Another Strange Anniversary : TWTW # 27

Another week that was supposed to go one way ended up taking a different direction, strange how despite all the planning things don’t seem to be turning out the way they were envisaged. It’s left me wondering how the week ahead will pan out, which looks like being another one at the moment, but could potentially change.


Four years ago I said goodbye to my last full time, paid job. Although at the time I didn’t really know how things were going to pan out, I’ve been asked a few times if I regret the decision to leave. Simply put the answer is no, although in the last four years combined, my income has probably been less than any of the years proceeding that, it allowed me to do many things. Although I didn’t know it at the time it allowed me to spend a lot more time with my Dad in the last year of his life. It allowed me to be present for some other difficult family things and possibly it reduced my stress levels and the chance I might have had a complete meltdown had I stayed where I was. Most of those things aren’t even tangible but they are most definitely real to me.

I’m still not quite sure where this freelance work is taking me or even if I can keep doing it at such a low level of income. There have been suggestions of offers of work, and I am always on the look out but it might not be sustainable in the long term. I still don’t regret that decision though.


A slightly unplanned trip to the library meant that I ended up with a couple of books, it was as a result of reading the latest newsletter from Joanne McNeil about Michael Seidenberg and the Brazenhead book store. It was the final paragraph of that newsletter:

Read an underread writer this summer in his honor. Any lonely and interesting-looking unfamiliar book at a used bookstore will do.

which prompted me to check-out In The Wet” by Nevil Shute and Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks on my library card. Now I’m not sure that either of those two books technically qualifies but that paragraph was in my head when I was browsing the stacks and I knew that I hadn’t read a Nevil Shute book for probably close to 20 years, despite reading a lot of them in my late teens and early twenties. The Tom Hanks was one that I knew I would never buy new and possibly not even secondhand, so they both did kinda fit the bill.

Anyway the Nevil Shute was amazing and I remember why I liked him as an author. Probably not the best book of his I’ve read (A Town Like Alice & On The Beach are probably both better known and better books), but it did prompt me to go on a hunt in our loft to drag out some of his books that I have up there and now plan to read.

The Tom Hanks however was, well it was just a bit meh. It had some great blurbs on the cover and maybe it was just me but it just read a bit like it was one of his early movies. It’s a short story collection and I enjoyed a few of them, and there were some nice tricks with how the book is laid out, but just not my cup of tea.

I enjoy popping into the library every so often I seem to always find something that I’ve missed elsewhere or wanted to read, it’s a great resource that has suffered a lot from government austerity measures, so I’m pleased to support it.

I get to go back in the week ahead, return the books I have on loan and see what else they have for me.



After writing last week about reading the Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri I was a little surprised to read his obituary, but interesting comments about the translation of Sicilian.


I finally got around to pickling some of the gherkins from the allotment this week.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Who knows what’s going to happen in the week ahead, it may even be that it pans out according to plan!

Robins Will Perch on Anything – TWTW #24

I was wondering whether or not this last week was going to be hectic or very quiet, and in the end it was somewhere towards the latter.
The rush proposal that I was asked to do has been put on hold, so having to gear up quickly and get cracking with that didn’t happen and it allowed me to get on with some other work.

I’ve had to do quite a bit of weeding on the allotment in the last week or so, and there has been the usual ever present robin keeping an eye on me and also catching the insects that are disturbed as I work. I tried to get some video footage of this and was only really partly successful, as you can see the robin was happy to have his photo taken, but on his own terms.


This article is a healthy reminder that all those e-books you have on your devices are not actually yours, you just own a licence to them. I’ve written before about the power of companies like Amazon who licence you an e-book and can pretty much do whatever they want if they feel you have broken their terms and conditions (whether you have done so intentionally or not). Now I love my kindle, but there are the obvious vulnerabilities or loosing or breaking it (and having the cost of a replacement), and the issues around DRM that these two articles raise. In the former case at least it looks as though customers will bet their money back, but what if this was a company that went into bankruptcy and there was no cash left to pay for the severs or refund their customers. Amazon is pretty big, but is it too big to fall?

I’ll still be using my kindle and buying books (licences for books) for it but I’ve never been completely happy about that relationship and I’m still not. I have my eyes wide open though.



I’ve been reading “Bloom” by Ruth Kassinger this week. It was sent to me by the publisher for a review, and if you want to read what I thought you can do so here. The short version is that it is an excellent book.

