From Inside The Headphones – TWTW #39

img_20191021_071806748Well as another weekend rolls past and we start another Monday, I’m back at my desk. I wrote this late on Sunday so that I could get a head start on some work for a client first thing on Monday, so by the time you read this I should be well underway with that. I hope this short missive finds you well, and that you find something of interest to you below.

This week I’m mostly working from home, with a couple of trips out to take my Mum for some appointments. One of the benefits of being freelance / working for myself is the flexibility to do things like that, I’d never have been allowed all the time off in my old job.

I’m really noticing the darker mornings, autumn already feels like winter but with the soft-reset of the return to GMT coming next weekend, the light will return to the mornings again, at least for a few weeks.


Stephen King’s House to Become Archive and Writers’ Retreat


I read another Maigret this week; A Man’s Head  by George Simenon. It’s one of the really good ones, although I’m not sure the plot is entirely believable – allow convicted killer to escape from jail to prove his innocence before he is executed.


We watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard on Friday evening (we’d recorded it a week or so ago). We had relatively low expectations of the film but in the end found it laugh out loud funny in places and enjoyed it.

Most of it was completely unbelievable and if you’re offended by swearing you most certainly won’t enjoy it.

Basic premise is that the bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) has to escort the hitman (Samuel L Jackson) to The Hauge to testify against a war criminal, and all of the war criminals associates are trying to stop them. Trailer below – contains swearing.

We also watched the most recent version of Pet Sematary [sic], well we watched the first 45 mins or so, and then lost interest and turned it off. I’m disappointed because I’d heard that this one was much better than the one that was made in the early 1990’s. Still some you win and some you don’t.


The weather has been pretty wet all week, but brightened up on Saturday to enable me to get onto the allotment. I’ve dug over the bed for the broad beans and sown them, so with luck they’ll over winter and we’ll have another good crop in late May next year. This just leaves me the main bed to dig over the coming months, but this is probably the biggest job due to the amount of creeping buttercup that is present. I’ll be doing a little bit at a time so that it doesn’t become an overwhelming prospect.


Podcasts: I mentioned last week that I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently. This is in part due to travelling more for work than I have for a while, and not wanting to listen to the 24hr Brexit news coverage that seems to have become just about every broadcast radio and tv station. That’s not to say I’m not following what’s going on, I just wanted to consume it at a sane dose and not be bombarded by it every thirty seconds. So between audiobooks and podcasts this has become my go to entertainment when travelling.

So here’s a list of podcasts that I listen to most regularly. By that I mean I’ll listen to most episodes as they are released. There are a few others, that I don’t listen to as faithfully but for brevity I’ve not included those. Links are for homepages or feeds, I’ll leave it to you as to how you listen to them.

Deep State Radio. A US current and foreign affairs podcast. Good for keeping up with just what the hell is going on in the White House and wider government. Posts several times a week with the main episodes being on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

SW945: A Walk in Japan. A binaural podcast of background noise from whereever the author is at 09:45 each morning (when walking). Best listened to with headphones. [On a hiatus at the moment, as the author isn’t walking, but there are nearly 40 episodes to catch up on].

Floating – Swimming Stories with Joe Minihane. From the author of the book with the same name, interviews and discussions with swimmers and others.

On Margins. By the same author as SW945, a podcast on writing, publishing and related topics.

The Tim Ferriss Show. Fairly well known podcast from Tim Ferriss, author of several books, entrepreneur and experimenter. Interviews with many well known and some less well know people.

The Kevin Rose Show. Fairly similar in content to Tim Ferriss above (and there are occasional overlap episodes).

The Drive. A podcast from doctor Peter Attia about all things medical and medical science.

As I said these are my main goto podcasts but there are a few others that I dip into occasionally. Mostly if they have a guest that I think I’ll like or topic that is relevant.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations for me based on the above or want to give a shout-out to your favourite show, then leave me a comment below.


