2020 weeknote 13 – gotta keep moving

It would be week thirteen that I took a while getting around to, even though there doesn’t feel like much to say. There is, of course. We all have loads to say about the current situation. All the changes that are taking place to our jobs and our daily lives. The different sounds outside.

One thing to be immensely grateful for is how the spring weather has been so pleasant. Cold, with northerly winds swooping down, but bright. And the days get ever long, with the promise of changing the clocks making things feel like they’re really shaking.

Of course the bright weather might have encouraged people out when they should stay home. But for those of us trying to stick to the guidance – one or two days this week I just didn’t feel the need to leave the flat – the pleasant weather has made it all the nicer once I did get outside.

I’ve tried to mix up my government-mandated daily exercise. Some days I walked, one day I ran, and another day I went for an extended bike ride. All had their individual merits.

The walk around neighbourhood streets revealed an eerie aural soundscape of… Well, peace, I suppose. I wished I’d had my Tascam recorded, because the sound was so uncanny. In reality, of course, it wouldn’t have made for an interesting sound recording as it was the absence of sound that was so interesting. And, really, this is the sound of quiet suburban streets up and down the country normally. It’s just unusual in north London streets.

On another occasion I found a walk actually quite dispiriting. No actual moment was unpleasant, it was just a slow slog around the local blocks with no goals other than being outside. I decided not to listen to anything and I suppose having an hour to contemplate what’s going on not just in my admittedly fairly privileged version of this situation but also the situation for those less fortunate… It just didn’t help my mood. It did remind that I am immensely lucky at this time, though. So there’s that.

The run and the bike ride were both much better for my mental health, and presumably my physical health too. The endorphins pumped and I came home feeling glad I got out. Running and trying to avoid others is slightly tricky, but not too bad now the roads are quieter. I’m still not running with headphones as I want to keep my awareness high. And the bike ride was pretty great – and made it much easier to distance myself from others. When cycling, the only needs I have to clean myself when I get home are from touching any communal doors to my building, and I never encounter anyone once I’m out. Naturally the roads being quieter makes cycling that much more pleasant, too.

IMG_20200331_141539-EFFECTSWorking from home has been going pretty well, all things considered. This has been my first week of actual lockdown after a dress rehearsal the week before. We got ourselves into a position where we were all able to at the very least access emails from home, but in reality, almost all of us have had full access to our systems from home,and we’ve even had the benefit of one or two members of staff who live locally visiting the office almost daily at their own risk, which has meant we’ve been able to request some documents to be scanned.

The hardest thing is the meta-work. What tasks can I complete, how, and to what extent? For me, I can do most of my usual tasks about 90% of the way. The missing bits are just hangovers from the fact our office relies heavily on paper filing systems. I expect that many offices with habits such as ours will emerge on the other side of this quite differently. It’s not just procedures that will change but actual attitudes.

A year ago if you’d asked me if I thought we could set ourselves up to work from home, the prospect would have caused me great anxiety. But we’ve managed it.

The other big change is, of course, having to call or Zoom rather than just talking to a colleague. This cuts down on some of the niceties of an office like ours – but it’s also enabled slightly more private backchannel communication, which has come in handy once or twice of late as some very strange decision have been made at board level with, seemingly, little regard for the humans those decisions affect.

We take each day as they come. Megan is also working from home most days, with her school operating a rota to ensure those pupils who need to come to school to allow their parents to do key worker jobs, or those in vulnerable environments. This, too, seems to be working well.

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Days have simply assumed a slightly different routine. We were already very good at planning our meals for the week, and cooking for two makes things easy to scale up for leftovers. We watch the six o’clock news every day now, just to get the latest updates. I try to avoid the news the rest of the day, but there is an inevitable drip-drip-drip when using social media – I check Twitter and Instagram several times a day, and it’s mostly a positive experience, though some stuff gets through.

We’ve also been caught by surprise by Jamie Oliver’s Keep Cooking and Carry On which I was surprised to learn was being prepared almost instantaneously in response to this situation we’re all facing. There’s something incredibly calming and reassuring in his delivery, and the tips are really handy. Like I say, I’d say we are pretty decent at keeping well stocked with staples and planning meals, but his show has given us a few tips and ideas as well as just being a pleasant diversion (despite being, necessarily, about the incident itself).

