Week 30: Sunsets

3rd August 2020

Some good things from this week:

  • At the beginning of the summer I bought some fairy lights of ebay to illuminate the garden. I’d done this previously but used some lights that didn’t like getting wet, so this time I made sure I picked some that could handle getting rained on. This worked great for a couple of months but slowly they stopped turning on. All the lights still flickered so I knew there was no problem there, my guess was the cheap “8 function controller” was having some issues. Reading around the internet, I found this great web page from Big Clive detailing how to stop Christmas Lights from flashing. Sure enough his circuit matched my one very closely. So I soldered the pins of the thyristors together to short circuit them, and now I have a lighting set that works perfectly. I’m tempted to order up a bridge rectifier as he details to remove the whole controller circuit, but in the decade that has passed since I completed my electronics modules at University I’ve forgotten most of it and can’t work out if it would blow the house up or not. So I’ll probably stop now I’ve got working lights.
  • This weekend I went cycling on routes that I’d not cycled on in over 5 years. It was confusing how my brain both recognised some stretches, but had completely forgotten some others. I did manage to get a Strava PB going up one of the hills I definitely used to target, so that made me quite happy as my strength must be coming back.
  • We also got to go and see some friends and their baby this weekend. Last time I got to see them was before lockdown started and it’s amazing how much he’d grown and how mobile he’s now got. Seeing small children is always a good reminder of how much time has passed, because they have often hit another development milestone or two.
  • With the hot weather last week we met up with some friends in Ruskin Park and sat and watched the sunset over the London skyline. It was warm enough that we didn’t need jumpers and could pretend for just a moment we were on holiday. It was perfect. Summer really is the best season isn’t it.

Week 29: Cycling

27th July 2020

If we assume that we’re not going back into offices until 2021 then we still have longer working from home ahead of us than we’ve had already endured. I hope that we get to go back to some kind of office before that.

This week was mostly uneventful. I did some cycling, some work and some more cycling and work.

I tried cycling through Richmond Park at the weekend to get down to Kingston but the park was closed to cyclists so I had to take the A3 which for that segment turns into a mult-lane dual carriageway. Judging by the number of other cyclists I saw on that stretch I wasn’t alone. I hope no one gets hurt because mixing cars driving at 50mph and less experienced cyclists is a recipe for disaster. All in the name of keeping people safe from COVID-19.

Week 28: Concurrency

20th July 2020

Some things from this week:

  1. We watched I May Destroy You this week. I had absolutely no idea what it was about when we started. It took me 3 episodes before I worked out what was going on, but I was hooked from shortly after we started the first episode. It turns out I May Destroy You used the same Intimacy Co-ordinator as Sex Education and Normal People, which makes sense as the sex scenes in each of them are really well done.
  2. I woke up at 3am on Saturday morning with my brain very actively thinking about the concurrency model, and database pool implementation differences between Phoenix (and Elixir) and Rails (and Ruby). This is probably my own fault as one of the last things I did at work on Friday before logging off was get half way through investigating why our database looks to be going slow in AppSignal (our APM) but that isn’t reflected in our postgresql slow query logs. Turns out my brain was on to something though as AppSignal does combine queue time and execution time into a single duration. Thanks brain, not sure 3am was the right time to crack that nut though.
  3. I cycled around London on Saturday, it’s exciting to see the amount of permanent looking cycling infrastructure going in. I just hope that they also get the signage right. I know I personally avoid lots of cycle paths because I don’t want to get accidentally taken somewhere with no way to get back onto the route I started on.

That’s probably it for this week. As predicted, not much happened. Who knows what exciting adventures the next week of not leaving the flat will bring us.

Week 27: No Campari

13th July 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. After they were allowed to reopen I was able to go and get my hair cut for the first time in months. It was reassuring that, unlike a lot of barbers I’ve seen while out and about, mine is being very strict about all customers wearing masks. Still that was the closest I’ve been to other people in a long time and I’m not going to pretend it didn’t feel awkward. Being able to stroke the freshly shaved back of my head still feels fantastic though.
  2. I’ve been out cycling a couple of times and my power meter says my legs are definitely getting stronger. Part of me feels like I should set some goals to hit, but right now I’m just enjoying the ride too much.
  3. I did our fortnightly shop at Sainsburys, there was once again no queue to get into the shop. The only thing they are struggling to keep in stock that we want need is Campari. What a difference a couple of months makes.

That’s about as exciting as the week got. Don’t get your hopes up for anything more exciting next week. I’m not planning on making use of any open pubs / betting shops / drive in cinemas / etc and there is limited appeal in writing about the soups I make for lunch.