 

 

 

 

 


This week I’m mostly going to be working on a client project and trying to get some sensible thoughts into a report for them. Beyond that I doubt that I’ll be doing much else as my diary is relatively clear of other commitments.


 

 

Book Review: Bloom by Ruth Kassinger

“Bloom – From Food to Fuel, The Epic Story of How Algae Can Save Our World” by Ruth Kassinger.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars.

From her own garden pond, back in time to when life began and fast forward to today where algae can be in soup, sushi and running shoes, Ruth Kassinger takes readers on a journey through the complexities, triumphs and tribulations of algae. Through many facets that most people won’t simply be aware of to those that could be fundamental to the future of the human race.

Now when I was asked to review this book, I had to confess that I already know a little about algae, I’ve been involved in microalgae projects that look to harness them to produce products of value. So this book for me is part Bus-man’s holiday but it was so much more than that. It is truly mind expanding, regardless of how much you already know – or think you know. Whether the author is talking about the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), microalgae, or macroalgae (seaweeds), there is just so much information you’ll probably end up wondering how you never heard of a lot of this before, and perhaps why.

It’s extremely well written, and in a style that is engaging from first page to last, and if you think the subtitle might be a little over-the-top, then prepare to have that illusion shattered. The author clearly knows her subject and her first hand research has taken her to many places that many people won’t know exist or perhaps won’t have even considered that they have a connection to algae, but as you read you’ll realise that some pretty well known brands are investing in algal technologies and that many others probably should be.

I particularly enjoyed the parts on food and fuel, expanding my culinary knowledge, and gaining a better understanding of why some projects and companies pivoted their business models the way they did. The untapped potential in some areas is still huge, but timing or political will can be everything

This is science writing at it’s most engaging and rewarding for the reader, whether scientist themselves or just plain interested in widening your knowledge.

The book also comes with some recipes at the end for algae (mostly seaweed) dishes, which is a really nice touch (although I haven’t had a chance to try any of them out yet, I’m planning to).

Bloom – From Food To Fuel, The Epic Story of How Algae Can Save Our World by Ruth Kassinger is published by Elliott & Thompson Books on 4th July 2019.
(Published as “Slime” in the US by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

About The Author: Ruth Kassinger writes about the intersection of gardening, history and science. In addition to her several books, Ruth has written for the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Health, National Geographic Explorer and other publications. Find her online at: www.ruthkassinger.com

Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book to review.

Percy Sweeps The Chimney

We’d been having problems with flies over the last few days. There were way more getting into the house than is normal, and even with the hot weather it was abnormal.

I was pretty sure that this meant something had died somewhere and the life cycle of death was taking place. If you look this up on the internet you find that there is a sequence that takes a few days and manifests first as blowflies (you’ll probably think of them as “Greenbottles”), and then the aptly named flesh flies.

I reached the point yesterday where I’d had enough. The majority of flies seemed to be in the lounge and so I shut myself in there and spent 20 mins trying to kill every fly in the room. I was pretty sure that I’d gotten them all so I sat for another half-an-hour looking at the window, where the flies had seemed to be gathering. I was thinking that perhaps they were in the wall cavity, and had found a gap somewhere that they could squeeze through.

And I sat.

And then a fly flew over my head, from behind me. I thought it was one that I’d missed from the early genocide, so I dispatched him to join the others.

And I sat.

And then another fly flew over my head, from behind me. Even I’m not that inefficient.

And then it dawned on me. The chimney.

There’s no longer a fireplace there, but the chimney is still there and open to the elements. We’ve had a sparrow fall down before and get caught behind the board that’s in front of the opening to prevent draughts, and we assisted him out. So it made sense that perhaps there was something else that had fallen down and was now decaying behind the board.

I cleared everything out of the way and moved the board, and several flies buzzed around my head, but I couldn’t see anything else untoward, until I shone my torch up the flue pipe and there, was a dead wood pigeon, jammed in the flue.

I donned some protective gear (I couldn’t find my dust mask, so had to go a bit wild west), and with a bin liner in one hand , carefully positioned beneath the flue, I reached up with the other hand and dislodged the pigeon.

In the end it wasn’t a difficult job, and there wasn’t too much mess to clear up, even though the pigeon had done a pretty good job of sweeping the chimney on his way down.

It’s also cleared up the fly problem almost instantaneously.

RIP Percy Pigeon, I’m not sure how you came to fall down the chimney in the first place, and I’m not sorry to see you removed from your temporary resting place, but I am grateful you’ve taken all your winged companions with you.

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.

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.

 

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.