Speaking of keeping well stocked, as things were starting to go south, I found myself buying one or two extra items that I knew would last, and that we tend to use anyway. Tinned tomatoes, bread flour, that sort of thing. Then we all experienced that bizarre period of time where things were simply vanishing from the shelves. The shops are starting to recover, but only through some fairly severe restrictions on access to stores.

But it’s working. Visiting a large supermarket is now a very calm experience. I write this on the 1st April and a visit to a big Sainsbury’s this afternoon revealed shelves well stocked with most items. Pasta is returning to the shelves, and although eggs and flour were still scarce, I did manged to get half a dozen eggs. Everything else I needed was just… there. As were the staff.

I am so glad that the supermarket horror show of stockpiling was a relatively short-lived episode. It lasted long enough to cause real panic, and I suppose if there’s anything to be gained from that, it’s made me more grateful that I am so able to take grocery shopping for granted 99.9% of the time.

Meanwhile I’ve been tinkering with my Raspberry Pi Zero. I managed to, I think, nuke a micro SD card. I’m still not 100% sure what I did. It was either burning a corrupt image to it, or removing it while it was burning an image. But the card seems physically corrupt, rather than being able to be formatted and used again. It’s odd. But I started again with another and have been re-learning (or learning anew) lots in the process: operating it ‘headless’ where it’s just on and connected to my network, but I am able to SSH into it from my Windows machine. That felt pretty magical.

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I’m having trouble getting my RTL SDR dongle playing nicely with it, but I think I’m using software (GQRX) that is too CPU-intensive for the Pi Zero. Will try some command line based stuff. Mainly I just want to decode RDS from FM broadcasts on it. I think I can manage that.

Finally, here’s a sound recording taken from Hampstead Cemetery of a Scots Pine (I think), postively popping and clicking in the warm spring sunshine as hundreds (thousands?) of pine cones open up:

2020 weeknote 12 – the week that everything changed

Well this was the week that things really changed, for me and those around me. It’s been interesting keeping abreast of how the spread of the virus and the reactions by different countries has rolled onward, in waves. Interesting and kind of horrifying, when you spend more than half a minute considering what it all means.

It has, in many ways, been good that the upheaval has kept us all so busy. Heaven forbid what will happen when we are all set up with our new routines and we stop for a second to get bogged down in the sheer existential woe of it all – and that’s before even considering the actual health crisis worsening any further, which each day it threatens to on a hitherto-unseen scale.

We have found ourselves unexpectedly buoyed by taping occasional news updates from Chinese state broadcasters in which they describe the recovery process. Life, while not returning to normal, per se, is returning to something approaching it. Or at least a healthy, post-virus world.

At work I have been extremely busy helping as far as I can to get the office set up for home working. A few months ago, working from home on the scale that we soon will be would have been completely unthinkable. But, as with so much of this escalating crisis, unthinkable things are now having to be thunk, and it’s funny what you can achieve when you have to.

In fact, the extent to which we’ve established a working-from-home policy means that it’s only really a few little issues and niggles we’ve found, rather than any flat-out business critical failure points.

We’re lucky in that a lot of what we do isn’t business critical. And where it is, the timelines and deadlines are those we set for ourselves and we are fortunate enough not to be beholden to many authorities or external/market forces. We have a job to do, and we do it however we can. This will not change, but the methods and timescales may.

Meanwhile, anything that isn’t related to work, or keeping ourselves constantly updated on news has, by necessity, been for the purposes of distraction, amusement or entertainment. The rest of this week’s note is simply some of that stuff that has kept me from losing my mind the past few days.


We had the first day of spring, and the weather this week has been cool but increasingly wonderful and bright. There is blossom everywhere, and the spring weather looks set to continue. This does mean that people who ought to be self-isolating are popping out more than they might if it had been tipping down all week, and I am concerned about that. But at the same time, the sight of spring springing is a huge boost.

As well as a brief trip to a nearby park (where I saw the woodpecker above), I also popped to Hampstead Heath on Saturday to get some fresh air. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people, and I really should have known better. I was able to keep my distance from most people, and I found myself a secluded perch where I spent a happy hour or so playing with radios, and eating cold pizza.

