They Move In Herds TWTW # 68

Well it’s been a funny old week – funny peculiar, not funny haha – I’ve had some more bookings for talks in 2021 and cancellations for ones coming up over the next few weeks. To be honest I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do given the current Coronavirus situation and the fact that often the average age of my audience is over 70.

As you probably know I mostly work from home anyway, but I’ve had several client meetings moved from face to face encounters to telephone or video calls. Again absolutely the right thing to do, although it meant that I didn’t finish the roll of film that’s still in my camera as I’d planned but that experiment isn’t one that’s time critical.

I do wonder about the wisdom of our proven liar Prime Minister however, who seems out of his depth and the questionable decisions he’s been making to give us “a herd immunity” which means that at least 60% of the population has to contract Coronavirus and in theory become immune (we don’t of course know whether catching Coronavirus confers any long term immunity – this is the reason you have an annual flu jab, because the immunity doesn’t last long). Nearly 30% of the UK population is in the “at risk” category by virtue of age, so that’s not a very large margin of error. Oh and of course we also know who else moved in herds, don’t we. I wonder what happened to them?

It seems that panic buying is still a thing, particularly toilet rolls, and any kind of disinfectant or hand sanitiser, dried pasta, and eggs; the empty shelves in the local supermarket testifying to this. In the hoarding stakes this is surely a step up from the Brexit supply stacking that went on several times and thankfully we’re not having to cope with a No-Deal Brexit and Coronavirus at the same time, even the Dunkirk spirit would probably crumble under that pressure.

Oh and wash your phone – but don’t forget to wash your hands.


It was my birthday this week, although it seems like it was some time ago, it’s weird how time expands and contracts around different events to make them seem much more recent or much further in the past than they actually were. I took a day off, had some nice thoughtful gifts and generally didn’t do overly much apart from enjoy what was in fact a nice sunny day after so many that have been a bit blergh.

 

As it was my birthday I also treated myself to an e-bay bargain of the first 18 Inspector Montalbano books. Between these, Simenon’s Maigret and a few other things I should have plenty of reading material.

 

 

 


I read the next book in Mick Herron’s “Jackson Lamb” series – Real Tigers – I think these are getting better with each one, and I am trying to resist buying the next one in the series for the time being, as I have a tonne of books to read and more arrived for my birthday. I did notice that Gary Oldman has been pegged to play the character of Lamb in a new TV series. He’s probably a good pick for the character, but sadly as it’s going to be on Apple TV, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever get to watch it.

I started reading East West Street by Philippe Sands which deals with the early understanding of genocide and crimes against humanity, particularly in the Second World War.


I’ve often looked at different options to cover some of the costs of running this blog, and this article has some interesting ideas. Don’t worry I’m not about to put up a paywall but if you want to you can always Buy Me A Coffee.


It’s been nearly three weeks of my social media fasting, it actually feels like longer. Is that withdrawal, I don’t think so as I think I actually feel calmer without it.


We watched the latest Terminator film at the weekend. I have to say I’m a little confused as to the whole timeline of these films, I’m assuming that you’re just not supposed to worry about that. In theory it would probably have had to happen after the second film, but events in the latest film mean that the third film couldn’t have happened. I’m sure it’s just one of those time paradox things, it was never really explained in the film but I guess if you don’t worry about it and enjoy the film, that’s what matters. If you like the Terminator films you’ll probably like it too, and in my opinion it’s better that the last couple.


The allotment is still pretty much a wash out, the ground is too wet to do anything. I sowed some seeds this week in anticipation of improvements sometime in the near future. Some more broad beans as well as some broccoli and cauliflower seeds. Hopefully in a few weeks time I’ll be transplanting them out onto the plot and probably moaning about all the watering I’m having to do because it’s now so dry!


I’m not sure what the week ahead holds. I have to take my Mum for a medical appointment but I need to phone up and check that it’s still on. Otherwise I’m going to be continuing to work from home, I quite like the hermit lifestyle.

I hope that wherever you are in the world you stay healthy and Coronavirus free.

Big Sunrises TWTW # 56

Hello! The morning light this week has been pretty amazing. I’ve been up early several times and enjoyed the sunrise. It’s also been an exceptionally busy and stressful week. A lot of family things happening with a backdrop of work, client meetings and associated craziness.

