a parent to a 17 year old, I really have no idea. It feels no time at all since he turned up in our lives. As usual, we celebrated a family birthday with a meal out together. I love these moments. It’s always so fascinating to think how much our boys have both changed as they grown; thinking about our birthday meals together is a lens to look at how the years have passed. Our boy has some driving lessons as his birthday gift and has his first one booked in for next week.

Gnocchi with mushrooms at The Highwayman, Berkhamsted

Gnocchi with mushrooms at The Highwayman, Berkhamsted

It finally feels like spring is here. Despite being on the edge of Storm Kathleen this weekend, it was lovely when the sun broke through. The outdoor clothes dryer has carried its first load and I’m going to mothball the jumpers from my working from home wardrobe.

This was a week in which I:

  • Gave my ‘digital literacy’ presentation on Large Language Models and Generative AI at an internal quarterly online town hall-style meeting. There were over 350 people online, but the beauty of presenting remotely is that it would have felt no different if it was ten times as many.
  • Had the weekly project meetings for the office refurbishments and moves. A colleague and I had to quickly sketch out a Technology and Real Estate ‘shaping’ budget for a new office we are opening.
  • Wrote up and published the minutes from last week’s programme steering committee.
  • Received a first draft of the AV/IT bill of materials for a new office that we are moving into.
  • Met with the CIO for our African footprint to talk about our office footprint and how we should work together.
  • Spoke to our corporate insurance broker to update him on our upcoming office changes.
  • Met with one of our business line heads to introduce our development team and look at what her business priorities are.
  • Had a check-in with the landlord of one of the new offices we are moving into.
  • Met with our Finance team to review the first draft of our cost projections for our office refurbishment project.
  • Met with a real estate project company to look at bringing in additional support for the work we are doing.
  • Attended our working group for Microsoft Copilot and Teams Premium. I’m still not incorporating Copilot into my everyday workflow. I try, but so often I just get this:

  • Got lucky with the trains despite major disruptions on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. They had closed the lines for four days over the Easter break for engineering work. I’m assuming this didn’t go quite to plan as they would have liked.
  • Booked some overseas business trips. I’ve been trying to keep my business travel to a minimum, but I can’t put these visits off.
  • Made some suggestions to how we can improve some of our facilities management processes and our overall office experience.
  • Bought a bunch of appliances for our new kitchen that is getting fitted out over the next month or so. The changes we are making are complicated and there are lots of moving parts — and people — to coordinate. As ever my wife is doing an amazing job of getting everything lined up.
  • Finally had our house connected directly to the power line in the street after 70 years of being ‘looped’ off of our neighbours’ supply. I love it when the infrastructure beneath our feet gets revealed. Our supply is the black cable at the bottom of this picture, connected into the grey plastic-looking container that sits atop the main power cable.

  • Heard that England and Wales are the only countries in the world that have fully privatised their water supplies. It’s insane to privatise an essential utility where customers can’t choose between providers. Thames Water are in deep, deep trouble and it’s going to be a scandalously expensive problem to resolve.
  • Pondered, yet again, whether I listen to too many podcasts and not enough music. I loved Elliot Roberts’ ’reaction video’ to Rob Sheffield’s list of the 100 best Beatles solo songs that he made for his Patreon Supporters. When I was a teenager I would have been so excited to read a list like this and to seek out the songs and albums I hadn’t heard. I spend so little time listening to music as I’m constantly trying to keep up with all of the time-sensitive podcasts that I subscribe to — tech and cybersecurity news and commentary, politics, F1 news etc. But I love these podcasts; many of them are useful in the work that I do. There’s just not enough time.
  • Finally made it out for a club bike ride again. The start of April means that the club’s ‘mandatory mudguards’ rule is retired and people can opt to head out a little earlier to do a longer version of the route. It was a glorious morning and so lovely to get out.

  • Enjoyed a lovely dinner hosted by our close friends, who put up with my fussiness of admitting that I’m not a fan of quiche. I can’t wait to get our kitchen finished so we can once again do some entertaining of our own. It’s been years.

Media

Podcasts

Benedict Evans: Years ago, someone pointed out to me something, I was very annoyed at myself for not realizing it, that Google Search is manually curated, Google doesn’t give you the answer, it gives you ten links and ask you to pick the right one.

Ben Thompson: That’s right.

BE: Google doesn’t say, “This is the answer”, and there’s a product problem here in that an LLM says, “This is the answer”. Or at least as they’re currently constituted, they do.

BT: This was the Gemini problem, in that it was giving you one answer, so the sense of burden of proof, Google took that on, as opposed to it’s always been on the user previously.

Articles

Next week: Wrestling with trying to fit everything into five days again, an album club and this blog’s 20th birthday.

Weeknotes #266 — Doughnuts

London Bridge, 30 March 2024

London Bridge, 30 March 2024

I really struggled this week. I knew something was up on Sunday night when I sat down to watch TV with my wife and I just couldn’t get into it. My brain was filled with clouds which meant that I couldn’t focus. I carried this feeling into the office on Monday and spent all week waiting for it to pass. The root cause is that there’s just too much going on at the moment. Work is exceptionally busy and we’re in the middle of some major house renovations. It will get better. I’ve been very glad that the long Easter weekend had arrived.