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On FM, my elevated position near one of London’s highest points meant stations came booming in loud and clear, and I found a good number of pirate stations giving shout-outs to the shut-ins.

I found that the signal on my little POP Nano radio was decent, but both my Tecsun PL-380 and my Motorola G7 Power logged 58 stations each on the FM band, with the Moto serving doubly useful as not only does it have an RDS decoder built-in, but it also neatly displays all logged stations in one big list, acting as a very useful results page for active stations complete with station IDs, where available.

I’ve written before about the pretty excellent FM radio software on an older Moto G device, and it’s just as good on my current G7 Power. It serves as an effective stopgap between idly tuning around with a normal radio and setting up some sort of portable SDR that will automatically log station IDs in a neat spreadsheet for me.

(A rainy day project I daydream of is a Raspberry Pi Zero-powered unit that I can just switch on, run an autoscan, and log all active stations in a spreadsheet. Might have a little screen and possibly audio out.)

The subsequent list generated by the Moto is displayed as you can see to the right: it’s a neat list of station IDs and frequencies and I only wish I could quickly and easily export this data into a spreadsheet. I suspect there’s an OCR capture that could do a half decent job. But even in its present form, the FM radio software gives me a decent overview of what’s around in a given session.

One surprise, beyond the ever-present London pirates, was decent reception of a station apparently broadcasting to Greenwich on 96.5fm. A later dig around uncovered this as Maritime Radio, with the always-helpful mb21 giving more information about where this station broadcasts from. Not a bad catch at a distance of approximately 20km.

It’s hard to tell where the pirate stations themselves broadcast from – obviously – so it’s never easy to known whether you’re getting fabulous reception across a vast distance, or merely being blasted from the nearest rooftop. I suspect it’s usually the latter, though there is usually a good range of signals when tuning in from a high point in north west London, with some sounding stronger and others weaker.

The variability in the tech used by each pirate could give rise to this, of course, but it all makes it feel as though you’re picking up signals from all over London.

On DAB, my position near London’s highest point meant great reception of a huge range of stations. The POP Nano picked up 148 stations without issue, and I noted down that I was getting reception of the following multiplexes on top of those I’d expect to get in London: Kent, Herts Beds Bucks, Surrey NSussex, and Essex. On the one hand, these extra muxes simply bring in local stations or local variants of commercial stations. But it’s still pretty cool to pick these all up along with the ones which are meant to cover my area.

Of note, the Kent multiplex coverage map [PDF] does show parts of Hampstead as able to pick up occasional offshoots of the signal over high ground:

So it’s perhaps not that unexpected, but still vaguely interesting to me.

I also had a scan around on shortwave and aside from the usual national broadcasters who have mastered dominating the waves, I was pleased to pick up two pirate(?) stations on 5780kHz and 6205kHz – possibly Laser Hot Hits and Euro Radio. (This was at approximately 1445 UTC on Saturday 21 March.)

Nothing else really of any note on the radio, although I did spot this new addition to the London Trial multiplex – Health Info Radio, which launched a week ago on various other local muxes, and whose sole purpose is to play a looped recording of coronavirus-related public information.

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On the YouTube front, beyond the usual tech videos I tend to gorge myself on, the algorithms threw me a wonderful bone in a series of aviation videos by a chap named Matt Guthmiller. I’m not sure what YouTube thought it was doing, but I was absolutely enthralled by this four-part series on flying a 1930s DC-3 from the US to Duxford.

Spoiler alert: it’s not quite as simple as hopping across the Atlantic. In fact, it involves hopping to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland, before hopping down to Duxford.

At times, the serenity and majesty of early to mid 20th century flight is intoxicating, and at others you are hit with the nauseating concept of hurtling through the air in nothing much more than a 1930s bus with temperamental moving parts and a hell of a lot to understand about how to get it airborne and keep it there.

The four parts are available in this playlist, or just watch the first one below:

Pro-tip: use the ‘Watch later’ button to save these kinds of YouTube clips to a… Watch later playlist.


And finally, I’ve recently seen a few good links to online collections of stuff and wanted to share some and add one of my own.