I’m glad I went ahead and made a start getting my new laptop set up, and if nothing else I am completely amazed by the battery life. Since I went freelance, I’ve never really had an “office” as such. The closest I get is my desks at home, but I’ll pretty much work wherever I have to. This week in particular I’ve been on the road and working from some unusual places. The laptop battery has kept going throughout, only needing to charge when I did get back home. The manufacturers quoted life is 13 hours and that doesn’t seem to be far off the mark.

The only tech downside this week has been the demise of my old printer. I don’t use one much but I do need one, and I’ve had to replace my old one for a newer model. Essentially the same machine, just with the current spec.


We watched the film Yesterday over the weekend. I think it’s a bit of a marmite film. I really enjoyed it, but Ann hated it. The premise of the film is that after a global power blackout no one except musician Jack Mailk – who had an accident at the exact moment of the blackout – can remember The Beatles or their music. When he realises this Jack uses his knowledge to become the next big thing by releasing the music of The Beatles himself. As I said you’ll probably either love it or hate it, but I think it’s worth a watch.


David Quammen’s blog has been active again with a couple of posts: Sphinx and Loss, Birds & Hope


On my travels this week I’ve mostly been listening to Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C Clarke. As old and probably classic science fiction it was a great listen, I also have the second book in the series and have just started that.

I’ve also been listening to the first three episodes of The Whisperer in Darkness which I mentioned last week, and it’s got me hooked. Looking forward to the next instalments when they drop later on. The title, some of the characters and storyline are based on the H P Lovecraft short story of the same name, and I’ve been reading that on my kindle, but otherwise my reading has been a bit sporadic this week, I’ve been busy most of the time, and haven’t found the opportunity to really get into another book yet, so short stories are just my thing.


There seem to have been a lot of movie trailers or teasers dropped on the internet this week, here are a few of my favourites:


Because of the way YouTubes algorithms work, it also suggested the upload below, showing various camera angles of the bike stunt in the trailer and the Aston Martin chase scene.


Work this week has been a tale of the present and the future. I’ve been working on current client work this week, and have had a couple of potential projects come forward that would take me through to the end of the year and possibly towards the end of January. At one point I thought that I was going to have more work than I had days in January. It’s nice to be in such demand, I just need to make sure that I deliver against the tasks.


I managed to set a few hours in on the allotment on Saturday, the first time I’ve spent any significant time there for a couple of weeks. The weather and other commitments have kept me away, so it was good to back there. I’ve had a tarpaulin down to keep an area dry so that even in the worst of the rain it doesn’t become too swampy. It’s a simple deal, put the tarp down and leave until ready, then pull the tarp back and dig the space that was covered. Once you’re down move the tarp to the next area to dig and leave for a couple of weeks (if it’s been really wet) and then repeat the process. Next weekend, weather permitting I’ll put some manure down on the area I’ve just dug and then dig the new area the following week. Following that cycle for another month or so and the remainder of the plot will have been dug over and be ready for the new growing season.


I’m planning to do some annual review posts if the time allows; books, films, tv programmes, podcasts etc. I think I’ll either post them separately or possibly do one topic a week for the next couple of weeks (assuming that it doesn’t make this posts any longer than they already are).


There’s a General Election in the week ahead and I’m pretty much working flat out to get things done and play a little bit of catch up on this week just gone. If you’re in the UK then please get out and vote on Thursday, even if you think your vote won’t make a difference, don’t be the person where it does and you didn’t.

A Fox In The Darkness At Nighttime TWTW # 41

We had our first big Autumn / Winter storm of the weekend. Wet and windy, trees down, power cuts, the whole shebang. For once the weather warning was pretty accurate, which is what they’re for. Otherwise this week has mostly been about the client work. I’ve reached some fairly major milestones with a couple of clients but as it’s been half-term here this last week my clients have mostly been quiet. It’s interesting working in that ecosystem again where school holidays often dictate staff holidays (not unsurprisingly) but not my own.


img_20191029_154754176I had a delivery of some new ink this week. This was a little present to myself for reaching client milestones.

