May The Force Be With You (Quick Links 106)

I finally went to see Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi on Monday. I’d been waiting until the schools went back after Christmas to go to a showing that I could be pretty sure would be quiet – there were only about a dozen of us in the screening. I’ve also managed to avoid all spoilers.

I really enjoyed it, there were a couple of things that felt a little weak, but overall a good film. It made me miss my Dad a lot, as were he still alive and healthy we would probably have gone to see the film together. I guess those days are gone for good.

I spent some time doing some odd jobs for my Mum, as so often happens these things turn out to be more involved than when you start, so weather permitting I’ll be going back this coming week to finish off as I had to get a couple of things in order to complete one of the jobs.

We seem to have a lot of houses up for sale in our road at the moment. There are three currently (including one of our immediate neighbours) and two others have also recently sold. These things seem to happen like that, but whatever happens it seems likely we’ll be getting new neighbours soon.


My plan of cutting back non-essential spending seems to be going well, early days though. The plan is to go at least until March.


Work – Most people seem to be back at work now, and things have been a little bit busier. I’ve been mostly bouncing emails backwards and forwards discussing a couple of projects


Allotment – Potato season starts again. I picked up my seed potatoes from the allotment shop on the weekend, and I’ve set them to chit (grow shoots). I’ll probably be planting them in a couple of months time, depending on the weather.

The weather has been a bit drier this week so I’ve also been weeding the fruit bed. The main problem as ever, is the creeping buttercup, but at least for the time being, I’ve gotten it all out, and now the area is ready for some mulch – I’ll probably be using some straw for that.


Currently Reading – I’ve finished reading  “Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World” by Alice Roberts [GoodReads]. A really good read and I’d recommend it. Since finishing it however I haven’t really been able to settle into something else yet.


The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]


I Cooked this during the week. Lovely:


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Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan – This plan has been promised for such a long time I’ve lost track of how long it has been awaited. Ultimately it wasn’t worth the wait, yet another opportunity by government missed. As and when a plan of this duration is published it is always going to be difficult to get things right, but this plan needs more short term action and mechanisms to deliver (including legislation). Sadly the plan just doesn’t go far enough or look at some of the other areas where action is needed and not just those that are currently in the headlines. [Guardian Article]


Carillion Crisis – How this has been allowed to happen is one thing, but whether or not the government should bail out the company is quite another. In my view there shouldn’t been a simple bail out. It needs something more sophisticated. Companies fail everyday, and I don’t see the government stepping in to bail them out, so I don’t think this should be the exception. The problem is of course just how big, and how many important contracts the company has (which again raises the question as to how this has been allowed to happen). Some, dare I say HS2, could be retendered, others need some immediate action to allow them to continue e.g. health service catering and facilities contracts. Not an easy problem to fix, but something needs to happen quickly.


Was this whale trying to save a life? – Fascinating footage of a whale seemingly trying to keep a diver away from a Tiger Shark.


Not sure what the coming week holds, as I have a few things that I want to do but they’ll be a little bit dependent on the weather. Have to wait and see I guess.

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Chickens Outnumber Humans 3 to 1 (Quick Links 105)

It’s been a very wet and windy start to the year, with the arrival of Storm Eleanor and a general period of unsettled weather. By and large we seem to have escaped the worst of the storms although we need see some rather high tides when walking the dogs at Portchester Castle (see above). The moat is normally dry but the high tide had pushed water most of the way around to a reasonable depth.

We had a little rodent visitor during the week. A little mouse found it’s way into my office, and although I tried to catch and release it back outside, Wilson caught and ate it before I had the chance.


A Slight Change to the layout of these posts. I thought I’d start to number these posts rather than use the date. Looking at the records in the admin part of my blog software there are 106 “Quick Links” entries, but two of these weren’t truly quick links so deducting those means that this one is Quick Links 105. I’ve also included something from one of the books I’ve been reading to add something unique to the post title. I’ll follow this layout for a while and see how it goes.


Work – It’s been a quiet return to work for me this week. Catching up with a few contacts and trying to get the ball rolling again. It seems as if quite a few people have elected to take the extra few days and don’t return until Monday 8th.


