Made You Look Someplace Else

Is it just me, or does Made You Look by Meghan Trainor sound remarkably like Someplace Else by George Harrison?

I heard Trainor’s song when I was getting a haircut a few weeks ago. I heard it again a few minutes ago as it played via someone browsing TikTok in the house. I pounced on them to find out what it was.

🎬 Watched Twelve Monkeys (1995) with my family tonight. I remember it affecting me as a 19 year old, unable to sleep as I went over the film in my mind. Seeing it now after the pandemic is something else — it feels much closer to a possible reality. It had me in pieces this eve.

Weeknotes #201 — 46

A week spent working on little projects and jobs at home with a couple of visits to family and friends. I was determined not to go back to work in January with regrets of not having completed any of the things I had been waiting for some time off to get done. There are still plenty of things to do, but I feel like I’ve made some good progress.

The weather has mainly been wet and miserable, which has put me off getting out on my bike. On Boxing Day I managed a lovely lumpy ride around our local hills, covering the cycling club route that had been called off a couple of weeks ago due to the snow and ice. The rest of the week was spent on the indoor bike trainer. I don’t mind riding in the rain if the heavens open when I’m out and about, but I can never bring myself to deliberately go out into it.

This was a week in which I:

  • Made a five hour round-trip to Ross on Wye and back, in order to see my wife’s parents, brothers and children. It was so lovely to be there and meet up with everyone. We couldn’t stay because we had nobody to tend to our two cats overnight.
  • Spent a very fun New Year’s Eve at the house of some close friends. Other friends of ours brought along a karaoke machine and we sang until the early hours.
  • Made lots of progress with re-ripping my entire CD collection to my NAS drive in a lossless format. I’m determined to have it done before I go back to work. Lossless will mean that I will have a backup of all of the CDs I own, and will never need to do this again. I’ve found myself wrestling with the vagaries of iTunes the Music app in order to make sure that things end up named and catalogued correctly. The number of spelling errors in the automatically-matched database is shocking.
  • Finished processing around 500 notes that I had made in the Drafts app. They dated back to late 2020. Next year I need to do much, much better at processing the notes that I make so that they don’t build up again.
  • Turned 46. My wife, quite rightly, pulled me up when I made a comment about getting old. It’s a privilege that not everyone has.
  • Watched a couple of movies with my wife. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) was good fun, but didn’t feel like that much of a mystery. The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent (2022) was superb; it basically consisted of Nicolas Cage parodying himself, a less freaky version of Being John Malkovitch (1999) for modern times.
  • Continued my journey through Grange Hill on Britbox. I’m now up to series six and it’s starting to turn into the show that I knew as a kid. Characters that are familiar to me have turned up, and are now being matched by much deeper storylines such as racism and bullying. It’s jarring to see how some of the issues were dealt with in the early 1980s; two young girls going off in a car with some strange men while on a school trip is just brushed off as ‘a nasty scare’ and nothing else is done about it.

Next week: Finishing off some home projects and getting back to work. There’s lots to do in 2023 and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

Learn in public had me mouthing “yes!” as I read it. I feel like I need to print this out and put it on the wall.

Ironically, I found this in my ~500 notes in Drafts that I am trying to clear down as a holiday project. Next year I need to make sure I hit ‘publish’ more often.

🎶 The Paul McCartney Project is an insanely detailed website and database about the man and his work. You can lose many, many hours delving into the information here. Songs include write-ups, lyrics and all official/unofficial versions as well as when they were played live.

📚 Picked this up from the new independent bookshop that recently opened in our town, for half of the £20 cover price. It’s fantastic — a chronological walkthrough of interesting or important photos from the 1840s to the present day. I’m going to love working my way through it.