They’re Sky Blue and Prairie Green. I love the green, but I have to say that I’m not sure who’s sky is that blue. It’s much lighter than what I would say is Sky Blue. These are a couple of special edition bottles, and I hope that the green becomes a regular part of their range as I would use it on a regular basis. If not when it’s gone, it’s gone.

 


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This week I’ve mostly been reading Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson. I say reading because I haven’t been much progress, although I did finally finish it late last night. Most of my reading has been around bedtime but sleep has been creeping up on me by the time I’ve read a few pages and so the story is building very slowly.

I am enjoying it though, I wonder whether it is going to be the first book of a trilogy, like his Mars books were (Red, Blue, Green), as the ending doesn’t resolve any of the plot. There is an untitled “Kim Stanley Robinson Book 2” listed on Amazon which you can pre-order for October 2020, so it seems quite possible.


The government has banned fracking. I’m a little surprised by the announcement, as it seemed the government was going to be forever the hypocrite of saying they were doing wonderful things to stop climate change whilst allowing the practice of fracking to take place. It’s interesting though that I haven’t seen any comment on this from the fracking industry itself. I’m sure they’re not happy about it and in all honesty would expect them to sue the government.


How HP Lovecraft became the world’s favourite horror writer


Bread and Books – Seth Godin


Photo’s from the California wildfires


The Bic Biro: Design Classics


Aaron Sorkin: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg – The New York Times


Remember: it’s austerity, not Europe that broke Britain


We’ve been watching Season 2 of Jack Ryan, in fact we watched all 8 episodes over Friday to Sunday evenings. It was good, but not as good as Season 1, although I’m glad it didn’t follow the ISIS / Al-Qaeda trope that so many TV series seem to. Overall probably about 2.5 stars out of 5.


Something has been digging up one of the recently dug and planted (broad beans) beds on the allotment. I’m not sure what it was although I had my suspicions that it might have been the badgers. So I set up the trail cam to see if I could catch the culprit in action. It didn’t actually capture anything in the act, although it did capture a picture of a fox. I’m not sure what happened but I think a combination of the cold and low batteries means that after it captured that one image the camera stopped working. So I might have to try again, once again I get some new batteries.

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Other than that I’ve been quiet on the plot because of the stormy weather.


img_20191029_160017559The laptop that I’m writing this on, and is my current main business and everything else tool is beginning to show it’s age and I’ve been thinking that I need to upgrade it sooner rather than later. My plan currently is to wait until Black Friday / Cyber Monday in the hope that I might get a little bit of a discount on a new one. Having researched what I need and getting it down to 3 or 4 possibilities. If that happens the plan is to then move files and everything else over during the downtime between Christmas and New Year. In the meantime my current machine took about six hours to do an update last week. Fortunately I’d finished working for the day, and so just left the machine running until it was done (just before I went to bed).


The week ahead sees me on the road again for a client visit and I have a choice of audiobooks for the journey – not sure which I’m going to opt for yet. I also need to work out what “physical” book I’m going to pick up next.

Whatever you’re up to this week have a good one!

Beware! Boats Overhead! TWTW #40

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I’m writing this after coming back from a late Sunday breakfast by the quayside at Emsworth where the local sailing club are lifting out boats for winter storage and maintenance. It’s not everyday that you see a sailing boat flying across the skies albeit helped by a crane. I’ve seen this sort of thing a number of times, and no I’ve never seen them drop one! It was a lovely sunny morning, and for once I had a proper camera – as opposed to a phone camera – with me. Although clearly the last time I was using it, I was shooting black and white.

Outside of that it’s been a really busy week workwise, although I’ve mostly been working at home moving projects forward. I am pleased that I’ve finished one part of a particular project and the results look quite good – if I do say so myself. I’ll be sending them to the client next week. Hopefully they’ll be pleased to as we reach the end of the month and it’s time to send some bills out!


I used to travel on the Eurostar a lot, but haven’t in probably the last five years. I always used to enjoy it, although there were some times when for various reasons there was a problem. I once spent 4 hours stuck in Lille, trying to get to Brussels from London where my outgoing train had been delayed by a lineside fire and I’d had to go from London Waterloo to Ashford in Kent by conventional trains to pick up a Eurostar from there only to find that so was everyone else. This train only made it as far as Lille and everyone who wanted to go to Brussels was turfed off having been told that there would be another Eurostar which would take us onwards and the train we were on was going to Paris instead. There was of course no train to take us onwards and we were all effectively stranded. I made it to Brussels late that evening, fortunately my hotel had kept my room for me, and after my meetings over the next couple of days, my return journey went without a hitch.