Allotment – The strong winds and accompanying rain have left the allotment a little bit the worst for wear, and exceedingly wet underfoot. I’ve had to resecure the netting over the brassica cage which had been blown open, but that’s about the worst of it.

As I’ve not been able to get on the plot, I’ve been making sure I’ve got all the seeds, plants etc. I need for the upcoming season. I’ve placed an order to fill some gaps.

I’ve also planted the remaining broad bean seeds that I had, so that I’ll hopefully have some extra plants to fill any gaps in the bed on the plot.


Currently Reading – I finished reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New York 2140” [GoodReads] on New Years Day, which means it’s technically the first book I’ve finished in 2018, even if I was reading it for most of the week before Christmas and up to New Year. It was good and very believable in terms of a potential future for New York with ice caps melted and sea level rise and the city becoming Venice like.

I followed that by reading “Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions”
by David Attenborough [GoodReads]. This very much reads like a Gerald Durrell adventure and is similar in many respects, but is a great read.

Following that I started reading “Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World”
by Alice Roberts [GoodReads]. These latter two books where both Christmas presents from people who know me well, and the quote in the title of this post comes from this book. The ten species – dogs, wheat, cattle, Maize, Potatoes, Chickens, Rice, Horses, Apples, Humans – all seem to have interesting backstories and it’s entertainingly written.

I’ve set my Good Reads reading challenge to 3o books for 2018, a little bit higher than last year but not significantly so, and still quite a bit less than the number I eventually managed to read in 2017. It’s not really about the numbers for me, so I’m not sure why I bother with the challenge in this way, but I do like to keep track of what I have read.

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Happy New Year 2018

2017 is over welcome 2018!

I think as I enter 2018 that I do so with an element of uncertainty. Not only uncertainty personally but uncertainty generally when I look at the state of the world at large I think it is trepidation that I move forward into the New Year.

I’m still working on what I think my goals and targets will be for this year but having said that I think I need to cut through the uncertainty that I feel personally and try and carve a path for myself that is as stable and calm as possible.

I am planning on not spending any money between now and my birthday in March. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be buying the essentials – groceries, petrol for the car, things that I need to keep my business running, and anything else that falls into that category. What I’m thinking is the luxuries – things like books DVDs, etc. The reason for this is partly that I have a lot of books already that I haven’t read, and I don’t really need any more at this point in time, and also that we need to be careful about money at the moment. If I remember to I’ll try and keep an update on how I’m getting on with this, in my weekly blog posts.

Which brings me quite nicely to my blog which of course you’re reading at the moment. I’m going to try and continue with at least weekly posts but I’ve not been feeling the love for it as much as I have done in the past so I’m not quite sure what this year entails for the blog. I’m not going to be running a blog survey this year as I have done in the past because I’m not really clear in my mind where the blog is going to go so I’m going to wait and see what happens. In part this is because my personal journal hasn’t been updated as frequently as I would like this year so I’m going to take a look at that as well and maybe more of my thoughts will go into my personal journal or possibly they will go on to the blog, I don’t know, I’ll wait-and-see. It might just be that I need to mix up those weekly posts rather than keep them in their current format, I don’t know.

At the moment my diary for 2018 is looking quite blank there are a few bits and pieces in the year but I have plenty of capacity for work and other things, and one of my aims is to try and fill those blanks with some work if I can. I do think I need to be more focused on my work this year to try and overcome the lull that I had during 2017.

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Fourth Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment. The 2017 Quarter One Review is here, Quarter Two is here and Quarter Three here if you’re interested.


Work – Quarter four hasn’t been any different to the rest of the year. In summary a lot of work (unpaid) being spent pursuing potential paid work – writing bids, discussing proposals with clients and potential clients. I hope that this improves a little a lot in 2018, and I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking in terms of what that means for next year and beyond.


Allotment – A good end to the year. With all the family things that have been happening this year, I’ve still managed to find enough time to keep on top of what’s needed at the plot. I am conscious of the amount of time it takes though and so not sure how easy this is going to be next year.


