After repeated plays, I am officially declaring Robyn’s album Honey to be a masterpiece. It gets better with every play and is sublimely put together. When it finishes I just want to put it on all over again.

Been anxiously watching the forecast all week. If it stays this way, sadly I don’t think I’ll be riding the Harp Hilly Hundred tomorrow. I don’t mind the cold, but I’m not prepared for the risk of crashing on ice.

Chris Grey: A dangerous political void

Chris Grey’s Brexit blog has always been well-written and thought-provoking throughout the process. We’re so stuck at the moment and his latest post has now got me worried.

Unless something radical changes – and it may, precisely because of the desperate plight we are now in – then it seems highly likely that Britain will leave the EU with no deal. That will mean that in ten weeks’ time we will face severe economic and social dislocation, with the probability of food and medicine shortages, troops on the street, disruptions to travel and much else.

It would be an outcome desired by only a tiny minority of grossly irresponsible ideologues in parliament and amongst the public. The division, crisis and extremism it would unleash make that feared were there to be another referendum, or even a revocation of Article 50 without a vote, seem like a walk in the park.

Keeping a ScanSnap going on macOS Mojave

After trying a few different apps, I switched to ExactScan Pro on macOS given that Fujitsu no longer support my scanner. Expensive, but not as much as buying a whole new piece of hardware to achieve the same result. I’ve only scanned a few thousand pages and it seemed tragic to get rid of it when it was working perfectly well.

The saddest thing was the way the old Fujitsu software died. It still seemed to work, but created PDFs with the pages out of order. I was scratching my head as it was almost like someone had deliberately sabotaged the code so that it wouldn’t work properly.

This tool is fabulous. I needed to validate an estimate for a large irregular-shaped flat roof and could use the tool to plot the area from a Google Maps satellite image. Bravo.

Weeknotes #49 — The days are long but the years are short

It’s been a ‘quietly confident’ start to 2019. I had intended to take off all of the days between Christmas and New Year, but as the week before drew to a close I realised that this wouldn’t work. There was so much planning and organisation to be done; we have such a tight schedule that it would make no sense for me to be doing this whilst everyone else on the programme tries to gather themselves and get going again in January. So, I worked from home for a couple of extra days. I’m so glad I did. I now have a very large list of tasks, more than halfway to becoming a detailed plan, which I’m already using to good effect to set direction and give focus across the team on what we need to complete. Having an ‘old school’ project plan feels a bit strange in this day and age where people are practicing Scrum, Kanban, SAFe and all other manner of agile development methods. However, it feels right to me given that the programme is mainly infrastructure-focused (there are little in the way of ‘features’ to prioritise), is heavy on dependencies and critical path analysis, and is a much bigger piece of work than a classic agile team of 5–9 people could manage. There are too many things going on to fit into my field of vision and this ‘advanced checklist’ approach feels right.

I have a new project manager that joined the team on Friday who I will be handing this immediate detailed management work over to, so that I can spend more time looking further out and across the programme. The work we are doing will impact six cities around the world and everything we are focusing on at the moment is just for the first one.

The detail-oriented approach feels right, and it is helped by the start of a new financial year. With the calendar ticking over from 2018 to 2019 we suddenly have funding to buy the new infrastructure components that we will be deploying. I’ve also been working with the internal communications team to kick-start a plan for how we will present and absorb a significant amount of IT change across the organisation this year. It feels like there is some excitement in the team to be getting on with the work; I hope it isn’t just me.

Over Christmas I started to read the Word for Windows 1.0 postmortem, which although 30 years old I am sure will have some useful lessons and prompt some thoughts on how to avoid issues on our programme. I’ve already made a note about avoiding introducing too many new techniques and processes along the way.

I also took advantage of the Christmas break to get back on my bike again. I managed to get out and about, or on the turbo trainer, almost every day that I had off. It was a slow start, but I’ve got some momentum with me now. I’ve learned that a 30-mile ride of two hours isn’t unreasonable to fit into a Saturday or Sunday around family activities; previously I felt glum if I couldn’t go out for double that. Maybe this is one advantage to starting over. I’ve managed to fit longer rides in where the family have been going somewhere and I can meet them there. On the days that I work from home I’ve also been getting the bike set up on the turbo so I don’t have to think too much in the morning before jumping on. I really want to embed cycling as a thing that I do all the time, not just a thing that I do occasionally as a special event.

There’s plenty more to note but the topics will have to wait. The past two weeks have seen a few 9/10pm finishes with work and today is no exception, plus I spent the weekend ill with a little fever which I only seemed to get over this morning. Battling my way into 2019 but feeling positive.

Cleaned out our tiny lounge fireplace 13 hours after we last added some fuel. A strange smell alerted me to this. I had no idea coals could burn for that long.

Popped into the Bank of England to change some old notes into new ones. Was strangely exciting! Feels like a little thing ticked off the ‘life experiences’ list. Grabbed a snap of the Royal Exchange to send the kids after we saw it in Mary Poppins Returns on New Year’s Eve.

The discipline of a blank piece of paper

The ever-excellent Track Changes podcast caught my ear today. They have an interview with Michael Shaoul, who is the Chairman, CEO and Portfolio manager of Marketfield Asset Management.

I think that it’s always interesting to hear about what someone’s job involves day-to-day, particularly when they have such a senior position. Shaoul says that he spends a lot of his day reading articles to get a sense of a broader economic picture. From the podcast transcript linked above (light editing and emphasis mine):

I have the Terminal, so obviously it’s Bloomberg News,  but what I have is the raw news feed which has hundreds and hundreds of newswires. So you know, I literally have the world’s news scrolling past my eyes in real time and if I ever see something interesting, I click on it, and I probably read two, three hundred stories a day. I don’t necessarily finish them all […] If it’s really interesting, I might email it out. I might send it to someone, I might, as you say, jot it down in a notebook. You know, I’m lucky that I have really an excellent memory and the Terminal itself makes it relatively easy to go back and find something that you looked at […] but that altogether sort of forces me to […] have a constant view on what I think is going on.

I’m on the telephone, talking to people. I’m constantly reading stories. It’s a lot. So how do I synthesize it? Partly through the discipline of writing. I’ve been writing daily and weekly stuff now for years […]  people say, “Well how do you have enough time to write if you’re like reading and talking to people?” I’m like, “Unless I write something, I don’t know what I understand.” And it is that discipline of a blank piece of paper — or a blank screen and typing away — that forces you to decide what you actually care about and what doesn’t really matter.

I think this goes hand-in-hand with one of my favourite quotes:

I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.

The interview got me thinking about the weeknotes that I’ve written here during 2018, and more broadly why I’ve kept a blog — on and off — for the past 15 years. I’m not a CEO of an asset management firm, am not selling anything and typically don’t get too many views of the things I write. The audience for ‘everything Andrew is possibly thinking about’ is an extremely narrow one, and doesn’t even include my wife or my mother. But that’s okay — the main purpose is for me to work out what I think about things and what I want to say about them. Connections made with anyone else are amazing, but they are a bonus.

I’m going to try and continue with my weeknotes in 2019. I need to seriously work on keeping them brief so that they don’t take up quite so much time, as I already have more things to do than I can possibly complete this year. I’ve no idea if I’ll succeed or not, but the point isn’t the output as much as it is the discipline and process of creating something on that ‘blank piece of paper’.