This was a week in which I:

  • Juggled preparing for a programme steering committee with coordinating with our plumber, builder and kitchen fitter as we navigated problems thrown up by our chimera of a house and the order in which things need to get done.
  • Ran the programme steering committee and agreed on an approach in principle for one of the more complex aspects of the work we are doing. Putting the slides together to frame the problem took me the best part of a day complete. One of my colleagues has volunteered his time to run with this issue which lifts a significant piece of work from my shoulders.
  • Met our AV/IT vendor at our office to review our current internal meeting room setup.
  • Met with a prospective vendor whose product we are looking to install in our spaces to monitor a vast array of metrics such as air quality, temperature, humidity, meeting room usage etc.
  • Attended our weekly programme meetings.
  • Met with the Head of Operational Risk to review our programme risks.
  • Caught up in-person with a senior colleague in the Risk team who was visiting from South Africa for the week.
  • Attended our Information Risk Steering Group meeting.
  • Enjoyed our monthly free lunch in the office, catching up with colleagues that I don’t usually speak to.
  • Had our monthly Lean Coffee session, using FigJam for the first time. Switching over from InVision Freehand was pretty seamless, with the session made easier by not needing to have everyone set up with an account beforehand.
  • Said goodbye to two colleagues, one who has retired after 42 years with the firm and another who is closer to the start of his career than the end. It’ll be strange not having them around in the team anymore.
  • Enjoyed two Album Clubs on successive evenings. As well as instalment 157 of our long-running in-person OG club, I joined the good people of WB-40 for our online meetup. Our host went left-field by choosing a ‘video of an album’ to play. I’m not sure it was entirely within the rules as the video cut some songs short and left others out, but we loved it.

  • Went shopping in search of chairs and pendant lights for our kitchen but came up empty-handed.
  • Popped into my brother’s house who was barbecuing for the family. Our boys were busy doing their own thing, which made me wonder how many family gatherings will include all of the children in the future. It was lovely to see everyone.
  • Had the most fabulous time at Bread Ahead in Borough Market doing a three-hour doughnut-making course. My wife booked it when she spotted a ‘two for one’ offer at Christmas, mainly (I suspect) as a vehicle for us to all do something together. As the kids get older we have to be more deliberate about putting time aside as everyone is usually busy with their own things. We had so much fun. Our host, Victoria, was excellent — she had a great sense of humour, kept everyone on track and was super knowledgable about all aspects of baking. I’m no chef but I do enjoy the process as long as someone is supervising me or I have super clear instructions to follow. We walked out of the session with 24 doughnuts and four brioche loaves between us.
The queue for doughnuts outside of Bread Ahead was a sight to behold. They sell thousands each weekend.

The queue for doughnuts outside of Bread Ahead was a sight to behold. They sell thousands each weekend.

Frying the doughnuts, popping bubbles in the dough with a stick.

Frying the doughnuts, popping bubbles in the dough with a stick.

Cream, honeycomb and jam doughnuts

Cream, honeycomb and jam doughnuts

Brioche loaves. Recommended as the basis of a fish finger sandwich.

Brioche loaves. Recommended as the basis of a fish finger sandwich.

  • The train line was undergoing significant work all weekend so we had to drive from Berkhamsted to Borough. JustPark is an invaluable tool for a trip like this, finding us somewhere safe and secure to park close to the venue. Although we had to pay £24 for parking, £15 for the Congestion Charge and whatever it cost us in fuel, between the four of us it probably didn’t work out any more expensive than taking the train.
  • Switched from the AA to the RAC for breakdown cover, thanks to my brother’s ‘friends and family’ discount. He’s saving us around £200 a year.

Media

Podcasts

  • Enjoyed listening to Martha Lane Fox talk about her life and experiences that have shaped her. I loved hearing her honest admission that her wealth saved her life.

Articles

Video

  • Thought Anatomy of a Fall (2023) was excellent. I couldn’t quite place the lead actress, until I realised that I’d seen her in Toni Erdmann (2016) a few weeks ago.
  • Enjoyed 2 Tone: The Sound of Coventry and Terry Hall at the BBC on iPlayer. I much prefer the ‘…at the BBC’ shows where the music isn’t strictly chronological as you never know what gem is going to turn up next.
  • Started watching Shogun on Disney+. Very enjoyable so far.

Books

  • I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck by William Souder. I love picking up a book which looks like it might be hard work but you find yourself enjoying such quality writing that the pages are almost turning themselves.

Next week: A four-day week, getting disconnected from our neighbour’s power supply and presenting to 800+ people on the topic of Generative AI.

📚 Finished reading Toxic Positivity by Whitney Goodman. A rallying cry against the culture of ’positive vibes only’ and self-help dogma such as The Law of Attraction. More of a self-help book than I was looking for. There are lots of useful conversational tips in the book, but mainly aimed at avoiding emanating toxic positivity yourself as opposed to dealing with it in others. The section on how we use complaints as a form of social bonding is fascinating.

Weeknotes #265 — Marika Hackman III

Stop. Stop. No. STOP.

Stop. Stop. No. STOP.

