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MMXX/IV

Another week down. Here’s my notes from the week that was.

I started the week by being trolled by my bank:

Screw you, Monzo

My shame was lifted slightly by the arrival of seventeen new fish in our fish tank. We’ve never had baby fish before, so it was quite exciting (and a bit gross). They are basically eyeballs with tails at this point and have to be segregated from the rest of the tank so that they aren’t eaten by the bigger fish.

Guppies!

Next week will mark the half-way point of Winter. Hurrah!

This week I learned that there is a such a thing as a Parliamentary Train, which is not a private train for MPs but a train service that runs purely to keep a line legally open. Basically, back in the 1960s, vast swathes of the railway were torn up as a result of the Beeching Report. Public opposition to the closures grew to such an extent that the government passed new legislation to make it harder for lines to close – now it’s so difficult, and costly, that it’s easier, and cheaper to keep a line open by running the minimum service on it. Thanks to Ian for his wonderful blog post on them.


Books finished:

  • Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker. This one gave me lots to think about. I suspect my family are tired of my facts about sleep. Did you know that birds can sleep half a brain at a time?
  • Whatever, by Michel Houllebecq

Writing that I enjoyed:

Watched:

  • Picard: I’ve not enjoyed any of the StarTrek reboots (with an exception given to Voyager) so I didn’t have high hopes, but was pleasantly susprised. Strange watching something episode by episode after binge watching stuff though.

MMXX/III

Another week down. Here’s my notes from the week that was.

  • Court duty this week. I’ve never particularly enjoyed this part of my job, mainly because I have a face that seems to cause county court judges to become spontaneously apoplectic. My case this week was in Skipton, a two-hour drive away. On arrival I met my nemesis, a specific duty solicitor that has a name that sounds like a Bond villain, an unnerving ability to appear wherever I am, and a 100% success rate at destroying my possession cases – which is exactly what he proceeded to do before I drove the two hours back.
  • The new Apple AirPods are astonishing and probably the best single-purpose gadget I’ve ever bought.
  • Renewed my library card.
  • Started testing Brave as my primary browser. I like it so far, and their approach to internet advertising is interesting.
  • The youngest went on a Brownie sleepover for the first time; cue much excitement from her, and us.
  • Tried two new recipes this week: Sticky Sesame Chicken & Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta. 10/10. Would cook again.

Watched:

Michael Palin in North Korea
North Korea is a fascinating country and one that I’d really like to visit, if not for being certain that I would unwittingly end up in a work camp.

As an aside, it was a complete pain to actually watch this. It was initially broadcast on Channel 5, but while it has a section on their website there is no way to watch it. A bit of googling suggested it might be on Sky now? Maybe Netflix? This is why people pirate things.

1917
There are not enough superlatives to describe how good this film was. There are big things ahead for George MacKay.

Reading:

Finished: Around the World in 80 Days, by Michael Palin


MMXX/II

I thought about writing a review of the decade past and my hopes for the one to come, but it could be easily distilled down to ‘a lot happened’ and ‘a lot will happen’- the latter being as much out of my control as the former was.

I’ve never been one for carefully laid out plans. There’s only a few things known for sure about this year: our eldest will head off to university in September, we’ve got to make some decisions about where we want to live, and I should decide what I want to do with the rest of my life. Small stuff really, innit?

We went for a bimble around York on Sunday, a favourite destination of ours when we have no other ideas.

Reading:

Finished: Serotonin, by Michel Houellebecq
Started: Cage of Souls, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

From the net:

Love, leaving & loneliness – A thoughtful peace on the side-effects of the drive towards social mobility.

Woven City – Toyota is building the city of the future in Japan.

How much land does a man need? – A short story by Leo Tolstoy. The answer is: not as much as you think, or at least not as much as you want.


Favourite books from 2019

I read 37 books this year – average for me, and only possible because I have no hobbies or social life.

My top five books of the year were:

The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
This book resonated with me because I harbour dreams of chucking everything in the bin, moving to a remote community and growing my own veg. Since I have no practical stills whatsoever I live the life vicariously through the writing of others. In this book, a family makes the move to remote Alaska and get much more than they planned for.

Kane and Abel, by Jeffrey Archer
It’s a tale of life, love, money and revenge; skillfully woven through generations of history. None of the characters are particularly likeable, but it was a solid book and an enjoyable read.

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
I started reading this after watching a couple of episodes of the TV series. The book, as seems always the case, is much better than the dramatisation. It’s epic in scale, intelligent and tightly plotted. My least favourite of the trilogy, but it gets prize place because it led me on to the rest.

Tampa, by Alissa Nutting
No idea how I found this one. Celeste Price is young high school teacher with sexual proclivities for her students. It’s obscene, explicit and dark; but funny in a weird way. The protagonist is intensely scary and unpredictable. Very different from anything else that I read this year and I’m glad I read it. Can’t imagine that it was an easy sell to publishers though.

The Art of Noticing, by Rob Walker
What did we do when stood in a queue before we had mobile phones? Buggered if I can remember, but it was a long time ago. Rob Walker is on a mission to help us remember, with a book full of tips and activities designed to help us reconnect with the world around us. It includes activities like urban exploration, photo walks, taking the long way, and ‘Let a Stranger Lead you’ – where you follow a stranger around for a bit. I enjoyed that one, apart from the restraining order bit.

The full list of books from 2019 is here.


2019 in Numbers

Yeah, I could write some nice words about how my year has been, but instead I’m going to give you the cold, hard data:

  • 1,644,669 steps walked
  • 16,544 miles driven
  • 2,394 flights of steps climbed
  • 822 miles walked
  • 280 RSS feeds tracked (RSS is definitely not dead)
  • 136 bus journeys
  • 420 photos
  • 65 Geocaches found
  • 50 journal entries
  • 10 counties visited
  • 37 books read
  • 35 takeaway meals
  • 33 blog posts written
  • 7.3 pounds gained (correlated with number 12?)
  • 4 taxi journeys
  • 3 London Underground journeys
  • 0 countries visited

Wish I was here

Grisdale

It’s just over six years since me and a friend went wildcamping in the Lake District. Two days of (very) long walks, bathing in crystal clear rivers and sleeping on soft grassy ground. We really should go back.


2019/17: Perfect Circle

Greetings from the Humber Estuary.

My car went in for the mandatory yearly safety check this week and needed no work, which was lucky as I couldn’t have paid for any work unless garages now accept tokens of gratitude as payment. This car is the most boring car I have ever owned, but in three years it’s only cost me four tyres and a two wiper blades. Can’t argue with the economy of it.

Currently Reading:

  • The Heart Goes Last, By Margaret Atwood. This distopian fiction is a welcome relief from the dystopia outside my front door, and the one in my head.

From the net:

The internet blessed me with the following great content this week:

  • Computer Files Are Going Extinct – OneZero [Medium]. Modern tools, especially online ones, are making the filesystem less relevent – but at what cost? Long live the filesystem, and my complex but logical file structure.
  • Why these social networks failed so badly [Gizmodo]. A fairly long list of the social networks that have come and gone. How long until we see Facebook on this list – a decade? More?
  • Be amazed as Alexander Overwijk draws a perfect freehand circle:

Look after yourselves, anonymous readers, and be kind to each other.