Week 26: Pebble beaches

6th July 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. At the weekend we went down to Deal to spend the day sitting on the beach in the sunshine. It was glorious, there was sun, sea and really uncomfortable pebbles to sit on. I’m still not entirely sure why some beaches get nice soft sand and others only get hard pebbles. Pebble beaches are so painful! Still, Deal itself was lovely, sufficiently off the beaten path that the beach was very quiet, but populated enough there was a toilet and ice cream shop we could visit. Having not really made it out of London since lockdown stared (apart from seeing country lanes on bike rides) it was nice to sit and look out to sea and get lost in the thought that we were anywhere.
  2. I took a couple of days annual leave towards the end of the week so my weekend kept on feeling like Sunday. It was nice to have more time to potter around the flat and switch off from work. I really can see the appeal of those friends who do 4 day weeks normally. I think I’d prefer a 4 day week over a remote only job.
  3. We watched Pump up the volume: A history of House music. It was originally aired in 2001, though apart from some of the outfits of interviewers (I love how you can age most things by peoples wardrobes) it holds up really well. The description of Acid House being invented because they didn’t know how to use a TB-303 and just twisted the nobs a bit, then had to play the first track three times in one night until people worked out they liked it was great. I love the balls of seeing a track not work on the dance floor, but just playing it again and again until people start dancing.
  4. We also watch Disclosure, a documentary looking at how media has trained people to mock, fear, and distrust the trans community. My favourite part had to be clip they show us of a dad describing his trans child as a unicorn, someone special, unique, and precious who should be nurtured and cared for, not shamed or resented. Imagine if that was the message that more media carried, imagine how exciting the world could be. I hope one day the world is accepting of trans people. Fuck the haters.

Week 25: Ginger Nuts

29th June 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. On Monday I spent the evening chasing sunsets on my bike. A combination of the extraordinarily long days we’ve got at the moment (thanks Solstice) and everyone being inside at night (thanks Covid), makes for some really enjoyable late evening riding. The roads are mostly deserted, the temperature is mild, and you can easily loose yourself to the gentle noise of nature and your chain running over your gears. I wish evenings like these stuck around for the rest of the year.
  2. The end of the week was officially too hot. It made me long for the air conditioned offices that I usually get to hide in during the summer months.
  3. On Thursday Virgin Media killed my internet connection for most of the day. A very real reminder that I am still working from home and not a real office. The plus sides being I was able to move some flowers from a basket to a bed in the garden while I waited for it to come back up. If we were still in offices we would have almost certainly just used the time for some planing meetings or some other “real work”.
  4. This weekend we were supposed to be at Glastonbury. Instead we went round to a friends house and sat (appropriately spaced) in their garden watching past performances projected onto a wall. It was one of the most normal feeling things we’ve done since the beginning of Lockdown. It also gave us a glimpse into what socialising might look like in the future, which is a poor imitation of the before. No more screaming Wonderwall into each others faces while spilling half your beer over the floor.
  5. Due to an administrative error there are currently two packets of ginger nut biscuits open. Management would like to apologise for this oversight.

Week 24: Park days

22nd June 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. We watched Staged which had me laughing out loud, it doesn’t take much I know but this was good. The premise is two actors being forced to rehearse for a play during lockdown. It perfectly captures the challenges of video conferencing and the mundanity of living through lockdown trying to function. As a bonus the episodes are only 15 - 20 minutes long so you’ve watched the whole season before you realise it’s started.
  2. This weekend we met up with some friends in a park and managed to have a long conversation without just being able to see their head and shoulders. It was nice to pretend for a short bit that life might get back to some kind of normal. It’s also nice to discover new green spaces that I’d not visited before. One of the things that I’m really hopeful for is that people continue to use all the green spaces when this is all over. It’s really nice to see people out and enjoying their neighbourhoods. Though I imagine in reality people will quickly head back to the cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars as soon as they open and the parks will go back to how they were in the before.
  3. Having rediscovered medium length bike rides, and doing a couple a week for the past month, I now feel like my fitness is also now starting to return. I feel able to go out for a couple of hard hours on the bike and come home not feeling like I need to pass out in the corner and not move for a week. Which is making the riding more enjoyable and more appealing. Thankfully the weather also around to facilitate the rides.
  4. We continue to watch Black-ish, this week we watched the episode called “Hope”, the premise being the verdict in a police brutality case is announced and the family discuss what it means for them, and Black people in general. The episode was frighteningly relevant to current affairs. It’s free on Prime video, I’d recommend watching it. It also touches on at what age should you explain to children that racism exists. I don’t think there is one answer for that, but I was also reminded of that question when reading a letter from Lonnie Chavis, a 12 year old holywood star where he talks about his experiences of racism.