Another typically busy week with a huge amount of context switching. Monday morning started with a drive to an appointment with a medical consultant. (I’m happy to report that I have a resting heart rate of a measly 42bpm.) Getting back to my desk and starting work late morning left me a bit out of sorts, a feeling that I carried with me through the rest of the week.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had meetings with our senior business product leaders to try and understand their biggest pain points, checking whether the development work we are doing is underpinned by their needs.
  • Wrote up and published minutes from last week’s programme Steering Committee meeting and submitted an update to one of our Governance Committees.
  • Had the ‘page turn’ meeting with the landlord, architects, property consultants and AV/IT specialists for an office building that we are moving into later in the year. Office blueprints get detailed.
  • Completed the RFP process for selecting a furniture vendor for the new office.
  • Reviewed the financial forecast for the new office.
  • Met with colleagues in our Group Real Estate team to check in on our progress towards opening another new office.
  • Had the weekly meetings with our sister company on our office upgrade works.
  • Reviewed a draft operating model for our digital product team.
  • Tested out FigJam as an alternative to the collaboration whiteboard tool that we currently use, which is due to be shut down later this year. It looks as though it could save us in licence fees as it gives you the ability to temporarily open up a board to guests, so not everyone needs to have a permanent account.
  • Undertook acoustic testing of the meeting rooms in our office in an attempt to diagnose the various issues that we have with the sounds in each of them.
  • Loved hearing about a colleague’s 42-year career with our firm at our weekly Learning Hour meeting, ahead of his retirement at the end of the month. It was fascinating to hear what things were like when he joined the company in 1982 and the journey that he has been on since then. He had us laughing as he recounted his time in the Y2K ‘war room’ on 31 December 1999; at the exact point that the clock flicked over to midnight, one of the team turned the lights off and set everyone panicking for a few moments.
  • Enjoyed seeing Marika Hackman at the incredibly beautiful Church of St John-at-Hackney. We ate beforehand at The Square, Clapton, a lovely little restaurant with delicious modern tapas-style dishes. The gig was good, but I think I was spoiled by how electric Helena Deland was last month. I definitely have a strong preference for smaller, more intimate venues.
Marika Hackman at the Church of St John-at-Hackney, 21 March 2024

Marika Hackman at the Church of St John-at-Hackney, 21 March 2024

  • Had an eventful journey home from the gig. We missed the 2309 from Euston by a whisker, which meant that we had to endure the long, sad wait for the 2342. The later the train, the more likely it will be filled with people who have had too much to drink. And so it was. As my friend and I talked to each other, I could sense that something was happening a few people away from us in the carriage. From what I could make out, a couple of blokes were being rude to a woman who ended up walking away from them in tears. Things escalated from there. While people close by started getting into shouting matches, I texted the British Transport Police to let them know that things were going pear-shaped. I’ve never done that before. The service sends you a message back to let you know that it has been acknowledged and it was followed up by a constable getting in contact via text and phone the next day. Apparently there were three of us texting the BTP at the same time. They plan to follow it up as a hate crime.
  • Watched our driveway and front lawn get dug up and put back together again by UK Power Networks. Our neighbours want to be able to charge an electric car and found that in order to upgrade their supply, we need to be disconnected from them first. Apparently, the people who constructed our house in the 1950s made cost savings by ‘looping’ the power supply connection between neighbouring properties. Once the work is done, we’ll be connected directly to the street, 70 years after our house was built.
  • Had our annual boiler inspection.
  • Watched a significant chunk of our kitchen get dismantled, on our way to putting a new one in. With a bit of jury-rigging we’ve managed to keep our dishwasher plumbed in for now. Appliances and cabinets have been ordered, worktops have been chosen and we feel like we have all of our tradies in a row.
  • Enjoyed a Friday night and Saturday morning with my brothers and their wives at the Crazy Bear hotel in Beaconsfield. We’d all been treated to a night away as a Christmas gift from my mum and dad (thank you!) and as always it was fun to get together. The hotel is quite something. Spread across a number of old buildings in the town, each room has velvet-covered walls, draped curtains for en-suite doors and leather carpets. The bar looked and felt like a project commissioned by a Russian oligarch with some significant input from Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen. After an evening of laughter we wandered into Beaconsfield for a delicious breakfast at The Cape.
  • Rolled my eyes at my annual AA membership increasing from £250 to £350 with a note from them saying that I could get a better deal if I shop around. So, I’ll call them and they will either drop the price or I’ll become an RAC customer.

  • Managed to avoid any news about the F1 Australian GP qualifying or the race before I watched them on catch-up. After over 30 years of watching I’m still a committed fan, but a 4am start was not going to happen.

Media

Articles

What I fear isn’t automation taking our jobs, but the bottom falling out of generative AI as companies realize that the best they’re going to see is a few digits of profit growth. Companies like Nvidia, Google, Amazon, Snowflake and Microsoft have hundreds of billions of dollars of market capitalization — as well as expected revenue growth — tied into the idea that everybody will be integrating AI into everything, and that they will be doing so _more_ than they are today.

If the AI bubble pops, the entire tech industry will suffer as venture capitalists are once again washed out through chasing an unprofitable, barely-substantiated trend. And again the entire industry suffers because people don’t want to build new things or try new ideas, but fund the same people doing similar things again and again because it feels good to be part of a consensus, even if you’re wrong. Silicon Valley will continually fail to innovate at scale until it learns to build real things again — things that people use because the things in question actually do something.