The first, shared by Robin Sloan recently, was a directory of images by Eugene Delacroix. Delacroix is an artist I don’t know a huge amount about, but I stumbled across him years ago doing my degree as it turned out he kept diaries, and really enjoyable ones too. Sloan peppered a recent newsletter with images by Delacroix, all pilfered from this great online collection of his work from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.DP816310

The second collection was posted by the excellent SWLing Post, a great resource for all things radio – with a focus on shortwave and ham radio. They recently pointed to a subset of the Smithsonian’s open access collection of objects which is, quite simply, a bunch of radios you can look at. Wonderful.

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And finally, the National Trust’s ‘Collections’ image database is staggering in its scale – they have photographed countless objects held within their collections at the various properties they look after. You could find yourself lost for weeks on this website, whether searching across the entire collection by keyword, exploring the contents of one particular property, or paging through the works of one artist.

For the purposes of this post, I will simply point you to a collection illustrations and artworks by my man Charles Paget Wade. I have searched and filtered and refined this set so it may be a bit rough around the edges and not sorted in any particular way, but you get the gist.

By the collection’s very nature, this is not a greatest hits, but a snapshot of all that is contained within it: from sketches on the backs of letters, to glorious watercoloured ink sketches like that shown below, of the Great Wall at Hampstead Garden Suburb.

by Charles Paget Wade (Shortlands, Bromley, Kent 1883 - Evesham, Worcestershire 1956)

2020 weeknote 10 – fondly-remembered films, and digital data retrieval

A week of too much time spent home alone, and too much going on at work to keep up with.

Good things though, too, like re-watching a couple of old favourite films from a couple of periods of my life:

The Mask, which I absolutely knew word-for-word back in the day and which, re-watching it now, it was wonderful how much I could pre-empt and sound out in real-time. In fact, it wasn’t just dialogue, but Foley effects little audio/musical stings, and other snippets. It was also, as it so often can be, quite surprising how risqué some of the jokes were, at least for my young ears:

And then it felt like time for another re-watch of Almost Famous ( or rather the director’s cut aka Untitled*), a film I’ve loved since my first viewing of it stuffed into the TV lounge of the Wellington YHA some time in late 2003. Since then I’ve watched it so many times and it is just such a comforting film to watch. I realise I am also dangerously into the territory of not now being able to watch it with a critical eye, but I don’t think that matters.

* Jesus, I am so sorry you had to witness that.


I shan’t bother going into too much detail with regard to work woes, but we had a bit of a poorly-timed clusterfuck (is there ever a well-timed clusterfuck?) of some issues with our email hosts which, hey, turned out to be a little bit of the host’s fault, and a little bit of ours. As is often the way with these things. But it was a horrible situation for all involved, and came during a week of unusually high tension.


The Amazon re-seller who I returned my POP Nano digital radio to came good and a replacement unit was dispatched in good time. Thanks lads.

It is a brand new unit and is working fine, though I can’t help but notice one of the other buttons feels like 1% softer than the others, and so I wonder if there’s an issue with the buttons on these units – or possibly, if the packaging is to be believed, these units are new old stock from 2013 and perhaps there’s a membrane in the buttons that is degrading over time. We’ll see.

Until then, it’s lovely to have a decent, tiny digital radio again. On a related note, I was reminded the other day of this phenomenally in-depth round-up of various portable digital radios from a few years ago, which I remember helped me last time I was in the market for such a device.


At one point this week I probably looked like a one-man scene from Mr Robot, blasting DJ Shadow, stabbing a screwdriver through a spindle-full of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs before throwing them out.

I certainly hadn’t been able to read them (disc rot is a thing: if you have some old burned DVDs and CDs on a shelf somewhere, you’d be well advised to grab the data off them if you are still able to), but I obviously didn’t want anyone else to be able to either.

So: Stab. Stab. Stab.

It was fun seeing how different discs responded to each stab: some all but shattered, while others kind of just split in a neat single crack from the centre to the edge. The more annoying ones sort of absorbed the screwdriver I was using and just pierced a tiny hole, with the tool needing to be extracted with some force and re-punched again. Anyway. That was a satisfying exercise.


And in other data retrieval exercises this week, I grabbed an old hard drive and copied over my iTunes library circa 2012 with a view to copying some high bitrate album rips across to my phone’s memory. Anything 320kbps or above (or 256kbps VBR) is fair game, and I only want the kind of ‘greatest hits’ of special albums that I can’t be without.

