Coffee O’Clock

It’s been a day – and that’s all I want to say about that. The washing machine has done several loads, the kitchen has been turned into a laundromat, and work is as crazy as you might imagine while trying to work on multiple projects simultaneously.

Working from home isn’t what I expected. Although I suppose it is, if I put my cynical hat on. When I started I imagined hanging out in the study / junk room all day, noodling over work projects, taking calls and so on. What I hadn’t figured in was an almost endless round of chores eating up every spare minute when I’m not over-run with work. Washing dishes, washing clothes, picking up after the rest of the family – or rather, figuring what I can pick up, and what I dare not because there’s a reason this pile of stuff has been left here, or that pile of stuff has been left there, or the other pile of stuff is over there (there are many, many piles of stuff).

The junk room has become my bolt-hole. It’s a little less cluttered than some of the rest of the house, and has proved a salvation of sorts while working. I just need to get better at shutting the door and NOT doing chores during the day. I guess that means saying goodbye to evenings though. We’ll see.

In other news, Amazon exceeded expectations this weekend and delivered everything we had ordered. It was all “predicted” for today and tomorrow, but arrived through the weekend. I’m guessing they must have had some sort of “black friday” estimates going on which were wrong. So I’m not the proud owner of a massively reduced tablet. Of course then I realised I should get a slip cover for it – which is predicted for delivery mid-week. I won’t be so surprised now if it arrives tomorrow.

This afternoon a gas heating engineer arrived to check a fault on our central heating system – it started throwing errors a few days ago. Of course it’s behaving itself today, which is typical. While here he up-sold a visit by a surveyor to look at replacing the main unit. A couple of hours I don’t really have to talk about something we’re not going to buy.

Anyway.

Back to work. Onwards and upwards I suppose.

Oh look – it’s coffee o’clock.

Advertisement

Treat Yo Self

For the last several years I have been soldiering on with a little Amazon “Fire Tablet”. It’s been my go-to device for reading in bed and watching movies and TV shows when the rest of the family are hogging the television in the living room. It’s travelled all over the place with me – on trains, planes, and to distant hotels, restaurants and cafes while travelling with work.

It’s finally getting an upgrade.

My various endeavours at making some pocket money outside of work are now paying off well enough that I have spent some money on myself for a (very rare) change. I’m upgrading the tablet.

I just ordered last year’s Amazon tablet as part of their “Black Friday” sale. Through some careful use of discounts, trade-ins, and so on I managed to get it for roughly a third of it’s original sale price. Winning! Of course, I ended up spending everything I saved on a cover for it, but that’s just me being paranoid.

While upgrading or replacing things, I finally caved and replaced the printer at home too. For the last couple of years, I’ve been the only person that can print anything. The last printer we bought was the cheapest available at the time we bought it – we couldn’t afford anything better – and it’s turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.

I guess in many ways we’ve been living in the old story about the person that can’t afford the expensive shoes – so buys the cheap ones that cost half as much. Only the cheap ones wear out more than twice as quickly as the expensive ones.

Anyway.

A shiny new printer/scanner will arrive on Monday. One that everybody can print from. One that doesn’t need to be rebooted for no reason what-so-ever every other day. I dithered for quite some time about spending three times as much on a laser printer, but then convinced myself that we don’t actually print that much anymore – so went for the inkjet. When the kids were still in junior and secondary school that line of reasoning would have had an entirely different outcome – but they’re not anymore.

All we seem to print these days is packaging labels for the many and varied online sales portals. Vinted, Shpock, and so on (is that how you spell it?).

The overriding requirement for the new printer was that it had to work with Chromebooks. We’re slowly turning into a Google household. As our laptops and phones have failed over the years, we’ve replaced them with Chromebooks and Pixels. Anything that got retired in working order has been donated to the various charities around town that collect for those less fortunate than us.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to walk into town to buy some pizzas for dinner. One of my daughters shouted “Domino’s?”, and I immediately replied “NO! – you can buy four pizzas from the supermarket for the price of one from Dominos!”. They’ll learn.

Hrrmmfff

For some reason known only to Automattic, WordPress is mangling the posts I push into it from Substack – only they are only mangled if you look at them from the wordpress interface – if you look from the web, they are fine.

I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve been wrestling with the whole “wordpress walled garden” thing for a long time too. If you’re wondering what on earth I’m on about – for the last year or so I’ve been experimenting with other blogging platforms – trying to figure out how to exist both inside and outside of the various silos like WordPress, Tumblr and so on.

I think perhaps the main thing I’ve discovered is I can’t be everywhere, and I shouldn’t try to be everywhere.