Audio

Books

  • Bought Bad Writing by Baldur Bjarnason. I’m not quite sure what to expect, but I’ve been enjoying his writing and blogging on AI.
  • Picked up a copy of Tim Burgess’ The Listening Party from Oxfam for a few pounds. I never took part in any of the events but they seem to be in a similar spirit to our Album Club, putting time aside to listen with intent.

Next week: A four-day week that contains two Album Clubs.

Weeknotes #264 — Board

Maybe I’m just noticing now that I’m going into the office at least three days a week again. Or maybe the train service really is getting back to being its rubbish self once more.

Thursday morning gave us last-minute cancellations and trains rolling into the station on the wrong platform. There may have been some warning on the new digital signage, but only a person with a backstory of being bitten by a radioactive owl would know for sure.

Waiting for the London-bound train to arrive on platform 4. If you squint, you might be able to see a shade of orange on the digital signage that indicates all is not well. But what it says? Who knows!

Waiting for the London-bound train to arrive on platform 4. If you squint, you might be able to see a shade of orange on the digital signage that indicates all is not well. But what it says? Who knows!

Zooming in, we can just make out that the next train is bound for London Euston, but the black on orange text is completely unreadable unless you’re directly next to the sign, like this guy. Higher resolution displays to not automatically mean better visibility, people.

Zooming in, we can just make out that the next train is bound for London Euston, but the black on orange text is completely unreadable unless you’re directly next to the sign, like this guy. Higher resolution displays to not automatically mean better visibility, people.

The delays led to a collision with Ed from Album Club, which was a delightful way to pass the time on our drawn-out journey into London.

This was a big week for me, with a couple of important presentations to senior forums. I feel like I’m just about keeping afloat.

This was a week in which I:

  • Gave a presentation to one of our executive governance committees, asking them to ratify decisions that we made at our programme steering committee. All of the decisions were supported.
  • Took our board of directors through my presentation on Large Language Models and Generative AI. It went down so well that I’ve now been invited to speak to all of our Compliance professionals across the group.
  • Hosted the steering committee meeting for the main programme I am running.
  • Spent some time with our CIO on our strategy.
  • Met the CEO of a company that we are looking to work with to give us data and analytics about our offices — temperature, CO2, humidity, occupancy, light intensity and noise levels. It’s exciting to think about what insights we might get from all of this information.
  • Reviewed the technical AV/IT designs with our vendor and the landlord’s team for a new office that we are moving into.
  • Had the weekly project meeting for an office fit-out and move.
  • Got to see a number of 3D renders of the planned ‘work cafe’ space in one of our new offices, helping us to make decisions about the AV kit that we will install there.
  • Assisted a colleague with how to put together a financial projection as part of a business case.
  • Joined the weekly project meeting for opening a new office.
  • Reviewed a conceptual design pack for the spaces we share with a sister company in one of our offices.
  • Had my first set of one-on-one meetings with my recently expanded team.
  • Joined the quarterly town hall event for our technology staff.
  • Said goodbye to a couple of colleagues. One my peers is retiring after 42 years at the company. We surprised him by sending a parallel invite to our all-team meeting to a whole bunch of old friends and colleagues. It was lovely to hear stories from over the years. Both he and another team member are leaving us for their next adventures at the end of the month.
  • Enjoyed a work social event at M Restaurant. It was great to talk and have a laugh with colleagues that I don’t usually speak to.
  • Kicked off our project to remodel the kitchen. We sold our kitchen corner sofa to a guy who drove down from Derby to pick it up. When he got here he was on his own, which I thought was taking a little bit of a chance that there would be someone to help him to get the parts out of the house and onto his flat bed truck. We’ve also had all of our tiled floor removed, ready for the underfloor heating to be expanded to cover an area that will be open flooring in the new configuration. I’d forgotten how much dust gets generated when a workman even thinks about doing something. Next week we are having the remains of the floor tile adhesive being sanded down, so I expect our kitchen to be in full ‘moon simulation’ mode.
Black granite worktops. Nothing can escape…THE DUST.

Black granite worktops. Nothing can escape…THE DUST.

  • Spent Saturday at the SportsShoes.com Podium Festival in Leicester. My eldest son was looking to get a good 5km time on the board. He managed to get around in 15m22s; it was so great to see him happy after his run. The festival itself was really cool — a mixture of running, live bands and DJs — but would have been so much better if the sun was shining. It had threatened to rain all day but had held off until the elite races in the evening. As soon as we saw the men cross the line in the last race we made a run for the exit. Returning to our car we found ourselves locked in a car park along with a bunch of other people who found themselves in the same boat. Fortunately, another driver made contact with the landowner who kindly send someone with a key to rescue us.
  • Opted not to do the cycle club’s ‘Spring Classic’ reliability ride on Sunday. I’d paid to enter some time ago, but couldn’t face turfing myself out of bed into the pouring rain.

Media

Podcasts

  • I’ve been enjoying this week’s discussions on the Stratechery, Sharp Tech and Dithering podcasts about TikTok and the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. If the act becomes law, TikTok owner ByteDance will be pushed to either divesting the app in the US (whatever that means on a technical level) or face having the app removed from the Apple and Google app stores. One thing is puzzling me though. Given that the bill may take a protracted time to get through the processes and become law, what would stop TikTok from using their platform in the run-up to the election to push content that paints the Republicans — and Donald Trump in particular — in a good light, influencing the vote? If this fails, at this point they probably haven’t lost anything. If it works, Trump may look more kindly on the platform from the help it gave him. He may decide not to sign the legislation when it comes to his desk, or revoke any law that has been put in place. What am I missing?