Some other people also have some interesting stories to tell.


Warren Ellis and Julian Simpson on how most of the business is in countries other than their home in the UK.


The official opening of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s house.


There’s been a lot of different interviews and videos of Edward Snowden, but this one on the Joe Rogan Experience kind of captured my interest. It’s long – nearly three hours – but worth a listen if you have the time.


This was possibly the most ridiculous thing I read this week (that wasn’t about Brexit or Donald Trump). Not because it isn’t true but because we as a species are completely stupid. To waste so much food (in the form of pumpkins) is something that we should be ashamed of. There is so much you can do with a pumpkin – soup, roast, jam, mash, side veg, chutney, pie, flan – the list is pretty much endless. So take a moment this Halloween and don’t waste that pumpkin you carve.


Fake News is pretty much a daily war-cry but this story is a worry.


The allotment was looking decidedly damp this week due to the rain we’ve had almost every week day. I did manage to take down the runner bean sticks / plants, so that bed is now ready to be dug, but it’ll need to dry out a bit first. A few more days like Sunday should soon see to that, if not I’ll have to get my tarpaulin out and do it that way. No rush though, it won’t be needed until March, but I would like to get it dug and get some manure on it.


Did Donald Trump give two women astronaut “the bird”? Well looks like he has form for it.


One of the Isle of Wight Sea Eagles has died and another is missing.


Europe’s carbon-rich peatlands show ‘widespread’ and ‘concerning’ drying trends


 

Well that’s about it for this week. Over the week ahead I’ve got a few appointments, including getting a flu jab (hopefully to keep me going through the winter), but otherwise I’ll be pushing forward with client work. Hope you have a great week, and as always feel free to say hi in the comments.


 

 

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.

Rinse and Repeat TWTW #38

img_20191003_072036752_hdr-effectsAutumn seems to have arrived, damp and much cooler.

I must admit to feeling a little frazzled, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and although I missed writing here on my usual weekly post, I’m glad I gave myself the break.

My routine has been: Wake Up>Make & Eat Breakfast>Walk Dogs>Work>Make & Eat Lunch>Walk Dogs>Work>Make & Eat Dinner>Travel To Evening Talk>Give Evening Talk>Drive Home>Sleep>Repeat as required.

This has included quite a bit of travelling for other work commitments as well as to give evening talks, and I’ve got through a fair bit of audio books and podcasts when I’ve been on a train or in the car, more on that below.

It also feels good that my days have returned to a bit more normality (at least for the time being), I have no more evening talks until the middle of November and then after that nothing until January, so I can focus on the day-job!


I’m really looking forward to the new Star Trek series, and this new trailer dropped as part of the New York Comic-Con.


And while thinking about this, the series writer is Michael Chabon, and this is an interesting discussion about some of his other works and how they have influenced the Star Trek  cannon.


I’ve only had a little time for the allotment in the past couple of weeks. The weather hasn’t always been favourable, but I have managed to do some of the end of season digging and put some manure out on the plot to feed the soil for next season. With autumn arriving it’s going to be more of the same over the coming weeks.


screenshot_20191010-145052I’ve finished a couple of audiobooks while I’ve been travelling. Darwin Comes To Town by Menno Schilthuizen and A Jaguar Ripped My Flesh by Tim Cahill.

I  also finished The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov.

All were great and I enjoyed them all. I’d forgotten that the Asimov was as much a crime fiction as a science fiction, and it’s made me want to track down the previous two books (The Caves of Steel & The Naked Sun) in that series because I don’t remember those either. At the moment though my to be read pile as rather large and I think I need to work on reducing it a bit before I buy more books, plus I’ve got some pre-orders arriving over the next few weeks. I will keep an eye out for them in the secondhand stores thought and if I don’t find them before I’m ready, I’ll be using the library.