Weeknotes #200 — Two hundred of these, that’s why they call me ‘Mr Fahrenheit’

Looking back on my first set of weeknotes, it’s interesting to see what has changed and what is still the same. The purpose of jotting things down still makes sense to me. Primarily, these posts are a vehicle for me to remember and make sense of things. If others find them interesting or useful, that’s a bonus. Most of the time I feel as though I am writing into the void, but occasionally I’ll be in conversation with someone and they will mention something that they’ve read here. I’m always a little shocked.

It took me little while to find a format that made weeknotes easy to write and therefore an easy habit to stick to; Ton Zijlstra’s weekly posts were an inspiration. I’ve got myself into a routine where I settle down to write on a Sunday evening for an hour or two. Somewhere along the way they changed from being a commitment to something that I really enjoy.

When I started blogging back in 2004, I soon felt the pressure to think about topics. It was easy to fall out of the habit of posting. A combination of regular weeknote schedule, inspiration from that posts don’t need to be long (or even have a title), and the realisation that this is my website where I can publish whatever I want, have been very helpful in keeping up a practice of writing. I’m not a very good writer — I envy those bloggers that bring humour and style to what they put out — but I do enjoy the process. I think that’s enough of a reason to do it. Occasionally I publish something that I’m really pleased with, and it’s lovely when other people find pleasure in reading it too.

This was a week in which I:

  • Went into the office on Monday for the final time in 2022. It was a frustrating, unproductive kind of day, especially after having got so much done last week when I worked from home. Being in London meant that I could do a bit of last-minute gift shopping after work, but navigating Oxford Circus six days before Christmas wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had.
  • Sent off the purchase orders for our corporate password manager subscription and activated our account. My instincts about avoiding LastPass were sadly proved to be correct this week. I always thought that even though the ‘core’ password data should be reasonably safe in the event of a breach, the fact that they have had multiple incidents points to everything not being well with how they built both their product and organisation. Early next year, before we start the rollout, I’ll be talking to colleagues about the benefits of using a password manager. It’ll be interesting to see whether we get questions and doubt from non-IT staff based on this latest event.

  • Wrote a draft lean business case for purchasing and implementing an extensive Microsoft Teams toolset. The software should allow us to monitor the quality of service across all aspects of Teams, audit its usage to avoid sprawl and rot, as well as nudge staff and give them pointers towards best practices at the point they need it.
  • Had the final meeting of the year for the project to close down one of our regional offices.
  • Arranged a meeting with a sister company in January to demonstrate how we have set up and configured our Microsoft Teams rooms.
  • Caught up with some neglected emails and brought my Kanban board up-to-date, ready to get started at pace next year.
  • Booked my first business trip abroad for 2023.
  • Met up with a friend to talk about their new product management role. I’ve never been a product manager but it felt like a useful conversation. I guess that one of the good things about being a generalist is that you get to know a little bit about a lot of things and can point other people at some useful resources. Not to compare myself to one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, but it was delightful to read this week that John Steinbeck was also a generalist, with too many interests:

In the past I have been soundly spanked by some of our talmudic critics for failure to pick out one ant-hill and stay with it. It is a permanent failing. Thirteenth-century manuscripts and modern automobiles are separately but equally interesting to me. I love processes and am perhaps the world’s greatest pushover as an audience.

A girl in a department store demonstrating a tool for carving roses from radishes has got me and gone with me. Let a man open a suitcase on the pavement and begin his pitch “Tell you what I’m gonna do!” and I will be there until he closes. (Daily Mail, 7 Jan. 1966)