Articles

Video

  • Finished watching season four of For All Mankind. What an incredible show. It feels bizarre to look up all of the main actors and find that most of them are younger than me; they play the parts so well.

Audio

Web

Books

  • Manuel Betancourt’s book on Judy Garland’s Judy at Carnegie Hall informed me that there is a person called Mayo Simon. As Wikipedia says, “Not to be confused with Simon Mayo.”
  • Bought a couple of books from people whose work I appreciate:
  • Started reading Toxic Positivity by Whitney Goodman.

Next week: A medical consultant, a driveway excavation, a dusty kitchen, a boiler inspection and a gig.

📚 Finished reading Judy Garland’s Judy at Carnegie Hall by Manuel Betancourt. Years ago, my brother bought me Rufus Wainwright’s cover version of the entire album which got me hooked. I still love that record, but Garland’s original is even better. Both artists have a voice that takes a bit of time to get used to, but once you’re on their wavelength the music is so rewarding.

‘”There’s something about my voice that makes them see all the sadness and humor they’ve experienced,” she said a few years later about those crowds that clamored for such musical self-flagellation. “It makes them know they aren’t too different; they aren’t apart. That’s the only reason I can give for people’s liking to hear me sing because I’m not that fine a singer.”’ (Manuel Betancourt, Judy Garland’s Judy at Carnegie Hall)

I disagree with Garland’s self assessment. Her singing has an authenticity about it and she nails all of the songs — from upbeat show tunes to beautiful ballads.

These 33 1/3 books, each one about a specific album, are consistently excellent. I’m looking forward to reading more of them.

Weeknotes #263 — Codenames

Looking up on my Monday morning commute

Looking up on my Monday morning commute

Demands of my work have started to exceed supply of my time and it’s starting to get a little bit stressful. It left me feeling out of sorts at the start of the week. I’ve been here before and I’ll get through it, but it’s uncomfortable. A couple of hours at the weekend can usually go quite a long way to bridging the gap, but the next few are already filled with things, so I’m going to have to cram during the week. Radical diary prioritisation is required.

Away from my desk, Spring has arrived. Armies of daffodils having sprung up seemingly everywhere. It’s not completely pitch black when I get up in the morning. There’s a promise and excitement to this time of year. If only it would stop raining so that I can mow the lawn.

Outside the church of St Lawrence Jewry next Guildhall, London

Outside the church of St Lawrence Jewry next Guildhall, London

This was a week in which I:

  • Had the weekly and monthly meetings with the real estate project team at our sister company. We’ve now made some decisions about the work we are going to do in one of our offices which means that the detailed planning and execution can get underway.
  • Created and submitted a set of slides to our senior governance committee on the decisions made in our programme steering committee. I’ll be presenting these to the forum next week.
  • Updated my introductory presentation on Large Language Models and Generative AI ahead of presenting it to the board next week.
  • Learned that my foundational knowledge of accounting and finance isn’t enough. It’s not just a about opex, capex, cash flow and depreciation. It also matters what you’re spending the money on and what that implies. It’s so great when you get into the weeds on a topic with a specialist who knows their stuff.
  • Joined the weekly project meeting for setting up a new office. Dates have started to firm up.
  • Discussed an approach for how we would provide day-to-day technical support to the new office.
  • Met with our Procurement team to review all of the currently active and upcoming work that we are doing with vendors.
  • Attended our quarterly Architecture Governance Authority meeting where we reviewed the architecture of our scripted, rule-based chatbot that assists staff with navigating our policies, processes and procedures.
  • Made progress with bringing a consultant on board to help us with our move to a new office.
  • Reviewed proposed artwork for our new office and reviewed the floor plan to agree where it might be displayed.
  • Had the weekly meeting with the design team for our new office.
  • Agreed on details of how the server room will be configured in our new office.
  • Had the weekly meeting with our AV/IT design vendor.
  • Agreed on a plan to use one of our small meeting rooms as an easily-accessible demo/infrastructure room.
  • Met with the cross-functional team that have been collaborating on new digital products within our part of the business. We are at a crossroads in terms of what comes next and it was good to hear and understand the different points of view.
  • Joined a couple of meetings on our document management initiative.
  • Had an introductory meeting with an acoustician who then came along to our office later in the week. It is fascinating to see a space that I am so familiar with through the lens of someone who has never been there before. We have some acoustic issues in a number of our meeting rooms; I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get a full diagnosis of the underlying issues.
  • Was so pleased to see one of my colleagues do his first ever presentation at our weekly Learning Hour meeting. A crash course on PowerPoint from his daughter helped him to structure his talk. It was a brilliant overview of the finances of the modern gaming industry.
  • Got one-on-ones in the diary with all of the members of my recently expanded team.
  • Enjoyed the monthly free lunch at the office.
  • Met my financial advisor for a check-in. We’ve got two children who are both potentially going through university over the next few years, so I’ve put together a simple spreadsheet to see what the projected impact could be on our finances.
  • Had a fabulous board games night at our new neighbours’ house. We brought along two of our oldest and best friends that also live in our town as they also love a board game. I thought I wasn’t much of a board game fan, but Codenames was so much fun. We had a lot of laughs.
  • Made it out for a Saturday morning cycle club ride for the first time in weeks. Had some lovely chats with riders that I don’t know that well — a Compliance officer in a bank based near to my own office, and a photographer/journalist who (amongst other things) reviews bikes and cycling gear.
  • Enjoyed a curry with some fabulous old friends at Maya in Sunninghill. Everything, including the pubs, seemed a bit more upmarket than when I lived in the area thirty years ago.
  • Made some decisions about upgrading our kitchen. The wheels are now starting to turn very quickly. It’ll be so good to have a space that will make us want to have guests.

