Reminded today that my cousin took me to a taping of Whose Line Is It Anyway in May 1994. I managed to identify the episode thanks to the very weird prop brought by someone in the audience. (What is that black rubber thing?!) Can’t find 17-year-old me in the crowd.

This is a great idea. Find a book and buy it from your local independent bookshop. Yes, it’s more expensive than Amazon but I love the transparency of how much goes to the local bookstores. We want them to survive the pandemic and what better way to support them?

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.

People are so lovely. We’ve had countless check-ins from friends offering to get shopping for us while we’re isolating, and our dear friends a few doors down dropped a ‘reverse trick or treat’ parcel of goodies on our doorstep. Feeling very looked-after.

🦠 We just had a call from the government track and trace team. Five days after getting a test and two days after getting a positive result. How can they expect to get virus transmission under control when everything takes this long?

🦠 Son felt ill on Friday night, took him for a COVID-19 test on Saturday at 10am. Tested positive, but only got the result on Tuesday afternoon. Track and trace with those he was in contact with only really happening now. Not exactly ‘world beating’.

Met with the founders of Readwise yesterday to talk about my experience of using the platform, and the Readmill-shaped hole in my life. There is so much more to Readwise than first meets the eye. I’m now in the process of consolidating all of my highlights and quotes there.

Weeknotes #86–87 — It’s always Friday

Life goes by so fast right now. It has become a running joke in the team that it is “always Friday”. This is good in the sense that the weekend keeps turning up quickly but bad in the sense that you always wonder what just happened and how you didn’t get the things done that you wanted to.

A couple of weeks in which I:

  • Was up at 3:45am again for a day of working with the team in our Beijing office. We had a good result in that we have increased our capacity for wired devices, improved redundancy in our Internet/WAN connections and have re-established videoconferencing in some of our meeting rooms.
  • Met with the CEO of one of our International offices to discuss some of the networking problems they have been having. It’s a human trait to just work around problems without fuss, so our main focus was on emphasising reporting them so that we can investigate further.
  • Decided to take a few days off over the coming week while the boys are off school. I feel like I’ve hit a productivity wall and need a bit of rest, having only taken the odd day off here and there since January. I am not sure how much three days away from the keyboard will help, but it’s better than nothing.
  • Agreed a draft role spec for an IT support team member in Beijing. Will now need a crash course in Chinese employment law to see if hiring a temp is the same as it is in our other offices.
  • Got pulled into helping out with a flagship annual event run out of our São Paulo office, which like so many other events this year has gone virtual.
  • Continued to scratch my head at a large company-wide transformation initiative. I keep attending meetings where everyone seems to be running forward, and I feel like I’m the only one where I don’t understand what the destination is yet. People are willing to talk and share their views, and I am gaining knowledge with every interaction, but I am a few iterations away from truly understanding it.
  • Continued interviews for the role of Head of Infrastructure and Operations in our team. I am hopeful that we’ll have the right person in the team soon who can make a big difference for all of us.
  • Struggled to get to emails again. But people are learning that it is definitely not the best way to get hold of me.
  • Had a lovely ‘random coffee’ with an intern in our São Paulo office. There’s nothing like meeting someone literally half your age to make you feel old.
  • Attended my first Microsoft 365 UK user group meeting. Really impressed by the quality of the speakers and the materials. I’ve been reading Joanne C Klein’s blog for a while so it was great to hear her talk. The topic was Protecting Your Teamwork Across Microsoft 365, and gave an excellent overview of the tools available in the platform. The whole session is available on YouTube. I’ll be joining the next one.

  • Set up and ran our school Pay Committee meeting. Virtual Governor meetings seem to be so efficient compared to when they are face-to-face. Once things are ‘back to normal’ we need to look at why.
  • Attended my youngest son’s football match where for the first time this season I didn’t have a job to do. I think I have been the only mask-wearer at all of the events so far this year, and can’t believe how close the parents from all teams stand to each other.
  • Finished reading Normal People by Sally Rooney. A good book, but I wish I had read it before seeing the TV adaptation, as the two were virtually identical.
  • Had my running judder to a halt after pulling a calf muscle on a Monday morning run. It’s so strange how you can be doing nothing different to any other day, on a route you have run lots of times, and suddenly have a problem. I was limping for a couple of days but still managed to get on the bike as it seems that I only use that muscle for running and not riding.
  • Joined 100 other people for Helena Deland’s debut album launch party. Online gigs don’t come anywhere close to being there in real life, particularly in terms of sound quality, but it was nice to give some support and feel like part of a little community.

  • Finished watching The Haunting of Bly Manor with my wife. Properly scary in places with characters that you really get to know. Great series.
  • Continued our family movie ‘round robin’ with my choice of The General (1926), which to my surprise everyone seemed to really enjoy. Taking it in turns between the four of us to pick movies has been great; we get some forced family time where we’re sharing things and not just all off consuming media on our own every night. I’ve watched so many films that I wouldn’t have picked myself, and for the most part they’ve all been enjoyable.
  • Loved watching the F1 race at Portimao in Portugal over the past weekend.

Next week: A couple of days’ work and then a few days off. Trying to get our networks up to scratch in our two most remote offices, and hoping that things go well for our conference in Brazil. Trying to balance the myriad of items on the backlog with the need to get my head up and look at the bigger picture.

🎬 Flicking through Disney+ last night I watched Steamboat Willie (1928). Contains a cat that chews tobacco and spits on himself, and a vicious Mickey Mouse who strangles a tune out of a duck, then kicks a piglet off its mother so he can play music on her teats. Different times!

Excited that my Luminelle Records parcel made it here from the US. I’m not sure I’ve ever been this into a record label before. All of their artists I’ve heard so far have been excellent.