This led me to wondering what albums have been released since then that I have streamed to death on Spotify, but not gotten round to purchasing. I don’t think I’m in the minority in saying there will be a lot. So it would be cool to get last.fm to spit out a list of records I’ve spun from Spotify more than a handful of times, with links for where best to ethically purchase my own copy.

This ransacking of my old iTunes library brought some curiosities. I knew that a handful of my album rips had been done at very high bitrate – whether lossless or 320kbps AAC – and that these had been prioritised by the same criteria as above: albums I couldn’t live without.

I was therefore stumped to find that my copy of Radiohead’s In Rainbows was a 160kbps MP3. 😱! I then got to thinking why this would be and, lo and behold, this was the original format I’d purchased it in on release day:

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So that was interesting. In more recent years I’ve listened to this either via Spotify or vinyl, so I don’t feel too short changed at having such a low quality rip of the album on my computer as I just wasn’t using it.

I don’t know now (though a trip to the Wayback Machine would probably answer this) if higher bitrate versions were available as well. I’m sure they were, but I expect you had to pay more (this was, remember, one of the first high profile ‘pay what you want’ digital releases), and I was a Radiohead newbie back then.

In fact, having got swept up in the hype of the impending release of In Rainbows, I listened to OK Computer for the first time the evening before IR‘s release.

Crazy.


And finally, this weekend was mostly doing family things, which mostly meant eating and drinking well, but also meant I did Hampstead Heath Parkrun for the first time in a while, and I managed to get a PB for this route. Very pleased with that – as is so often the case I was not feeling it beforehand, but was merely ‘up for it’, and I still managed to achieve something to be be proud of. So that was nice.

Anyway. Take care of each other. Stop bulk buying things you don’t need. See you next week.

 

2020 weeknote 9 – Amazon Prime use ’em up soup, POP Nano DAB+ thoughts, and a long bike ride

We’re quite good at ’empty the freezer soup’ and ’empty the cupboard’ type meals in general. When the time comes, it’s good to have a clear out, and the results can be surprising.

I say all this because we’re letting our Amazon Prime subscription end – it’s the sort of thing that’s nice to have over Christmas for deliveries, and for a month or two at a time to catch up on film and TV that’s currently available.

And with only a few days left of Prime, I’ve found myself scanning around for unwatched stuff to check out before the subscription runs out. Mostly I’ve been chowing down on Bob’s Burgers most recently, which I’ve sort of dipped in and out of before. It’s very fast and colourful and fun. It feels like a 21st-century Family Guy, I guess.

From Amazon Prime to YouTube – and this, from Tom Stuart‘s recent weeknote:

I watch a lot of YouTube which means I sit through a lot of terrible mistargeted ads. I briefly considered a YouTube Premium subscription to make the ads go away, but it turns out that it costs £12 per month — double the cost of a basic Netflix plan. What.

Indeed! For some time last year I had a three month free trial to YouTube Premium. I tried out YouTube Music very briefly, which was a confusing mishmash and not at all as straightforward as Spotify (which has its own usability issues, and introduces new ones every few months).

But I watch… probably a few hours of YouTube content a week. I’d like to see some stats, but I suspect approximately half my ‘slumped in front of the telly’ time is spent on YouTube with the other half split between stuff recorded on Freesat and streams or Blu-rays.

When I had that free trial, watching YouTube without ads felt wonderful. Firstly, there are no ads, which is of course nice. But you also don’t get ads inserted mid-video, which so often just get placed arbitrarily rather than (as is my understanding) at a convenient point selected by the creator.

So it was overall a nicer way to experience YouTube, and it was a shame to lose it once the trial ran out. But the cost of £11.99 a month was just too high for the ‘nice-to-have’ of no ads.


This week I noticed the day length, the sky being a certain colour, and the interesting light and silhouettes you get at walking-home time in these parts. Stark building silhouettes against icy blue skies; golden rays highlighting trees and buildings just before the sun dips below the horizon.

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It’s lovely. A good time of year, even despite the changeable weather: we’ve had a winter storm rolling over every weekend for the past three weeks, and this week it tried to snow for an hour or so in north London.

I also like that at this time of year it is nice to be aware of the sunrise and sunset times – sunrise recently shifted before 7am and sunset moved later than 5.30pm. These are good boundaries to have crossed, and spring rolls ever closer.