A summation of the current Brexit fiasco from Charles Stross


I read Pico Iyer’s – Autumn Light  back in April, here’s a good summary of the book, with some extrapolation of some of the ideas it contains from the Brain Pickings website.


I think that’s it for this week, as always, be careful out there.

TWTW # 14 – A Scorcher

It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this, and I’m a little bit later than usual sitting down to think about what’s happened in the last week. Essentially a short working week for most with the long weekend around Easter and quiet for me as I am waiting for my client to respond regarding a report. He has responded and is taking a wider view across his organisation before giving formal comments.

It’s been getting progressively warmer all week with the weekend turning into quite a scorcher and I’ve been doing quite a bit allotment and garden wise, while I’ve had the time. I’ve sown some lettuce seed as individual plugs – some for my Mum’s garden and the remainder as back-ups for the allotment. I’ve potted on some tomatoes and have got some more seed to sow a few more plants.

I’ve also started off my runner beans. Garden lore says that you should sow your runner bean seeds on the first Bank Holiday in May and plant them out on the second one, so these are a little early but that might not be a bad thing as they were covered in a little mould which I washed off and they seem to be okay – not soft or any obvious other damage other than the mould – so if they don’t grow I’ll have time to get some more.

My car was MOT’d and serviced at the beginning of the week. It passed and so there’s nothing further to do until next year or unless there’s a problem.

Wilson was also back at the vets for his next round of tests – we’re awaiting the results.


I’ve been reading “The Way Home – Tales from a Life Without Technology” by Mark Boyle, essentially the stories of the author when he completely gave up technology, including electricity and other mains utilities, living on an island near Ireland. I’m not that far in, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Slightly ironically I’m reading it on my Kindle.


I’ve also  got  the  (re)review  of “Under  The  Rock” coming  up next weekend with the chance to receive a copy of the paperback.



Been watching the new season of Bosch on Amazon over the weekend, it’s another great season of the show, and it’s great that such high quality tv can be be made to this standard – thoroughly recommended! If you’ve read Michael Connelly’s “Two Kinds of Truth”, it’s mostly based on that.


TWTW # 11

Hello there from a relatively sunny Spring day (I know it’s Spring because I’ve been wearing shorts quite a bit this week).

It’s been a fairly busy week workwise this week. That’s not to say that I haven’t also had my share of fun too. The proposal that I was asked to submit has been accepted and I’ve been given the go ahead to proceed with the work! Great news!

I’ve also been working on my presentation and notes for the allotment talk that I’m giving on Monday evening this week (no this isn’t an April Fools joke).


I went to see Captain Marvel at the cinema on Wednesday. It was a good film, and I enjoyed it. I’m hoping to be able to see the final Avengers film in a few months time when it comes out and this film introduces a new character (although I don’t think you necessarily have to see Captain Marvel to enjoy the Avengers film, so long as you know a little bit about the genre generally).


It was Wilson’s 9th birthday this week, so he got some new dog toys and a new harness and we went for an afternoon walk to the beach, as well as having some lunch out.


I finished the final bit of digging on the allotment at the weekend, just a patch that I’ve been leaving and is likely to be the new brassica bed, so after digging I gave it a good cover of lime (this helps to prevent club root, and also my soil is on the acidic side so this helps achieve a more neutral pH.


If you have and interest in Neil Gaiman then can I recommend that you go watch / listen to Tim Ferriss’s podcast with him. I’ve embedded the video recording of the interview below (it’s 90 minutes long), but the podcast page is also worth a visit for some of the show notes.


In the week ahead I’ll be giving my talk and carrying on with the delivery of work for my client. I’ve also got a couple of meetings and it’s generally looking like being another busy week.

 

IT (2017) Brief Review

(Warning: Spoilers Might Follow)

I had the opportunity to watch the recent version of IT at the weekend. I’ve been wanting to watch it for a while and had only heard good things about the film. IT is one of my favourite Stephen King books and I’d enjoyed the previous TV mini series from 1990.