Media

Articles

The driver is the apotheosis of quick-moving prowess, total focus and control. The car is both the most studied piece of human engineering, tuned and devised in lab-like environments and at the same time a variable entity, something that must be wrestled with and pushed. The numbers are crunched, the forms wind-tunneled. And yet some spirit escapes their control, and that spirit is known only by the driver. Yes, we watch this perfect blend of man and machine, but we speak of the machine as though it were not of human origin, as though the machine, being born from science could—eventually, through its iterative processes—sublimate human flaws. The driver, being human, knows this is false. His intimacy with the machine is the necessary missing connection, and even if the machine were perfect, it was made for imperfect hands. But it is never perfect. The gaps in its perfection are where disasters transpire, but also miracles.

Video

Web

Books

Next week: Many days in the office presenting to governance committees and boards, meeting vendors and heading out for a company social event.

📚 Finished reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver. A collection of tiny vignettes depicting various relationships. A couple of stories were shocking, notably Tell The Women We’re Going and Popular Mechanics, leading me to search the web for more information on how the stories were interpreted. It was quite enjoyable to read a book where you can pretty much finish a short story in every sitting, no matter how little time you have.

Weeknotes #262 — Heath Robinson

Random graffiti spotted on a wall on my walk to the office

Random graffiti spotted on a wall on my walk to the office

Another very busy week, primarily focused on preparing for a steering committee. This mainly involved trying to gather together as many estimates and quotes as I could for work that might be in scope for one of the projects. The meeting was exactly what we needed in that we’ve now got some very clear direction on what to do. Next week will be all about trying to push the work into execution mode.

This was a week in which I:

  • Was on the receiving end of a lot of blank looks when I used the phrase ‘a bit Heath Robinson’ in a meeting. Of the 10 people in the room, I realised that I was the only English person old enough to know what this meant. I need to check my metaphors.
  • Had a lot of impromptu conversations with people that drifted to my desk. There really are positive things about returning to the office, although I do wonder if being in a two parent family with older children and a wife who works locally to our home means that I’m seeing it through rose-tinted spectacles.
  • Went to various meetings with our sister company on our joint real estate/facilities project, including a recap of the analysis so far on our shared spaces.
  • Wrote a short note explaining how to use a Microsoft Teams Room (MTR) for an online meeting if you are not the originator of the invite. The best approach is to create a whole new parallel diary entry, copy the Teams joining instructions across to the body of the entry and use this to invite the room you wish to use. You then get to keep control of the room booking. Forwarding the invite means that the room will respond to the originator; you won’t know whether your booking was successful or not, which becomes a bigger problem if the meeting starts getting moved around.
  • Found that you can attend a Teams Live Event from a Microsoft Teams Room, as long as you book the room in a particular way.
  • Had the weekly check-in with my product leadership team.
  • Joined the weekly meetings with the project team for moving into a new office in one of our locations.
  • Agreed the Internet service providers that we will use for the new office, which involved looking at where we think the cables run out of the building — you don’t want physical works in the street suddenly severing all of your connections at once.
  • Had the next audio/visual design meeting with our design vendor. We’re very close to being done with the drafts of the spec.
  • Met with a vendor for a demo of their financial data platform.
  • Had a check-in call with our research and advisory partner.
  • Had a surprise resignation in our team. I’m very pleased for our colleague who is moving on to a great opportunity. We are such a small team and people seem to leave so rarely that it always feels like quite a big event when they do.
  • Disabled ‘emoji reactions’ on most of our AgilePlace Kanban boards. It feels like an uncharacteristically poor decision to turn these on by default across all boards. At least we were given a few days warning before they made the change.
  • After much deliberation, decided that we won’t be removing a structural pillar from the middle of our kitchen/dining room. We want to refresh the kitchen and it’s very much in the way, but getting it sorted with the structural works would completely blow our budget. We’ll have to learn to love it.
  • Watched our son come second in the Berkhamsted Rotary Club five mile run.
  • Was glad that the F1 returned, although the Bahrain Grand Prix was a bit of a yawnfest.
  • Got annoyed at myself for forefeiting on a Learned League match. I haven’t done it for quite a few seasons. It’s an awful feeling when you realise the next day that you missed the deadline.
  • Brought my wife’s laptop up-to-date and installed CleanMyMac to keep it in good running order. I’m guessing that there aren’t that many years left before both of our laptops stop receiving security updates.
  • Went out for a splendid family lunch for my wife’s birthday.
  • Finished setting up a second Pi-hole on a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B to replace an old model that had been causing me problems.