Since November I’ve been using a delightful little digital radio called a POP Nano. It seems to have been originally produced for the Norwegian market and is now being sold off cheap from a re-seller on Amazon. It’s a tiny portable FM/DAB+ radio and it has been a joy to use.

The Norwegian connection is clear from the wording on the packaging, and from the information helpfully included by the re-seller which tells you how to reset the device from the default Norwegian language to English.

I’ve had mixed successes with portable DAB/DAB+ radios in the past, but this thing is lovely. It’s tiny, and feels nice in the hand. About the size of a fat pack of gum. There are just three buttons and an on-off switch.

Reception is solid, with the earphone cable acting as an aerial. A scan in north London pulls in 100-150 stations, and it doesn’t struggle to hold onto a station if it is found on a scan. It charges via USB, and battery life is decent – 4-5 hours or so, which isn’t bad for the size of the device.

It’s got a decent and responsive menu/interface, which is also something I’ve learned not to take for granted with cheap portable radios. And this one is ridiculously cheap – the POP Nano can currently be purchased from Amazon for either £9.99 or £14.99, depending on whether Amazon has included some sort of e-voucher.

Alas, the other day I noticed the menu/select button was no long clicking, rendering it unusable aside from the station it was tuned to at the time. Unfortunately for me that was something called CDNX which seems to be some sort of Camden Market-related ex-NME jukebox station which I was briefly checking out after I learned of its existence on the London Trial multiplex.

I say unfortunately mostly because the bitrate of CDNX (48kbps – albeit via DAB+, so stereo AAC) is pretty awful, especially for a music station.

Anyway, the re-seller has been responsive and I’ve sent it back for (hopefully) exchange with a new unit. I don’t hesitate to recommend it – in the hope that my fault is a one-off. But who knows? And I hope I will soon have a new one and it won’t face a similar fate in three months’ time! I will try to update this if I get another and it proves to be a common fault.


I’ve recently been reading A Golden Age of Cycling, a lovely (if slightly under-done) collection of diaries from a British cyclist in the 1920s and 1930s. The author breaks down his cycling holidays day-by-day, telling the reader all the little places he visits, where he stops for bread, cheese and ale, and what mileage he clocks up.

It’s a lovely thing to read at bedtime, as he writes with a jolly demeanour, and it makes for easy daydreaming, putting together little routes through the Cotswolds to get from village to village.

And so for a while I’ve been wanting to remind myself that it is still possible to cycle through the countryside, village to village, and for cycling to be so much more than just a slightly anxious, functional and frantic pedal from home to work on busy London roads.

So on Sunday, after hatching a plan for a while, I took my bike out on the Thameslink train north into the countryside for a spin.

I had previously identified Harlington as a decent candidate hitting the sweet spot between ‘decently served station’  and ‘small place surrounded by countryside’. I then used Komoot to find a route someone had uploaded that started not far from Harlington – before using one or two other apps/websites to convert the GPX file into an app I could actually use for navigation.

There are many thousands of words I could write about this weird, broken, paywalled landscape of ‘apps that allow you to find cycling routes’, ‘apps that allow you to create and/or share routes’, ‘apps that allow you to navigate routes’, ‘apps for converting one such app’s route into another format for another app’ and so on and so on. But I digress.

I struck very lucky with the weather, it being bright and dry, if a little chilly. The wind was a bit much in places – with the usual weird sensation of wind blowing from nearly 270 degrees in all directions rather than one single direction. Whenever I had a brief respite from the wind, it really hit me when I got buffeted again.

I had aimed for 50-55km as a decent distance to test myself out. This loop saw me head out east from Harlington, kissing the edge of Hitchin, then heading south a bit, before heading almost straight back north west towards Harlington, via Emily’s Tea Shop – a nice little cycle-friendly cafe – at Whitwell.

I ended up doing just over 60km, and this was perhaps a stretch. It was my first big ride in a while – save for a couple of rides in the meantime, I hadn’t ridden this sort of distance since France last August.

And thank goodness it wasn’t a particularly hilly route, as I found the last few hills a real struggle. It is heartening to note that the final phase of the ride really did see me climbing and climbing and climbing – albeit not very high. But still. The creaking in my knees in the days following this ride have at least something to blame.