Overall I was a little bit underwhelmed. Maybe that was because the film had so much hype that my expectations weren’t born out, but I just felt a little let down by the film.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a good film. I think the casting is strong, and that comes across in the actors portrayals of their characters, and I’m pleased that it stuck pretty closely to the book. The locations were also excellent, and pretty much how I’d imagined them in my head from the book e.g. The Pine Barrens. There was however just something missing for me. It didn’t jump off the screen and grab my attention the way I was expecting, and maybe I need to watch it again as I feel I missed something.

This is of course just Chapter One i.e. it covers the portion of the book where the characters are children – and Chapter Two will presumably (assuming it’s made) cover the remainder – so hopefully the two together will be stronger. I feel however I couldn’t really give it more than a 3 out of 5.

Never Feed Them After Midnight (Quick Links 111)

It’s been a fairly busy week. I’ve had a couple of appointments to attend with my Mum, and a couple of others for myself. Around that I’ve managed to fit in a haircut, pancakes and of course Valentines Day.

It’s interesting that Shrove Tuesday has become more of a culinary event than the start of Lent, and I’m not sure whether the fact that it is still observed in at least that way is good or not. An acquaintance of mine has decided to observe the period as plastic free, and is recording her adventures here. I admire her, but don’t envy the task. In my own way I’ve been trying to cut down on single use plastics in the home, and it’s not easy. Just too much comes ready packaged in plastic or you are encouraged to use a plastic bag or container of some kind.

We don’t go too mad for Valentines, exchanging just small gifts. For mine this year I received a book (see more below) and a glass hummingbird ornament. I’ve left the latter wrapped up for the time being as I don’t want to break it, and as yet I’m not sure where I can safely put it.

A couple of times this week I nearly wrote an extra post or two, but in the end didn’t and those thoughts ended up getting lost, so I think I might pick up the frequency again, if the mood takes me.


 

Work – I’ve been  finalising next weeks presentation, it sounds good in my head, and I hope it will turn out the same when I come to do it in real life!


Allotment – Sorry to sound like a stuck record here but the ground down there is still too wet to do very much.


Currently Reading – I’ve finished a couple of books this week that I started some time ago and put to one side for various reasons. Not quite sure why I did at the time because both were pretty good and one I really enjoyed. The first is “Spirits of Place” which is an anthology [GoodReads], and the second “Deep Country” by Neil Ansell [GoodReads].

The latter is the authors story of five years in an isolated off-grid cabin in the Welsh hills, and it is this book that really got under my skin. I’m not quite sure why it didn’t when i first started it, although I do remember it was when my Mum was having her knee replaced and I was reading it on the bus going to and from the hospital. I guess I just got too busy after that. However I did finish it this time, and found it rather magical, although the author didn’t hold back about how some of his time in the cabin was quite hard where he was effectively isolated from the rest of the world for long periods. The descriptions of the wildlife and the landscape were particularly captivating, and I was both happy to have finally finished it, although also a little sad.

I also received a copy of “Icebreaker” by Horatio Clare [GoodReads] as a Valentines gift, which I devoured in a couple of evenings (it’s only a short book, but very good). Again another magical book. I didn’t really appreciate the role of the icebreaking ships, but I certainly do now, and the author managed to capture his time on one icebreaker, and weave in stories of the crew and Finland throughout.


Furby Organ – We’ve got a few of these things around the house. I’m not tempted to make my own, but this guys done the job so we don’t have too. I would have liked it more if they had sung in unison and what have you, but it’s still an amazing bit of kit.


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The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]


Ant Man & The Wasp – I really enjoyed the first Ant Man movie, so I’m looking forward to watching the sequel too.


Troy: Fall of a City – I heard an interview with the writer of this when I was in the car the other day. I’m not sure how this will translate to screen but the writers knowledge of his subject alone really demand that this be brilliant. Fingers-crossed!


So that’s me out for this week – although if the mood takes me there might be something before next Sunday, who knows. Have a good week everyone.

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.

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.