If you’ve been following my experiments, escape attempts, and escapades over the last year or two, you’ll know I kind of fell in love with Substack. It recalls an earlier era of blogging, where you didn’t need to be a member of anything in order to read somebody’s words. An era when people posted blogrolls as a straightforward list of their favourite writers, without any sort of social graph. An era when everybody was an island – and you could visit and wander freely from island to island. They don’t inject ads into your posts, and you can entirely switch off likes, comments and so on. I would much rather get an email than a comment.

I guess this is probably it. I’m going to stop the cross-posting madness, and do what works for me. I’ll still be following your blogs through RSS – the mechanism that was invented for it – rather than the hobbled version of subscriptions that WordPress pushes on it’s members.

If you do want to continue reading, feel free to subscribe by email over at Substack. I’ll totally understand if you don’t want to – if you’re as time challenged as me at the moment, the last thing you’ll want is something else – and WordPress does make it tremendously easy to follow other writers.

That said, if you do want to subscribe, click the link below – all you’ll get from me is an occasional email when I post a few words:

The most beautiful sound I ever heard

Free Manhattan Bridge Seen Between Buildings Stock Photo

After battling my way to the end of an unexpectedly lengthy day at work, my other half wandered into the dark of the junk room and suggested “shall we go out for dinner? I have a voucher for the pub…”

Twenty minutes later we were all walking into town together.

It’s interesting – how the dynamic of family life has changed since my other half stopped working at the school. She’s now back to working office hours, so doesn’t get home much before 6:30pm most nights. I “officially” finish an hour earlier, but that rarely happens – as was the story tonight.

On the subject of work, she now works for a company involved in movie and television production – this part of the world is littered with studios. They are involved in, and have been involved in numerous huge projects that you would probably shout “NO WAY!” about. Yesterday after work she wandered into the junk room and handed me a t-shirt. A crew t-shirt, with the code-name of a star-wars production on it. And no, I’m not going to tell you the code-name, or the real name of the project 🙂

I can tell you a story about a little boy at the infant school when she worked there. His mum had to arrange some time off in term-time – and all she could say while talking in reception was the project was called “Red Cup”. Behind closed doors we found out he was one of the lead child characters in Solo – the Star Wars prequel.

We have another friend that runs circus skills workshops for kids, and performs at all the town fates and galas. For a couple of years we knew she had landed something big work-wise, but she couldn’t tell a soul what it was. And then one day – while watching the making-of documentary for “The Force Awakens”, there she was – suiting up as a giant robot in the middle of the creature shop at Industrial Light and Magic.

A couple of years ago, several farmers fields across the way from where we live were turned into a huge wooden village of some sort. Nobody got to see what was beyond the tall screen of plywood barricades until Andor arrived on TV screens all over the world.

Anyway. I got sidetracked.

We met our daughter – who was working a shift at the pub – and she sat down with us for dinner. Given that the “festive” menu was available, I tried out some kind of special turkey burger (I forget it’s name) – which turned out to be a roast dinner re-arranged into a burger. It was amazing. I doubt I’ll have to eat again until tomorrow evening.

For pudding, I went with “jam roly-poly”. I’ve known it was on the menu for weeks, but this was the first chance to actually try it. I didn’t really need it, but the temptation was huge. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a suet pudding – a bit like a swiss roll, but with jam, served hot with custard. The last time I saw or tasted it was at junior school – 41 years ago.

Oh my word. You know that scene in Rataouille, where the food critic tastes the ratatouille in the restaurant and is taken back to his childhood? I had that exact moment. Such a simple thing, but it brought all sorts of memories flooding back.

After dinner I stayed on at the pub with my eldest daughter – waiting for my middle daughter to finish her shift. While waiting we watched television in the bar, and happened to spot an actor I recognised.

“He was in West Side Story!”

I showed my daughter a photo of him in the movie, and she suddenly realised what I was talking about (she has a memory so poor even a goldfish would laugh). Of course then I had the music from West Side Story stuck in my head.

While leaving the pub I quietly walked through the bar and found myself singing the opening bars of “Maria” – only in my state of tiredness, and being full of food, the notes came out in a rather wonderful baritone for once:

“The most beautiful sound I ever heard…”

A woman sat across from the bar span around in her seat to see where the singing came from, and I didn’t know what to do – so kept walking, and singing. She must have thought I was mad.

That was all a couple of hours ago now. Somehow we’re already past 1am AGAIN, and here I am, writing like mad to avoid the blog sliding past yet another day with no post.

Time for bed.

Slow Sundays Rule

After a slow start this morning, I wandered into town with my eldest daughter. After quite some deliberation, we ended up at Starbucks. Armed with a cappuccino and a huge chocolate coin each, we found a quiet spot in the back of the café and enjoyed our drinks in silence for a few minutes.

