Week 47: Home

30th November 2020

This week after 8 weeks of living at a friends house while our bathroom was renovated we were finally able to move home. While the flat is still far from being back to normal, being back feels great.

This week was also Thanksgiving in America. In past years we’ve hosted a Thanksgiving in our flat inviting friends that we’d like to thank for playing a part in our year. This year, due to COVID and lockdown, rather than the big gathering of friends we’ve had round in the past, we celebrated it alone. It was nice to be back in our flat for it, it was sad that we couldn’t share it with friends.

One of the traditions for our Thanksgiving is going round the group with everyone having a chance to give thanks to the things that they are thankful for that year. It’s a nice chance to reflect on things that enable us to be where we are in the world, to appreciate the people that help you get there.

Hopefully next year we’ll be able to have friends around again, and give thanks for an enjoyable year.

Week 46: Everything

23rd November 2020

Week 45: Renovations

16th November 2020

Week 44: Our office

9th November 2020

This week we got the keys to our very own office!

During the enforced working from home period we’ve become increasingly aware that our small one bed flat was slowly turning into an office. We don’t have a separate room in which to close off work, instead the areas we usually use to relax are slowly became synonymous for the places we do work.

It’s reminded me a lot of when I moved from programming being my hobby, to programming being my career. It’s still something I derive large amounts of enjoyment from, but the setting changed, even on days I don’t feel like it, I’ve got to continue doing it. It’s very easy to start resenting something you used to enjoy, and loose it as an escape.

Unwittingly this has happened to our flat. While sitting watching TV I can still see my work desk, while cooking or sitting at the dining table I can still see work chairs, monitors, computers, and other paraphernalia. There is no escape.

For the same reasons as I’ve pretty much stopped writing any code in my spare time, I’ve been longing to go back to an office so I can stop living in my office. The physical separation allows an emotional disconnection.

A couple of weeks ago I thought I’d fire an email to the office complex near our flat asking if they had any co-working spaces or any small units free. They didn’t have any co-working spaces, but they did have one small unit that was currently vacant. So after going and visiting it, we decided to rent it. This weekend we spent lots of time giving it a lick of paint and assembling some desks, making it feel like our space.

So we now have our own office with a door we can close (important while there is a global pandemic ongoing), a window I can stare out of, and a fast internet connection for the video chat meetings. We can move work out of the flat and reclaim our living spaces as relaxing spaces. Now we’ve got it, I honestly don’t know why we didn’t do this months ago.

Week 43: Pedalling

1st November 2020

Week 42: Going out while staying in

26th October 2020

This week I learnt how to use Sketchup to model a room. One of the things we’re having done with our bathroom work is having the door moved along the wall. We’d spent ages talking about the impact it would have on the bathroom, but when seeing the new position of the door from the bedroom side I was concerned. Before asking for modifications to the original plan though I set about trying to create a scale model.

I consider myself somewhat computer literate, Sketchup though made me feel like I had no idea how computers worked again. I spent ages trying to work out how to draw a square to the same size as the bedroom. A seemingly impossible challenge. Once I got beyond the initial learning curve of drawing a to scale cube though, the rest was actually surprisingly straightforward. I was able to create two models, one of the room with the door how it had just been positioned, and one with the door in a different position. Ideally I should have done this before the work started, but better late than never.

The Sketchup pricing model is really designed for businesses, which means I couldn’t get the full VR experience with the new 3D room I’d built. It feels like it they’d tried properly they could have created a compelling personal licence but I guess there just isn’t the money in hobbyists like me trying to model our bedrooms.

The other thing that happened this week is that I got a new (to me) bicycle. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a new commute bike for a while. My current one is now 12 years old, and according to my records has done around 33,000 miles. So a little bit accidentally I placed a low ball bid on a bike on eBay. Surprisingly no one else bid higher and I’ve ended up with a nice black fixie.

It’s my first ever time riding fixed and it’s taken a little bit of getting used to, but is quite a lot of fun. Learning to never stop peddling hasn’t been too challenging as I’ve always peddled most of the time anyway. The times I now realise I stopped pedalling for though is going over bumps, for those I apparently brace for the impact. The first time I did that the bike tried to rip my leg out of my hip to remind me to continue peddling. Never stop pedalling. I’m particularly looking forward to never needing to index a front derailleur again, it could just be my poor workmanship but they always need indexing again very quickly and are the cause of hours of frustration.

This weekend we had a [Hawksmoor][2] at home meal. It’s like those meal boxes supermarkets sell where you’ve just got to heat everything through. Though slightly more complicated as one of the items that needs heating through is a steak, which needs cooking just right. The food was, as you’d expect from Hawksmoor, delicious. They also provided quite a lot of alcohol so by the end of the night we were both full and a little bit drunk. I’d definitely recommend (assuming your not vegetarian), it was a great way to make staying in feel more like going out.

Week 41: Nap time

19th October 2020

This week started with a delivery of a bath tub. The problem with that delivery was that bath tub was 10cm longer than the one that we had ordered. 10cm was significant because that’s 5cm longer than the space that we have for the new bath tub. It turns out the website we’d ordered it from had the wrong product code against the bath we actually wanted so when we phoned to say the wrong tub had arrived everyone was very confused. Thankfully by the end of the week the delivery person was back, this time with the correct size bath.

I made another solo sourdough this week. It was a bit of a rush due to not really having enough time to make it, so I skipped a couple of steps that seemed unnecessary (mostly the bits where you seemingly wait for nothing). The end result is definitely better than my last loaf so I guess those weren’t important steps anyway. That better loaf could also just be because I was using a significantly smaller pot so it could only rise up rather than out (masking my poor shaping technique) but nobody needs to know that.