  • Started to re-rip my entire CD collection in Apple Lossless (ALAC) format. Years ago I ripped them as 320kbps mp3 files, but with the amount of storage I now have on my NAS it makes sense — or at least gives me some geeky satisfaction — to bump up the quality even more. It’s a little side project that will probably take some weeks to complete. I’m also putting some albums aside that I bought years ago, but perhaps haven’t given enough attention.
  • Continued my marathon journey through Grange Hill. I’ve heard rumours that BritBox may be going away at some point, so I’m racing to get through all 11 series that are available on their service before this happens. I’m nearly halfway through. I’ve also started listening to episodes of the Sausage On A Fork podcast, focusing on the interviews with cast members that have appeared in the early series.
  • Had a family movie night where we watched Get Out (2017). Creepy, but not too much.
  • Got out for a bike ride with the cycle club again. It felt great. Being at home for the past couple of weeks and managing to get on the indoor trainer every day seemed to have paid off. The weather was dark and grotty, but at least it wasn’t raining.
  • Was persuaded by my eldest son to go for a ParkRun on Christmas Day. I was very proud to see him come in first overall, half a minute ahead of second place. I managed 17th, first in the ‘veteran male 45-49’ category.
  • Took the Political Compass test, and was unsurprised by the result.

  • Had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with my family at Rosanna’s in Berkhamsted.
  • Spent a fabulous Christmas Day with at my mum and dad’s house along with my brothers and their families. It reminded me why our summer holiday together was so good — we got to spend a lot of time together and had some great conversations, which is much more difficult when you’re only with each other for a few hours once in a blue moon. Hopefully we’ll see each other more next year. Christmas dinner was superb and everyone had a great time.

Next week: Visiting relatives, relaxing at home and turning 46.

🎶 Is there a reason why classical musicians in pop bands, generally, don’t use a conductor? Is it because there are just a few instruments? Because of the regular time signature of the music? Something else? Examples here and here.

Is there a canonical list of non-functional requirements out there? I’m imagining a version of the You Are Not Done Yet testing checklist, but for NFRs. I have a proprietary one, but it feels like this is the kind of thing that should be on GitHub as an open source project.

Weeknotes #199 — Shallow snow, deep work

An eventful and productive week. On Sunday night the snow came down and we woke up on Monday to a few inches of snow. School were quick to text us that they were open and that they were expecting pupils to attend; our children were not impressed. I cleared and gritted a path down our driveway as well as the steps to our neighbour’s house, but experience now tells me that I’ll have to grit the pavement and road directly outside our house in future.

This week’s trains into London were already going to be problematic due to more scheduled strike action, so I resigned myself to a full week of working from home. For the first time in months, I found myself with two consecutive days with almost completely free of meetings, with hours of time to lose myself in some deep work. I made the most of it. It was so satisfying to create something that has been building up in my mind for most of the year.

Temperatures have swung from -7°C to 9°C in 24 hours and the snow has largely been washed away. We really do get a lot of weather here in the UK.

This was a week in which I:

  • Fleshed out a slide deck to frame our digital literacy initiative. I need to write more about this in a separate post, as I think it will be a central component to what we do in the future. The magical Internet led me to making contact with Blaneth McSharry at the University of Galway, one of the authors of the excellent All Aboard tube map of digital skills for higher education. The map has helped me to organise my thoughts into these categories, albeit with different content under each one. I really appreciate Blaneth sending me the graphic in a modifiable format that I can potentially remix. I feel as though I’m now in a place to share what I’ve done with the wider team and get some feedback.
  • Finalised the contract for a trial of software that will allow our staff to broadcast their planned daily working locations to their colleagues. The concept is super simple and the application is very pretty. Almost everyone in our department is now on-board and I’ve already had my first conversation along the lines of “Oh, I see you’ll be in the office on Monday so I’ll try and come in too.” I demoed the system to two other departments and enabled them also. There’s an obvious potential downside in that people may start asking negative questions about other peoples’ working patterns. We’ll have to be clever about how to present and promote the concept to the wider organisation.
  • Completed the cybersecurity review for our chosen password management vendor and met with our sales representative. I now have purchase orders in place for three of our four locations and hope to get the final one in place on Monday, ready to send them all back to our reseller. I am so excited to be getting close to rolling this out across the organisation; it has been on my backlog for many years.
  • Continued a discussion with a colleague in another department about work management tools. Gave him a demo of Planview AgilePlace, which is central to our work.
  • Demoed and explored a feature of AgilePlace that allows you to set up programme increments and sprints. We may be able to use this in our future product development work.
  • Spoke to a colleague in the Enterprise Architecture team for help in logging a historical product decision that pre-dates the setup of our own Architecture Governance Authority.
  • Took part in our annual review of our Microsoft licensing requirements.
  • Attended a Meetup on the topic of scaling agile outside of software development. Before the pandemic, when I used to go to something like this in person, there was an opportunity to meet some interesting people afterwards even if the main event wasn’t that great. This mingling is almost impossible on a virtual call, so if the presentation isn’t very good then there is little incentive to stay.
  • Signed up as a paid user of Milanote after getting a recommendation from a friend and watching a couple of introductory videos. I’m wondering if this will help my blogging workflow; currently I have a list of ‘ideas’ in Ulysses but don’t spent time looking through them. Perhaps having them in a more visual format, adding references and links as I go, will help with getting more things to ‘done’.