She’s come such a long way in such a short time. After several years fighting against herself to leave the house, she is now working several days a week in a local sandwich shop, and walking into town with me on a weekend.

After finishing the drinks we wandered along the high-street to the supermarket and filled a basket with fruit. We’ve owned a nutri-bullet smoothie making machine for a couple of years, but haven’t used it recently. Hopefully the availability of a huge bowl of goodies will entice the kids into making their own drinks rather than purchase so many tooth-rotting energy-boosting concoctions.

Concoction is a good word, isn’t it.

My “word of the week” has been “dull”. It entered my lexicon via a wonderful friend who has a mastery of the English language I can only aspire towards. During the pandemic she appears to have found her calling, and is busy writing scripts for all manner of projects. She also calls me a “knob” alarmingly regularly, but in a strangely affectionate way.

It’s funny. Years ago I thought of myself as pretty self sufficient – a bit of an island. I’ve come to realise that I’m not. Yes, I can get along well enough single handed, but when my day is shared with a close friend or two, I become a much better version of myself. I think perhaps good friends keep you grounded – they make you realise that not only do they get to drop their act around you – you get to drop yours too – and when you peel away the act from most people, they’re not half bad underneath.

I also wonder if the pandemic has re-calibrated that which we think of as important too. We only get one go at this. Perhaps it’s time to pull a few walls down and speak a few truths. I’ve heard and said “I love you” more in recent weeks and months than I can ever remember – and have cherished every time it has been volunteered.

I’ve noticed hugs too. People are hugging. People are getting over themselves. I’m getting over myself. It’s so hard to be a little more gregarious after so many years vanishing into the shadows, but so worth it too.

Maybe I need to hunt out a copy of the Celestine Prophecy. I read it years ago, and it had quite the impact on me. Sure, it’s full of all manner of hocus-pocus, but it’s also full of wisdom and knowledge we already know but choose to ignore.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

We were invited by friends to a charity fund-raiser quiz-night at the local football club last night. We met them under a street lamp at the end of the road, and felt like teenagers while waiting.

The quiz night was great fun – with some very dubious answers that caused howls of derision from all those taking part, fish and chips at the half-way point, and lots of beverages consumed by all.

I will never be forgiven for my confident assertion that a do-decahedron is a 20 sided shape. Bloody latin. Of course it was 12 sides. I looked up the 20 sided shape after – icosahedron. Who knew?

Anyway.

After leaving the quiz we wandered home through the puddles and rain, and carried on the evening at our house – fishing bags of snacks and further drinks from the cupboards, and set about mining Spotify for all of our “first records”. At some point a good friend saw “The Time Warp” appear in the suggestions.

“PLAY THE TIME WARP!”

Moments later the ladies in the room were up and dancing – laughing uproariously while our teenage children stared at them in suitably horrified fashion.

Somehow “listening to the Time Warp” turned into “LET’S WATCH THE MOVIE!” – and somehow it already being 1am wasn’t a problem at all.

And that’s how – to quote the wonderful lady from across the way who is apparently a huge Rocky Horror fan, and accompanied me on the sofa until 2:30am – I “popped my transexual translyvanian cherry”. She took great delight in saying it while grinning like a particularly mischievous so-and-so.

The movie made absolutely no sense what-so-ever, but I’ve been walking around all day humming the music. Apparently that’s how it works on you. Insidious. Also, I have no idea quite how, but I didn’t have a hangover?! I am ridiculously tired though.

And I have a ring drawn on my finger by an ink pen. How? Why?

Throughout the day moments from the night before have been causing me to smile. I’m lucky to have such great friends, who are only too happy to drop “being an adult” from time to time, and help us remember that sometimes it’s just fun to be around people you like – to spend time together – to laugh, and to just “be”.

I may need coffee to make it through to midnight tonight, when my middle daughter finishes her shift at the pub – somehow I’ve got to make it down there to meet her. Wish me luck.

One blog to rule them all

After drinking the kool-aid, and spending several weeks trying to convince myself that running my own blogging castle on my own blogging island was a great idea, I’ve retreated back to the relative safety of substack (again).

Have no illusions. This is all about laziness.

Substack does great email notifications. It also has a simple switch that turns comments off. Oh – and most importantly, it also means I don’t have to think about synchronising github repositories, checking netlify is still doing it’s job, or any of that fun stuff. I can just write.

Yes, I’ll be beholden to a corporate overlord, but given that so many publishing platforms are falling like a house of cards at the moment, it made sense to go somewhere simple. And somewhere that’s not a walled garden.

Anyway. Enough of that. What’s going on with me?

Work is keeping on keeping on – and no, I’m not going to write anything about it because I don’t write about work. Never have. Never will. Suffice to say it’s busy, and looks like continuing to be pretty busy for the next however long. Which is good?