With the release of watchOS 7 I’m now able to use my Apple Watch as a sleep tracker. I’ve not used a sleep tracker in a number of years but thought it would be interesting to see how Apple has approached it. So far the number of false positives of tracking me sleeping when I’m definitely awake makes it mostly useless for any serious tracking.

It believes any time I spend more than 15 minutes sitting still on a sofa is either me in bed or asleep. I’m currently hoping that there is some AI magic in here which will work out over time the difference between me actually sleeping and watching TV. But at the moment the 2 hours of TV we watched on Sunday is coming up as a nice long nap before bed.

One of the side effects of the sleep tracking is I’m now also able to see my heart rate while I sleep. I’d not thought about that as a feature until on the second or third night of me wearing it my watched tapped my wrist while I was sleeping to let me know I’d triggered my low heart rate alert. Given I’m certainly still alive I’ve had to disable that alert, let’s hope it wasn’t important.

Week 40: Sunrise

12th October 2020

This week builders started work renovating our bathroom. The works were supposed to start at the end of March, but an ill-timed global pandemic threw that schedule out of the window. The work had been overdue for a long time, we already knew this, but the smell of damp wood that filled the flat as the demolition started really reinforced that.

I initially found it slightly odd when the builder described what they were going to do as demolition, I would have descried it more as just removal, but looking at the results I’ll give it to them, they demolished the old bathroom. I’m already looking forward to my first bath in the new shiny bathroom when they are finished.

Twice this week I’ve been treated to a glorious sunrise while out on my bicycle. Sunsets usually get most of the attention, but I far prefer a good sunrise. The world always seem more tranquil during a sunrise, probably because most people are still in bed.

Though the fact I’m seeing sunrise without much planning implies that the days are quickly going to be dark outside of traditional ‘working’ hours. With the move to flexible pandemic working I’ve heard a couple of people talking about shifting their work day around a bit and use their old ‘commute time’ to afford themselves a two hour lunch break, enough time to get outside and enjoy more daylight than a 9-5 usually enables. While still ‘leaving’ and ‘getting home’ at the same time as the before. I like this as a time hack.

Week 39: Frisbee loaf

5th October 2020

After banishing the coat stand to the cupboard under the stairs at the beginning of Lockdown we’ve been living very happily with the extra space it afforded us. I say very happily, but every time I’ve needed to get anything out of the cupboard I’ve now first had to contend with maneuvering the coat stand out of the way. There had to be a better way. After doing some research I order up some parts to make an “industrial pipe” coat rack. At least that’s how they are marketed on Etsy. In reality it’s a bit of threaded gas pipe with a threaded flange to attach it to the wall. Rather the buying one of the Etsy versions though, I got mine from a pipe shop, which meant it turned up without any ribbons, handwritten thank you notes, or any bolts to attach it to the wall instead it came with a fine layer of plumbing grease covering it.

After popping out to get some appropriately oversized bolts to fit the flange we’ve now got a very nice permanent coat rack mounted under the stairs. It fits in so well with the exposed gas pipe and gas meter aesthetic there was some mild concern we’d need to let the next owners of the flat know it’s not connected to the pipework.

This week I made my very first unassisted sourdough loaf. I had made a loaf last week, but that was with some very hands on tuition. I’ll save you a photo of the loaf instead you can just imagine an object that closer resembles a Frisbee to a half a football. My understanding is that means my shaping technique needs improving.

We’ve had a starter since the beginning of the year and since then I’ve been mostly just been the beneficiary of the baking process (though also helping out with flour acquisition when needed). I’m not sure if I was spurred on reading about Nat’s coached loaf, or something else, but I’m glad I’ve now got a deeper understanding as to what everyone has been nattering about for the last 7 months.

One of the techniques used to demonstrate the difference privilege has played on peoples lives is called a Privilege Walk. It’s pretty straightforward in that you get a group of people standing side by side and the instructor reads out a list of statements (being raised by two parents, ever having to worry about money as a child, being comfortable holding your partners hand in public, etc). For every statement that you identify with you take a step forward. It’s a very visual way for privileged people to see just how privileged they are. There is a really good article about why they are bad, and why you shouldn’t facilitate them.

This week I really enjoyed this mix from Ameeva. Some lovely ambient and drone tracks with dialogue recordings mixed in. I particularly liked the Black Lives Matter chanting mixed in, I’ve been thinking it would make a good ambient overlay, so I’m glad someone is doing it.

Week 38: Soldering on

28th September 2020

I spent lots of this week creating some new lighting for our kitchen counter. The lights that came with the kitchen had always been a bit naff, they never really illuminated the useful parts, and their wiring was questionable with bare sections protected by layers of electrical tape.

I’ve now replaced all of that with a proper plug socket and a Phillips Hue Lightstrip. There was a bit of a challenge as the Lightstrip only comes in 2 meter runs and my kitchen has corners and a cooker in it. So cutting it into bits and soldering Cat-5 cable as joins allows the strip to go around corners and jump over the cooker as needed. I’m super happy with how the soldered joints all came out.

I found focusing at work this week increasingly hard. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that we’re now acknowledging the pandemic will last at least another 6 months or something else. But there was definitely something. One of the differences of working for a medium to large company is when you have weeks like this it’s super easy to hide in the team, or find different people to walk around and chat with about nothing and consume loads of time. Working for a 7 person company it feels like it’s much more obvious on days I’m not really achieving anything.

Hopefully next week will be more productive at work. Even if it isn’t, at least I can see clearly when cooking dinner now.

More posts can be found in the archives.