2021 week six

Is it worth writing a weeknote when there’s so little I can recall from the week in question? The problem, really, is trying to recall a whole week at the end of the week – or worse, several days into the next week. So the highlights that still stand out are fewer. But there were some! There must have been.

As an aside, I have spent the last wee while browsing the lovely underside of the swanky mainstream platform version of the web – the web of handmade personal websites. Websites with ‘about me’ pages and, sometimes, not ‘blogs’ but ‘journals’ or ‘diaries’. And in that alternative word, so much else can exist. A blog has a certain vibe to it, but a journal or diary? Ooh… 

(In fact, one such personal website sent me right down a rabbit hole which saw me type out a thousand words breathing new life into a decade-old project of mine: why do people keep diaries? It turns out there’s still meat on those bones.)

((Aside number two: an alternative to the weeknote is, if course, a notebook of disparate thoughts and subjects, alongside a very neat and minimal journal kept in the form of daily bulleted entries – both examples here from Wesley Aptekar-Cassels.))

Anywho. On Sunday I managed to run a decent half marathon distance into the City – down along Regent’s Park to the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral, then back along the Strand. It was a long way but felt pretty comfortable, and took me to some really interesting areas. Doing it on Sunday morning meant London was pretty deserted, too. I hope to do another similar route again soon. 

The weather was still very cold and icy most of the week. During the week I was getting back into running but still finding icy patches and seeing frozen-over ponds on the Heath etc. The robins were very grateful for the ‘buggy nibbles’ I’ve started putting out. Little mealworm-stuffed parcels of goodness. They’ve also been collecting leaves and other bits for their nest, which is super exciting.

Wednesday nights lately have become cocktails and board games nights in this household. In one novel suggestion we’ve managed to turn the middle of the week into something to look forward to. It’s so simple that I can’t believe it took so long to come up with, and can’t believe I initially sneered at the concept. It’s great!

We started watching Deutschland 83 after I fell down a GDR/stasi wikihole started by watching Nils Frahm’s concert at the Funkhaus and me looking into the history of the venue. It’s a fun show – doesn’t take itself too seriously, and although it necessarily has to lay on the this is a period show here’s some pop music to remind you vibes, it’s done well, and makes for a believable world.

We don’t watch much drama (is drama the right word? I mean ‘TV fiction’, really.) Most of our watching is factual stuff – whether of the Grand Designs genre, the cosy travel/biography/history genre, or the ‘behind the scenes at the factory’ genre. I’m the same with books – I read far more non-fiction than fiction. Not sure why that is. Possibly something like wanting to feel like I’m learning something new…but that’s real? I don’t know. 

To a similar end, I also watch an ungodly amount of YouTube. I’m definitely in that trap of just finding comfort in the algorithm and how it, gasp, always seems to find something I want to watch. It’s a trap, I know. I read occasionally of people who follow the YouTube channels that they want to watch by using RSS, thereby only seeing each new video and never what the algorithm throws up. It seems enlightened and… Not for me. I take comfort in the feeling that there is always something else out there for me to see/watch/read/learn. And so I continue to soak up whatever is chucked my way.

On that note, I want to end on a few links to a few things I’ve enjoyed this week:

Megan Hallinan writes about all sorts of things but she always manages to give her blog posts a neat arc, which I love. She draws on a wide range of lived experiences, places travelled (and lived-in), and people she’s met to tell an interesting new story. Two recent examples include a post about her memories of the dark room, and (re)discovering Marconi’s wireless station not so far from where she grew up.

Jesse B. Crawford writes quite technical articles at Computers Are Bad and… I don’t know – you know that cliche where someone has a voice so good that you’d happily just listen to them read the dictionary? Something about the way Crawford explains often incredibly technical subjects makes them so damn readable. It’s uncanny. Possibly it’s just a nice overlap of personal interests with my own. But I’ve definitely found myself happily reading 1000+ words on something like credit card terminals just because of how he writes.

A recent post covers North Korea’s ‘wired radio’ broadcast system – and that’s a pretty good microcosm of the subjects Crawford covers: broadcast/network technologies old and new.

I think I nailed early on what it is I love about Computers Are Bad: each post is reminiscent of that one great article in an issue of 2600 magazine. Typically there are some articles I skim over. There’s one or two shorter ones that make me go ‘huh’. There’s the ‘hacker perspective’ column which I usually love. And there’s the Telecom Informer column which I find fascinating every time. It’s the latter that a) is my favourite feature in 2600, and b) most closely resembles Computers Are Bad. And rather than once a quarter, Crawford is posting almost weekly recently. It’s wonderful.

And Shawn Granton continues to write just the most comforting and readable regular blog posts, mainly on the two subjects of either cycling or photography (often both). I’m always happy when I’ve got a post of his lined up on my Kindle to read at bedtime.

And finally, this NY Times piece about an almost-lost archive of local history on the Shetland Islands.