Media

Podcasts

Audio

  • Two Album Club meetups this week. At the first we heard Blood by Lianne La Havas. I’d heard Is Your Love Big Enough? a few years ago and found it interesting, so it was good to listen to another of her albums. I found myself hosting the second one and opted for Mercurial World by Magdalena Bay, which I am still deeply in love with.

Web

  • Conventional comments look interesting. It’s the kind of thing that a whole team would need to commit to adopting before it becomes muscle memory.

Next week: Ploughing on with the projects.

📚 Finished reading Everything I Know About Life I Learned From PowerPoint by Russell Davies. A book of two halves, the first being a well-argued love letter to PowerPoint (and tools like it), and the second filled with tons of practical tips for presenting. Davies rejects the “death by PowerPoint” naysayers, argues how it is a tool to help many of us become good presenters and explains that those people most dismissive of PowerPoint are sometimes those that are in positions of such power that they themselves don’t need it. Thoroughly recommended.

Weeknotes #261 — Helena Deland

Helena Deland live at the Oslo, Hackney, 21 February 2024

Helena Deland live at the Oslo, Hackney, 21 February 2024

I was home alone for most of this week. My youngest son was on a school skiing trip, and my wife and eldest son took a short break to Marrakesh. I have too much going on at work right now to contemplate any time off. Things are actually going in the opposite direction for me; I am finding that I have to take time at the weekend to knock a few things off of the to-do list. I think the volume of work this year will peak at both the start and the end, so I’m just going to have to plan other things around it.

Monday was filled with a man-cold aftershock. After being ill over the weekend, I went to bed feeling ok-ish on Sunday and woke up the next day feeling fine. By the time I made it to the office my eyes were watering and I was charging my way through packets of tissues. I don’t really have time to be ill.

This was a week in which I:

  • Was completely blown away by the Helena Deland gig on Wednesday night. Oslo is an excellent little venue which was perfect for the show. I’ve been listening to her music for many years; her wonderful songs sounded even better live.
  • Worked over the weekend to write-up and publish a few things, including the minutes from our recent steering committee. It’s been a few years since I’ve had to write formal minutes and I’d forgotten how much of a slog it is. “Record the meeting and use the AI!” I hear you say. Forgive me if AI-generated statements like this one don’t give me confidence to cede control to the computers just yet:
    What does this even mean?

    What does this even mean?

    The meetings are every two weeks, a self-imposed schedule that comes from the need to drive a lot of decisions during this part of the year. That’s a lot of meeting minute slogging, but I can’t see another way.

  • Got in the habit of recording my daily ‘standup’ meetings. I’ve been using them to share updates on our major programme but not everyone can make that slot every day. We spent a lot of time in our two-weekly management meeting going through the programme steering committee deck, which reminded me how difficult good communication is. I went into the conversation thinking that everyone knew all of the things, but there was much to talk about.
  • Had a number of meetings with our audio/visual technical design vendor. We now have the first draft of a design for one of our offices for review as well as the project proposal for some adjacent work. We have two other projects to agree.
  • Had the two-weekly real estate team meeting to review the status of opening a new office.
  • Joined the weekly design meeting for one of our new offices.
  • Met with the landlord of one of our new offices, along with our CEO and CIO.
  • Took a look at a meeting space in our building with our COO, to see if it would be suitable as a temporary home while we complete some major work this year.
  • Had the weekly project meeting with our sister company on the coordinated building works taking place this year.
  • Met with our sister company to progress the discussion of us taking on the management of technology in a space that we share.
  • Met with colleagues to review the proposed solution for managing documents between our region and a country-focused business function.
  • Had a lovely Random Coffee with the business manager of one of our front office functions.
  • Caught up with an old colleague who now runs our API practice. It’s always so lovely to speak with her.
  • Hosted the weekly Learning Hour meeting. Our guest speaker was the head of our Global Markets Technology department who spoke about her recently completed Master of Financial Technology degree.
  • Attended the two-weekly internal generative AI forums.
  • Assembled my new Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with the intention of swapping it out for an old, problematic Pi that I use as one of my pi-holes. After burning the operating system image onto the microSD card and getting my keyboard ready for setting it up, I found that neither the existing power supply nor HDMI cable will fit into this new model. So I’m back to the shops again.
  • Had a random email from a fellow BookCrosser
  • Bought some new work shirts as quite a few of the current stock have reached their last outing. It’s still amazing to order something on Sunday night and have it there on your doorstep at lunchtime the next day.
  • Pondered how I now seem to need to visit the barbers every three weeks and wondered if faster hair growth is part of the aging process.

Media

Podcasts

Articles

Video

  • Phoenix (2014) was both somewhat wooden and quite beautiful. I found I had to suspend disbelief at how quickly the story ran along, but I was glad to have watched it.

Web

Books

Next week: Two online Album Clubs and the next steering committee meeting.

📚 Finished re-reading Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe. I was given this copy in 2009 by someone I met on Twitter, swapping it for The Vodi by John Braine. The novel is a slice of working-class life in 1950s Nottingham, filled with heavy drinking, fighting and affairs with married women. The opening scene sees the lead character fall down some stairs in a pub before vomiting all over two other customers, setting the tone for what’s to come. Although it’s of its time and is an enjoyable book, it’s still shocking to me when casual racism gets dropped into the narrative.