    Can you imagine having to explain to a room full of white people why I couldn’t hold back my real tears while experiencing the pain of racism? I can.

    The privilege of being able to grow up and live without understanding the implications of living in a white supremacist society is huge.

Week 23: Cycling

15th June 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. I went on my longest bike ride since March 2016. I’ve been building my distance up again over the past couple of weeks and it feels really good to be back on the bike for multi hour rides. It’s also mind boggling the number of other cyclists out cycling at the moment. The last 10 years have really seen cycling come from a niche sport on the fringes into something immensely popular. I was always hopeful that the number of cyclists in Central London would ensure car drivers would have to look for us, I didn’t expect the same to happen in the countryside.
  2. I shipped my first big feature at work. I’ve only been in my job for 4 weeks but I’m already shipping big features by myself. Elixir is strangely familiar for a language I’ve never used before. Other than it’s immutability throwing me off a couple of times has been a really easy transition to writing. I’m still not sure I’d pick it over Rails for writing a CRUD app myself, but I can definitely see some of it’s perks.
  3. Food shopping in lockdown has mostly gone completely back to normal. In the Sainsburys I go to they even had 16kg of plain and self raising flour out for people to buy this week. Other than the short queue to get into the store it’s as stocked as it was before lockdown. We’ve managed to get our shopping routine to only needing to go to the store once a fortnight. We get a veg box delivered weekly which helps with that. This really limits our interactions with other people.
  4. We continue to watch Black-ish which we’ve been watching for many weeks now. With 141 episodes, I imagine we will continue to be watching this for a long while yet. It’s funny, well written and a nice antidote to the world.

The world seems otherwise still pretty messed up. We just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and try and move forward.

Week 22: Black Lives Matter

8th June 2020

I’m not going to deny it, this week has been tough.

I hope this is the beginning of something big. I hope we’re at a tipping point. I hope that there will be real change and we can begin to tear down some of the white supremacist systems which are holding us collectively back. I hope it will be different this time.

I know at least within my network more people seem to be opening their eyes, wanting to engage, and actually learning and talking about racism. Which is good, I’m here for those conversations.

At the same time though, the Met still refuse to acknowledge their racism, that they disproportionally target black men, that they treat black people different from their white counterparts. A member of the cabinet can’t even bring themselves to say that there are no black people on the cabinet for fear of…?

I hope this gets to big to ignore though. So we need to continue the discourse and not let this just die… again. We, as white people, need to have the uncomfortable conversations and start to heal some of the hurt that we’ve inflicted. We need to normalise saying out loud that black lives matter. That the current state of things isn’t ok. That we see black people, that we appreciate black people, that we are there for black people. Because black lives matter.

Week 21: Distraction

1st June 2020

This week had quite a few good things:

  1. Went on a lovely long bike ride and did some good social distance with a friend. The weather was amazing, the wind keeping it feeling not to hot while the sun was being very hot. It was also really nice to see so many people enjoying outdoor spaces. Spaces I’ve never seen be busy were covered in mostly appropriately spaced bodies. I’d love for a legacy of this to be people remembering that outdoor spaces exist.
  2. The blog post Alice, Keran and I wrote about our radio show got published. We drafted it while I was still working at the FT. It was a lot of fun to produce, and I’ve been contemplating bunking off work for an afternoon to go back and help them do it again (you didn’t see this Tom ;).
  3. I built a new garden planter out of an old pallet I found abandoned at the side of the road. The challenge was to try and built it without having to go to the shops to buy any new bits, which I managed to achieve. It means that some of the screws weren’t quite the right length, and some bit’s don’t have as much structural integrity as I would have liked. But in some ways that just adds to its reclaimed rustic charm. The next job is to get some compost to fill it.

Two of those good things also helped me avoid the internet for most of the weekend. Which is good because the current state of the world, and in particular the state of racism both in America and locally is getting me seriously down.

Someone left this quote on a comment on an FT article really stuck with me:

…I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention. Martin Luther King, 1967

That was from 1967, has nothing changed.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading (well, mostly listening to audio books) around racism over the past couple of years. If anyone’s looking to help understand modern racism more I’d recommend any of these books:

I’ve put White Fragility last, because it’s the only one written by a white person. It’s a great book, and covers an area none of the others touch, but does mean id recommend supporting any of the other authors before reading it.

Black lives matter.

More posts can be found in the archives.