  • Interviewed a prospective school governor who has recently moved to the town. We’ve been adding governors at a steady rate recently which is giving me some optimism for the future. It’s wonderful that people want to volunteer, offering their time, experience and expertise for free.
  • Joined a National Governance Association webinar on the topic of Financial oversight in challenging times. It’s a pretty bleak picture. I really feel that there is nobody talking about the impact of the pandemic on school finances. There are so many children in schools who are now presenting with additional needs that have to have support from more staff. The vast majority of this is completely unfunded. Even if a specific child has managed to get an education, health and care (EHC) plan, the amount of additional money that is given to support that child falls way below the level required to hire an additional member of staff such as a one-to-one teaching assistant. The government recently announced additional funding for schools, but it will only take us back to 2010 levels of funding per child in real terms, with no additional funding for all of these additional needs.

Next week: Last day in the office and the last three working days of 2022. Finishing off the Christmas shopping and wrapping things up for the year.

Unintentional driverless car

On Friday afternoon, our car decided to make a run for it.

We’ve had very cold weather for the past week, with temperatures occasionally reaching the dizzy heights of 0°C. Living on a hill with a very steep driveway means that at times like this we have to park on the street. The car was parked with its handbrake on and left in gear, facing down the road so that we can easily roll away when it’s time to use it again. And then this happened, as captured by our video doorbell:

The first thing we knew about it was when a neighbour appeared at the door to tell us that our car had escaped. It had come to rest in the middle of the road after hitting another neighbour’s parked car.

They have been very understanding. It’s our (car’s) fault and our insurance will cover the dent that they now have in their door. I feel very sorry for us having caused what will inevitably be admin and hassle to get the door repaired and paid for. I’m very grateful that their car was there to stop ours, and that nobody was walking up the road at the time.

We’ve lived in our house for nearly two decades and through a number of very cold winters, but have never seen anything like this happen before. I’m assuming that the tyres were warm from a recent trip, melted the ice beneath the car which then refroze and caused it to slip. But I really have no idea.

We’ve now gritted the space in front of our house and have started using the heavy rubber chocks that we usually put in front of the car wheels when it is parked on our driveway to stop it from happening again.

Sad Mac

My five-year-old MacBook Pro has started to play up again. I had Apple replace the battery late last year. Now when I turn it on it works for a couple of minutes before the screen goes black and the touchpad stops giving feedback, despite the battery being being charged. Plugging in brings it back after a minute or so. This is the problem that made me schedule a battery replacement in the first place.

For five years I’ve had a MacBook Pro at home and a couple of different well-specced Lenovo ThinkPads for work (X280, T14s). I have to say that I much prefer working on the ThinkPads. Windows in its current guise is excellent and rarely causes me any issues. There’s a lot to love about Apple products and the integration between devices, but I have never fallen in love with my Mac.

My 15 year-old showed me a bunch of music videos on YouTube last night by artists that he’s into. Everyone seemed to be wearing balaclavas, subtitles were on and they kept talking about “P”. I’ve never felt so old.