🎶 Just saw Helena Deland on the last night of her tour. Absolutely stunning gig. After a beautiful, delicate set from Clara Mann, they came on and blew us away. The band were so tight and were clearly enjoying themselves. Someone passed Helena a piece of paper with a request for a song that they don’t usually play; after a nod from all the band members, and a quick errand to fetch additional equipment by the drummer, they went for it and nailed it. It was surreal to bump into Sophie Jamieson on the way out as well, someone who I watched perform at a gig a couple of years ago. What an incredible evening.

Weeknotes #260 — We are the world

A huge banner now hangs from St Pancras New Church near Euston Station in London, raising awareness of the climate emergency

A huge banner now hangs from St Pancras New Church near Euston Station in London, raising awareness of the climate emergency

I’m enjoying my work, but this week was super hectic. To add to the fun, on Thursday afternoon I started getting a cold and by Friday evening it was in full swing, forcing me to load up all of my pockets with tissues. As of Sunday night I’ve started to turn the corner, just in time to get back to work again.

This was a big week for the main programme that we are running this year. I’d set up our first Steering Committee meeting for Friday afternoon and I had to prepare a slide deck for the team to review. Getting ready for a governance meeting isn’t something that you can start too early, otherwise the information changes and you end up tweaking and reworking the slides multiple times. Once I’d aligned with our CIO on the information we wanted to present it was then just a case of getting my head down and creating the document, which I did through Thursday evening and Friday morning. The meeting went well and I feel as though we have a good collective understanding of where we are and what we need to do.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had several meetings with our audio/visual technical design vendor who are working on multiple projects for us.
  • Met with our Finance team to discuss the approach to modelling our property programme costs. We’ve now got a clear view of what we need to pull together.
  • Continued with the process to bring additional project management support on board for our team.
  • Had the weekly project meeting with our sister company for renovating our main office.
  • Spent half a day in vendor presentations that were in response to an RFP issued by our sister company. We may have some involvement with the organisations so it was good to see what they have to offer.
  • Had the weekly meeting for the move of one of our offices.
  • Reviewed the latest draft of an RFP for furniture in our new office.
  • Wrote my sections of our quarterly report to our Board of Directors.
  • Attended a vendor demo of a web-based software tool that may help us with originating new business.
  • Met with a colleague who is getting an internal Engineering Community of Practice off the ground. Offered my thoughts that we need to encourage our staff to be members of communities of practice beyond the boundaries of our organisation, and that we should use the internal forum for the things that are unique to us.
  • Drafted text for an article in our in-house monthly magazine about speaking to the Technology team ahead of planning an important meeting or event. Although the technology in our office is relatively straightforward and intuitive, this doesn’t always hold when people start to do something exotic such as using shared meeting spaces and expecting a particular conferencing platform to work.
  • Reviewed text for another article that encourages people to take part in our Random Coffees initiative. After nearly four years we’ve had over 5,000 pairings and still have about 60 people that regularly take part. Staff joining our organisation have consistently said how useful it has been to be able to meet other people through this process.
  • Took part in a half-day mandatory training session on the topic of Meaningful Conversations.
  • Had our monthly catch-up with the Operational Risk team.
  • Had my weekly meeting with my product leadership team.
  • Decided to replace an old Raspberry Pi with a model 4B. I use two Pis for running redundant pi-holes at home, but this old one regularly gives me trouble when I try to upgrade the software. The rpilocator website is an incredible tool for finding where Raspberry Pis are in stock.
  • Heard an unexpected clatter and thunk as I drove my car off of our driveway. It turned out that one of our front coil springs had failed, leaving a piece of it in the road. Getting the pair replaced and getting four new tyres at the same time left us unexpectedly £900 lighter.
  • Had a very informative meeting with a company that specialises in sports-based scholarships at US universities. It now feels like a real possibility for our eldest son.

Media

Video

  • One of my Album Club friends was gushing about how good Netflix’s The Greatest Night in Pop (2024) is. He wasn’t wrong — it’s superb. I remember watching the music video for We Are the World, tucked up on the sofa with my parents when I was about nine years old, with them delighting in telling me who was singing each part. Watching it all come together in this movie is an absolute delight. There are so many amazing moments which I won’t spoil here. But, the next time I start thinking that I’ve had quite a long day, I will channel my inner Lionel Richie and push on through.
  • My family are more of a TV series kind of people than movies. I took advantage of being home alone one evening by watching Toni Erdmann (2016), a three-hour German film. It’s a slow-burning delight which made me laugh out loud, a weird thing to find yourself doing when you’re watching a movie alone. Loved it.

Audio

  • Loved hearing Soundgarden’s Superunknown at Album Club. I listened to the album a little bit around the time that it was released but probably haven’t heard it in 25 years or so. Spoonman has been rattling around my head ever since.

Books

  • Needing to feed my soul with some fiction, I picked up a copy of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning from my bookshelf. I was delighted to remember that it is a BookCrossing book that was sent to me by someone I met on Twitter some 15 years ago. Once I’ve read it I’ll drop it off somewhere for the next person to enjoy.

Next week: Quote-gathering, and finally seeing Helena Deland live.