wjt

Remembering how to write about something other than computer

I have a morbid fascination with Cal Newport's writing. I did not get along well with Deep Work, even though I'm basically on board with the theory of reducing the interruptions that get in the way of achieving things. But is publishing six books which boil down to “stop using Twitter, and use the time to get your work done efficiently and take up some hobbies” really a good use of one's own advice?

His recent post The Analog January Challenge promotes a rarely-spotted quintuple verb: READ • MOVE • CONNECT • MAKE • JOIN. It continues his theme of undermining reasonable suggestions with what seem to me unfounded claims about human interaction and physiology and projections of his own life circumstance onto others, but ploughing my way though the frank exchange of views on MetaFilter made me want to engage a bit more constructively with it. So, here goes.

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Culture, Media and Sport

After a bit of a music drought in 2018, 2019 had some great releases from familiar and new-to-me artists. Some highlights:

  • 65daysofstatic's Unreleased/Unreleasable Vol.4 subscription is a rare glimpse into how an experimental band experiments, and their new album Replicr, 2019 is an unusual example of a post-rock band becoming something different, successfully. Try five waves.
  • By way of contrast, Psapp sprung back out of their cave with Tourists, which fits firmly into their well-established groove, if perhaps a little more mellow at times. I love it. Try Progress.
  • I came across Anna Meredith's 2016 album Varmints mid-way through the year and had never heard anything like it. The album spans almost as many genres and moods as it has tracks. Her latest album Fibs came out at the end of the year and is even better. Try Inhale Exhale or Paramour.

A couple of albums with stand-out tracks:

  • I find Buke & Gase's Scholars a bit harder to listen to than their past work, but the title track is up there with all their past work.
  • Stealing Sheep's Big Wows fell a bit flat, but maybe because the lead single, Jokin’ Me, tops the highlight of from last album, Apparition.
  • On 30th December, I stumbled upon Memory Mirror, The Octopus Project's 2017 album. Mendoza is the highlight.

I read 30 books, of which I would recommend:

On a more sombre note: towards the start of the year, Dau finally made its way into the world, briefly. I didn't go to the exhibition in Paris, and I expect that very little of my technical work made it into that installation. Towards the end of the year, I was floored to learn that Alexei Blinov had passed away. Alexei was one of the first people I interacted with when I first became involved with the project, and the last person I bid farewell on my last day back in 2016. I imagined that our paths would cross again some day, somewhere at the intersection of art and technology, but in fact that was the last time we spoke. Alexei was a welcoming and fascinating individual, with great imagination; I'm glad I had the opportunity to work with him and count him as a friend.

Work and Pensions

Near the end of the year, I became Director of Platform at Endless, walking further down the engineering-management fork in the road. I've gratefully received advice from developers who've followed this branch in the road (and in some cases turned back). Several people recommended The Engineer/Manager Pendulum by Charity Majors, which I would also recommend.

After a few years with minimal travel, last year I went to Brussels (for FOSDEM and a GNOME Advisory Board meeting), San Francisco (visiting the Endless office to work on the product roadmap), and Thessaloniki (for GUADEC, where I gave a lightning talk). I've not done much public speaking for a while. Maybe I can do more of that this year.

Health and Social Care

After years of trying and failing for various reasons, I donated blood twice. Please do the same if you are able to.

Children, Schools and Families

My daughter turned two. She's the best! I rounded off the year by shaving my beard off for the first time in over 7 years. She asked me whether I “cleaned it off; was your beard dirty?”, which for someone who didn't know beards can be removed is a reasonable and insightful question.

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