In between audiobooks, I’ve also had my earbuds in listening to a lot of podcasts. I think I’ll save the list of the things I’ve been listening to for another time, as this post is probably going to be quite long as it is, but I particularly enjoyed listening to a recent edition of the Tim Ferriss podcast on one of my journeys. It features Neil deGrasse Tyson, and prompted me to track down a couple of his books.

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One of those books I ordered secondhand and it came in the post on Friday – Death By Black Hole – when I opened it up there were lots of bookmarks still in the book. It had obviously been someone’s (there was a ticket stub with the person’s name and address on) airport / in-flight read at some point in 2008. This person had, in October that year flown from Luxor to Cairo and then later the same day on from Cairo to Sharm El Sheik. He’d had a pizza and a margarita on his stop over in Cairo. Three weeks later he flew from Heathrow to Denver at which time I think he must have finished the book because that is where the forensic trail runs cold.

I’ve had a couple of secondhand books like this recently that people have left “bookmarks” in and it’s always interesting to see what you can decipher from them.


The Problem With Net-Zero Emissions Targets [LINK]. I’m involved in a couple of projects looking at this at the moment, so this was an interesting read for me.

And at the other end of the spectrum, the 20 firms behind a third of global carbon emissions [LINK].


North Atlantic Right Whales Are Dying in Horrific Ways[LINK].


If you can access BBC Sounds or iPlayer – I’m not sure whether this works outside of the UK or you can use a VPN to access – then BBC 6 Music are doing a series of the favourite music of graphic content writers. They’ve already had Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman on. Hannah Berry and Warren Ellis are up in the next couple of weeks.


Jonathan Franzen: online rage is stopping us tackling the climate crisis [LINK].


img_20191002_142921461The last few years I’ve wanted to give a Hobonichi diary a go. I journal most days and I hope that this will be something a little different.

I know it’s only October but these sell pretty quickly, and in previous years I’ve left it too late to get one, so I’ve ordered early.

Bit of time before I get my hands on it properly, but I’ve already got quite a few dates for things in 2020.




What’s In Your Pockets? TWTW # 37

What’s in my pockets? Well it would appear that in terms of my coat, a mix of stuff for walking my dogs or things that I’ve found on our walks. I was clearing out my pockets to get the coat ready to be re-waxed and to transfer the pocket contents to another coat. The coat has big pockets and all of those balls that you can see in the picture are ones we’ve found and not ones that belong to my dogs. I keep them and pass them on to a friend when I see her as her dogs are not fussy about the ones that they play with, unlike mine!

It’s been another busy week, pushing client work along and a mix of being here at my desk in front of the computer or on the phone. The next two weeks however are shaping up to be the weeks from hell, with several evening presentations and quite a bit of travelling. Unfortunately most, if not all of it, is going to be in the car, so other than listening to more audio books I won’t have much time for anything else.

Fair warning therefore that if there isn’t a post here from me next Monday (7th October) that’s why. Hopefully normal service will resume the following week.


I’ve been reading another Maigret novel this week – Maigret and the Wine Merchant.  It’s interesting that this one was originally published in 1970, and although that is many decades ago, it’s nearly forty years after the first Maigret novel – Pietr the Latvian was published in 1931. There are quite a few differences between the two, and the first mention of computers that I can recall in a Maigret novel, as well as many other cultural changes. Quite the contrast between them, and even more so when we’re not far off 100 years since the first one was written.

When I was sorting through some things at my Mum’s house came across a couple of Isaac Asimov books. I’m planning on reading these, as soon as time allows even if it’s only a page or two at bedtime for the foreseeable future! They’re a blast from my childhood but I can honestly say I don’t remember much about them, so hopefully they’ll be a bit of a treat to read again after all that time.



My time on the allotment has been a little curtailed this past few weeks, partly due to available time, but also down to the weather. The apples that I was hoping would stay on my tree have all blown off, so good news we get apple crumble, bad news, we’ll probably be eating a lot of it because that’s a lot of bruised apples that won’t keep for too long.


Dwelling As Resistance


Michael Chabon asks “What’s the Point?”


More than half of native European trees face extinction



I think that’s all I have for this week, all being well I’ll be back on the 14th October (although there is a little post coming later this week, but I wrote that one before I wrote this one – the wonders of technology!) Be careful out !