Weeknotes #88 — Red cross on the door

This week was half term here in our part of the UK, which means that my wife and both of our children had the week off at home. Having taken barely any time off myself since Christmas, I booked Wednesday to Friday as holiday so that we could go out and do some things together as a family. Unfortunately, on Friday night our eldest boy started feeling ill with a slight temperature. We booked him in for a COVID-19 test on Saturday morning and then eagerly awaited the results. He was over his illness by the time the positive result came through on Tuesday afternoon, but it meant that the other three of us have to isolate until 6 November. Fortunately, none of us have shown any signs of getting ill. I still took the days off but spent them pottering around the house, which I was quite happy to do. I’m back to work again next week but my wife and youngest son will be at home with me, whilst our ‘patient zero’ heads back to school on Tuesday. I’m very thankful that it wasn’t more serious for him, and we seem to have escaped any ill-effects for now.

A week in which I:

  • Put together a small plan for how we can try and improve Wi-Fi at one of our sites that recently went live with new infrastructure. The plan was put into action while I was away for the rest of the week.
  • Spent a couple of hours with a team member going through the project work that follows-on from our ‘minimum viable office’ setup, building out the rest of the infrastructure.
  • Took part in the preparation for our annual formal risk assessment, and discussed how we can further embed risk management into what we do on an ongoing basis.
  • Had a random coffee with another colleague that I rarely spoke to in the office. Setting up a random coffee system for our part of the organisation is one of the best things I’ve done this year, and possibly ever.
  • Attended a ‘mini-masterclass’ webinar on Ulysses, the text editor I use for blogging. The session was hosted by Shawn Blanc of The Sweet Setup. Ulysses is a wonderful application in that the complexity is mostly hidden from view, so it was great to be reminded of some of the things it can do and to learn how Shawn organises all of his writing. I was so impressed with the software used for the class, and the coordination by the admin staff behind the scenes. The webinar is available online. They run a paid Learn Ulysses course which I would love to take if I could dedicate the time to it.
  • Met with the founders of Readwise, Daniel Doyon and Tristan Homsi, to talk about their product, and the Readmill-shaped hole in my life. I’d made notes beforehand and rattled through as much feedback as I could think of. Readwise has revealed itself to me slowly, and continues to delight me as I find out about more of its features. My main fear is that I commit time and effort to the platform and it goes away. I’m not yet as emotionally attached to it as I was to Readmill, but I am now committed to making it the centre of my ‘external long-term memory’ for the things I read.
  • Spent some time during my days off collating my book highlights that I made during the years between Readmill closing and going all-in on Kindle, and then uploaded them to Readwise. This took a few hours to get the data unformatted from the various notes and into a CSV file. For most of this period I used Marvin, a lovely iOS app which mainly suffers from not being part of the Kindle ecosystem — I stopped using it when I bought a Kindle device. I’ve now got nearly 6,000 book and article highlights into Readwise.

  • Binge-watched The Haunting of Hill House with my wife. It seemed like the natural thing to do after finishing the brilliant Haunting of Bly Manor. Watching TV in the daytime during my time off felt extremely indulgent — we never do it, other than for the Formula One. I think I enjoyed Hill House a little more, but both are excellent — just the right mix of horror and drama.
  • Started on the Buster Keaton boxed set that I bought a few weeks ago, which contains restored versions of all of his short films. So far I’ve made my way through The Butcher Boy (1917) and The Rough House (1917), both of which see Keaton playing a supporting role to Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle. Neither of them were life-changing, but there’s something amazing in watching films that are over 100 years old, and thinking about the context in which they were made. The films are public domain and available on YouTube, but these restorations on Blu-Ray are exquisite.

  • Caught up with a lot of sleep. I seem to naturally shut down around 1am and then wake up just before 9am, and it felt great to get a full eight hours for a few nights in a row.

Next week: Back to work. Planning to try and get my head up out of the detail to think more about how we can move from our Kanban ‘flow’ way of working towards a more structured, committed delivery plan. And moving out of isolation just as the country moves into a second version of a full lockdown.

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