in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #221 — Interesting

This week I spent four days in the office in a row, as if I was single-handedly trying to bring 2019 back into fashion. Going out after work in London is fun, but getting home just in time to go to bed and then doing it all again six hours later, not so much. It was lovely to get back to my home office on Friday.

Being in the office was useful as the week was peppered with people who needed a helping hand in getting set up with our password manager. It’s such a lovely feeling to walk away from someone’s desk after they’ve realised how much easier it will be to use the software instead of whatever they have been doing up to that point.

This was a week in which I:

  • Spent most of the week in between meetings working on a presentation about large language models and generative artificial intelligence for a general audience, which I hope will help our staff to get up to speed. It still needs a bit of work, but the first run through with a group of people close to the topic has been booked in for Monday.
  • Continued conversations about the team that I run and where our focus lies. It feels like we need to increase the amount of time we are spending on the ‘portfolio management’ part of what we do, but it’s difficult to see how we can reduce the effort in other things.
  • Drafted some rough criteria for when a piece of work should have some involvement from my team.
  • Set up a tracking spreadsheet for all of our staff and where they are in the process of getting set up with our chosen corporate password manager. Recruited our Helpdesk team to join me in tackling the remaining staff one by one.
  • Sat with three members of staff to get them up and running with the password manager, and lined up some more appointments for next week.
  • Attended the formal Governance Committee for one of our regional entities to give a brief IT update.
  • Reviewed the recommendation to procure some IT services.
  • Caught up with one of my colleagues to review the ‘brands, products and objectives’ for the function that they run.
  • Briefly tried out Google Bard. The interface is interesting when compared with GPT-4 in that all of the response text appears at once. I’m not sure if I prefer the text to slowly appear as if it is being typed, or I am just used to it. The quality of the responses didn’t seem to be as good, so haven’t yet gone back.
  • Attended our Diversity and Inclusion forum.
  • Enjoyed a Learning Hour talk from a colleague in our Finance team on Why Banks Fail. We have quite a few guests speakers lined up in the coming weeks which is quite exciting.
  • Had a few conversations which got me wondering whether someone’s viewpoints and values of cultural issues depend on the time horizon that they think about and whether their concerns go beyond the span of their own lifetime.
  • Joined the first part of TechSmith’s Level Up, but left soon after when I figured I would be able to watch the key presentations at a later date. Their products are great and I think we could be doing a lot more to get better use out of them as part of our Digital Literacy initiative.
  • Wandered along to Interesting, a couple of hours with nine splendid presentations on various topics. It was lovely to bump into Paul again; we carried on with our chat all the way back to Berkhamsted. I also said “hi” to Alice as an admirer of her blog, and thanked her for recommending it in her weeknotes. It’s lovely to go to something so random. Stef Posavec’s name was familiar; a quick search of my own blog revealed that I’d taken one of her evening classes at The Guardian back in 2018. (Thank you, external brain!) Hilary Nightingale’s talk on the shopping lists that she has found and collected over the years made me chuckle. Sarah Drummond’s talk about the Don’t Say Gay film she is making, all about Section 28 (a series of laws across Britain that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities), got me thinking about how things can fade into obscurity if people don’t keep them alive in our collective consciousness. And Jeffre Jackson’s talk about misophonia was superb. I always feel like a bit of an outsider at these events as everyone seems to know everyone else, but I’m not sure how true that is.

  • Caught up with our school’s IT provider and our Office Manager to talk through where we are with our various IT infrastructure projects.
  • Reviewed material for next week’s Full Governing Board meeting. Created a version of the budget that allows us to compare the figures to our year-end actual spend figures for the same categories.
  • Met up for a drink with a raft of colleagues that I first met when I started work in 1999. One of the group now lives in Australia and is the catalyst for getting everyone together when he’s back here. They are lovely people and it was great to see them again. I was so lucky to start my career in that team.
  • Bought and set up another pi-hole as a secondary DNS server. I previously had my router pointing to a single pi-hole for its primary DNS and to OpenDNS for secondary, in order to avoid my whole family shouting at me if the pi-hole went down. But some of the clients on the network seemed to always query OpenDNS, so the advert blocking wasn’t as comprehensive as it should be. Adding a second pi-hole solves the problem. For now, they are configured completely independently and are both running the default block list. But the pi-hole remote app allows me to see a consolidated set of data.

  • Finally took delivery of a mini hard drive interface that I ordered from Amazon US over a month ago which enabled me to wipe two more old hard disks.
  • After almost a week off of my bike, the Saturday club ride was brilliant. It was a chilly start but soon warmed up; I’m going to have to take the plunge and ditch my full finger gloves for next week. We covered some very different territory from our usual roads. I had my first puncture in a while and realised that the time to try to learn how to use my CO2 pump isn’t when I have 11 other cyclists waiting for me to get going again.

  • Finished watching series two of Slow Horses. AppleTV+ does have some excellent shows at the moment.

Next week: Presenting about AI, a school governor meeting, and meeting an old friend.

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