Books – My highlights for this quarter are “Mawson’s Will” by Lennard Bickel [GoodReads] and “Vacationland” by John Hodgman [GoodReads]. Very different books from one another and stand out for different reasons. The former because I wasn’t aware of Douglas Mawson until I read the book  and the latter having the credit for making me chuckle.


Films & TV – Sadly there is nothing that really stands out this quarter. It’s been really difficult finding anything of particular note to watch. I’ve enjoyed “Rick Stein’s Road to Mexico“, although I haven’t yet managed to watch all of  the episodes.


Life In General – This final quarter of the year has been just as hectic as the rest of the year. I don’t really want to talk about much of it, partly because it’s private but also because I’m not really sure where my head is at over some of it. I suspect that some of this will continue into next year and I just hope that I am able to navigate it as calmly as possible.

 

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The Last Week Of The Year – Quick Links 31st December 2017

This is going to be short. I wasn’t sure whether it was going to exist at all or not.

It’s been a quiet and busy week in equal measure. We had a pleasant Christmas Day and Boxing Day, sharing them with my Mum, and exchanging a few gifts. I’ve got quite a few new books to read over the coming weeks, so that should keep me out of mischief if nothing else does!

The turkey was mysteriously very tough to eat, and not really that nice, which is a shame when you’ve gone to the trouble, but the rest of the meal was more than substantial, although I still didn’t have much of an appetite after being sick last week.

Unfortunately my Mum’s car broke down on Boxing Day – although we didn’t actually realise it at the time – just as she got home. She asked me to look at it the next day and although at first I couldn’t find a problem, when I took it for a drive it was evident that it was undrivable, and had to call the breakdown service. They were able to diagnose the problem but couldn’t fix it roadside, so towed the car to the garage where it stayed until they were able to get the relevant part and return it to us on Friday. No great problem, but a bit of a nuisance and a change in plans for the remainder of the week.

 


Work – I’ve been checking emails, and not doing much else. I still need to finish my 2018 planning and targets, but I wanted to reflect on these over the Christmas break and finish that in January.


Allotment – We’ve had snow, a lot of rain and some high winds this week, so not much  to report from the plot. I am however starting to think about next season, and I really need to look at what seeds & plants I need and get them ordered.


Currently Reading – I started Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New York 2140” [GoodReads] and enjoying it so far. I suspect that it will see me into the New Year as it’s quite a big book and I seem to be reading quite slowly. Once that’s done I’m not sure what’ll be next as I have quite a few to choose from after Christmas.


That’s it for this week folks, I did say it would be short. There’ll be a Quarter Four review later and possibly something for the New Year on Monday. For now though, I hope you have a great New Years celebration if you do, and service will probably return to normal next Sunday or the Sunday after.

 

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Merry Christmas – Quick Links 24th December 2017

Well ’twas the night before Christmas and all that. Whether you read this before, during or after I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Not sure what I’ll be posting next week, as both my Sunday Quick Links and my fourth quarter review are due on the same day. You may get one or both, but hopefully something. I also normally try to post something on New Years Day as well. Not that I am expecting anyone to read it on the day it goes live, as I’m sure you have much better things to do than read my ramblings. Anyway, if you have been reading these posts, thank you.

I was expecting a quiet week this week, and other than an appointment I attended with my Mum I’ve not really been anywhere. This is probably just as well as I’ve not been feeling very well, and think that I managed to catch a stomach bug on one of my rare trips out. I’m recovering now, but did at one point wonder whether it was going to be a pre-Christmas instant diet or something that would drag on over the festive period. Hopefully it’s the former.


Work – I’ve been doing my end of the month admin a little early, so that I can pretty much be work free next week. I’ll be checking my emails, but that will be about it and I’ll pick things up again the following week. I’ve been working on my targets for next year, and things need to get serious to develop at least some income.


Allotment – Not much to report this week, it’s been quite a mild week, and the ground has been a little soggy at times, so I’ve been staying off of the beds now that they’re dug.


Currently Reading – I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” [GoodReads] this week, there’s quite a bit of his life story in there as well as tips and approaches to writing, although I felt that I had read most of it in other places.