Home is busy too – mostly driven by my own idiotic endeavours, and by the rest of the family. The Youtube channel seems to have taken on a life entirely of it’s own – and is rolling down the hill, gathering speed in the same way an avalanche might – despite any efforts to put the brakes on it.

While this is happening, my other half started painting kitchen cupboards a few weeks ago, but didn’t get very far – so we now have half the kitchen cupboards missing. I can see myself getting involved in that too just to get it done. No doubt I’ll do it wrong somehow.

The washing machine is on it’s third load today already – and it’s still only lunchtime. That’s all I’m going to write about that.

Finally… I’m escaping in a bit to go have lunch at the cafe where my daughter works. She was called in this morning on her day off after several staff went off sick. I tried to impress on her that this is a good thing – that being seen as solid and reliable is a huge step with a new job. I’ll walk back with her at the end of her shift.

My recent posts have often seemed like I’m shouting while passing by doing something else – and it’s pretty much true. They’re invariably written in a ten minute window between doing other things.

Finally – and can you BELIEVE what’s going on at Twitter? This morning Elon shut their offices until Monday. What on earth is going on? There are rumours that 75% of the staff have walked out. The exodus to Mastodon has gathered pace enormously over the last few days… you can find me there at https://mastodon.online/@jonbeckett.

The Slippery Slope

I have become my own worst enemy, but at least I’ve caught myself while sliding into the abyss. I should probably explain.

I’ve been tinkering with a Youtube channel for a little while now – recording content, and sharing it with the wider world (or rather, a niche interest dark corner of the wider world). Anyway – about two years ago the YouTube channel got monetised, meaning I could make money from adverts injected into my videos.

Fast forward to today, and after many hundreds or even thousands of hours consistently pushing out content, the Youtube channel is making a respectable amount of money. The channel has many thousands of subscribers, and astronomical viewing figures. And there lies the problem. I can see the opportunity to make money, but there’s only so many hours in the day.

Since the end of last week I’ve been working on content for the channel every night – into the early hours. This is on top of chores, and a full-time day job. Other people have questioned how the hell I’m doing it – even I have begun to question it. I’m burning the candle at both ends, while standing on a burning bridge with my trousers on fire – all the while feeding the fire.

Don’t get me wrong – the money is wonderful. We needed it. But there is a huge danger that the fun will be removed from it all if I carry on the way I am going. In the early hours this morning I posted a message to the YouTube channel letting the subscribers know that I was stepping back for a few days. Recharching my batteries.

Work has been the same way recently too. I could really have done with going for a walk today – to get some fresh air – but after one thing and another with work, it didn’t happen.

While all of this has been going on, I’ve fallen completely off the radar. Friends have seen little of me for weeks now. I need to fix that somehow. Make some “mental health” time for myself – to just watch rubbish television, walk to the shops, and so on. I wrote an article on Medium some time ago about not doing things – I need to take my own advice.

There’s always something

Over the next few days I’m going to find myself in a curious state of limbo with work – as one project comes to an end, and the next ramps up. Only it won’t be one project – the next few months are going to be… interesting.

One of the primary problems with having experience, and therefore any form of perceived wisdom, is people like you to “have their back”. Which is fine. Except then you don’t get to concentrate completely on what you’re doing – and if experience has taught me anything, it’s that I’m terrible at multi-tasking.

Maybe it’s a “man” thing – “only being good at one thing at a time”.

Perhaps I should take advantage of this time in-between projects to get on top of the mess my online world has become in recent weeks and months. I have bits and pieces spread across Google Drive, Obsidian, and Notion.

Given how easy it is to use, and how great the mobile app is, I’m thinking of using Notion for as much as possible. The only thing I fear about that is the difficulty of untangling myself in the future should I decide it’s not the best choice.

This is where the Obsidian crowd jump in and sing it’s markdown praises – except Obsidian itself is a nightmare (if you’re me), because it’s TOO flexible. It can be anything to anybody – and I will obviously try to turn it into everything for me – with predictably ridiculous results.

You know those scenes in “A Beautiful Mind” where John Nash has wallpapered his study with maps, newspaper cuttings, push-pins, and string? That would be a pretty accurate description of Obsidian if I were to lean into it. I might never be seen again.

Being half-serious for a moment, I think the thing I really fear is being given access to anything that allows me to do what I want – because I’ll change my mind every week, and then face the problem of re-organising everything. I know it’s an OCD trait I’m not paritcularly proud of – the stream of blog platforms I have in my wake is witness to it.

I wonder if I can sensibly use Obsidian without tinkering too much with it?

Anyway. I probably lost you several paragraphs ago – if you made it this far, well done (this is the bit where I sheepishly kick my own heels, and wonder what to say or do next, having exposed you to the idiocy inside my own mind).