Neil Gaiman Reading A Christmas Carol – Audio version of the author reading the classic Dickens Christmas tale. [LINK]


Open Railway Map – Open source map of many of the worlds railways [LINK], pretty cool to look up your local lines.


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures


Brexit Is Going To Be Titanic – Exactly like the ship


Merry Christmas From The Muppets


Bird Spikes In Trees – Although this only came to light in the last week, it seems that this has been going on for a while – but why? As this other article points out, we are seemingly blind to the damage that we are doing to the planet.


Alarming Customer Service Fail From Amazon when they started sending “coded death threats” to a customer [LINK]. If this had been me I’m not sure I would have noticed, as I do read quite a few crime novels anyway.


Dolphins – Nice piece by author Philip Hoare [LINK]


The Future Worlds of Work – Although I haven’t read the full report yet, I do intend to but these different scenarios [LINK] for what the future of work will look like in 2030 are quite interesting on the surface. I think I far prefer the Green or Yellow versions but I suspect without intervention that the world is heading towards the Blue scenario. I might come back to this again once I’ve had a proper read.


That’s it for this week, catch you all again soon.

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Quick Links 17th December 2017

My week started with lots of comments on the weather, particularly the snow, of which we had not a flake. Although when I had to try and take the car to the garage on Monday morning it was sleeting just a little amongst the wet and windyness that was our prevailing weather conditions. The car was returned fixed on Tuesday – turns out the oxygen sensor in the engine had failed and needed to be replaced – so I was able to make the service of remembrance on Tuesday evening.

As I didn’t have the car at the start of the week I had to reorganise a few things, but it wasn’t as bad as it might otherwise have been, and actually ended up with more time than I might otherwise have had.

On Friday I went to see Monty Halls talk at Selborne, it was really a summary of what he’d been up to during 2017, although the focus was on The Freedom Trails which I’ve mentioned here before. He has another different series coming out early next year, which will be completely different but looks like it will be just as good. He also signed both my copy of The Freedom Trails book, and another one of his that I’ve had for a while. If you haven’t watched the TV show then I recommend it (LINK)  – not sure whether this will work worldwide and if you don’t have an account you’ll need to create one – but that’s free.

I haven’t managed to get to the cinema to see The Last Jedi yet, although I might be able to early next week. If not I’ll leave it until the schools go back in January.


Work – Not having a car for the first couple of days this week meant that I had to move a few meetings around, but otherwise I’ve been getting a few things done before the Christmas period. I did hear that a bid I’ve been collaborating in has been unsuccessful which means my first quarter won’t necessarily be as busy as I thought it might be. Shame, but that’s how it goes.


Allotment – The ground has been frozen on the plot most mornings this week. I’ve been tidying up the fruit bed, in particular the loganberries – removing last years dead stems, and tying in the new ones which will bear next years fruit.


Currently Reading – Not much change from last week on this front, although I did finish From Source to Sea [LINK] late last night.

If you’re looking for a Christmas present idea or two, you might want to check out this list of Agatha Christie books that make good presents.


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures

I’ve also been enjoying the Comedy Wildlife  Photography Awards


A Couple of Movies That I’m Looking Forward To Next Year – 


I’m Very Cynical of politicians who suddenly start doing something that they haven’t really done before [LINK] and Tory government politicians suddenly growing concern about the environment leaves me a little cold. In fairness I’m willing and hoping that actually this [LINK] is genuine and not like the last time when David “Hug-a-Husky” Cameron declared that they were to be “The Greenest Government Ever” and then promptly forgot all about it once elected and successive “Environment” Secretarys did precious little to protect and promote the environment. So far Michael Gove – despite my ongoing suspicions – seems to be doing a good job, although his wildlife minister Theresa Coffey less so.


I’m planning on a relatively quiet Christmas, but I am planning to post next week, so until then I wish you adieu, and leave you with this snowy video I made back in 2010 – the last time we had any serious snow fall.

Snow – Parallel Highway from tontowilliams on Vimeo.

 

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