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You can bet I enjoyed that last downhill. Weeeee!

Anyway, wind and ‘hills’ aside, this was a mostly very enjoyable route. I passed a great number of riders – some individuals and a fair few groups. In fact I may have even seen more bikes than cars, which is always nice to see.

There’s something quite reassuring about following a route created and shared by someone else – a hope that it must be reasonably pleasant and doable. If I sat down and programmed my own route, I’d inevitably misjudge a busy junction or completely fail to check the contours and gradients.

I did use Google Maps to navigate the last few KMs back to the station as the Komoot loop would take me instead to a random car park. Ironically, Google led me down some field track bridleways rather than roads, which was a pleasant diversion, but not as easy riding.

I was pretty exhausted by the end of it, but really pleased with my efforts. I may have slightly underestimated how hard a ride of that distance would be, but it’s nice to have that done so that my thoughts can turn to the next route and I am a little more confident of my own potential.

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2020 weeknote 8 – Radio recaps, selling singles, and work woes

A radio recap, first.

Desert Oracle – first the little magazine and now (only?) the radio show and podcast – isn’t something I listen to every time. But occasionally it’ll catch me in a receptive mood and I’ll think an episode was just a downright classic. The recent episode number 79 – These Enchanted Lands – was one such smash. Pretty much just a solid monologue of fascinating and spooky goings-on which is when Desert Oracle is at its best.

Repeats of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again are just what I need some mornings before work, leaving me chuckling away to things that were funny in the 1960s, and the silly songs that still tickle me today. Hearing John Cleese do a sketch where he complains about his wife spending all his money was particularly amusing in how prophetic it was.

It’s nice to be reminded of how excellent and eclectic Radiophrenia was – it was a block of broadcasts of experimental radio and sound art last May, but Resonance Extra continues to replay it at various times, and it’s always a delight to hear a few random snippets of it. I’m not sure if it will be running again this year / in future.

I was also reminded recently that it’s nearly time for Audiograft in Oxford. I went to the event in 2018 (mentioned in this weeknote) and enjoyed some of what I saw, and generally found it all quite interesting and inspiring.

Looking at the programme this year, I see less that grabs my attention, but I can’t decide if that’s because of the way so many of these installation descriptions and synopses are written. Sometimes I just kind of want to know what it is the installation will look or sound like, and sometimes there just aren’t enough words to properly explain that.

Something something dancing about architecture.

Obviously I should just go with an open mind and support a cool festival. I might find something completely unexpected. Will look at trains and suchlike.


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Some daffs – we’ve been on a daffs kick lately, it seems


Work continues to be just a lot at the moment.

I realise that many people work much harder than I do, but circumstances have conspired recently to mean I am currently either directly or indirectly involved with a large amount of stuff and am being called upon to make suggestions and recommendations on things I don’t feel I have the confidence to answer.

There is an end in sight, but it’s currently quite draining. I did have one nice comment from a colleague which came out of the blue and surprised me, which was nice.

This shift in responsibilities also led to me attending an afternoon session on recent updates in charity law which… well. I suppose some of it was vaguely interesting – particularly the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)’s approach to breaches of GDPR and so on. But other elements were at best just not relevant and at worst confusing.

One speaker criticised the Charity Commission on a number of levels before explaining that she felt a fraud case involving approximately £25,000 for a charity with a turnover of c.£10 million probably ought not to be seen as ‘significant’ and so shouldn’t be reported to the Charity Commission as a serious incident.

Which is alarming.

Possibly she just meant what the Charity Commission deemed significant or serious, and she did clarify by saying any incident should be reported, and the Commission can decide whether it’s serious or not.


Sometime last year – I think it was from watching the Glastonbury coverage on the TV – I realised I had a bunch of 7″ singles just sat on shelves which I never play. I saw The Killers performing and remembered I had one of their first singles on vinyl, and quickly wondered how much such an item might fetch, fifteen years on*. And then I wondered what a load of my other records might fetch.

* In fact, it sold for more than £30, which wasn’t a bad start.

About half of the singles I’ve accumulated are things I would consider objects I have collected and feel attached to, whereas the other half I just don’t particularly have a connection to, and I may as well get rid. Some were duplicates of releases I do care about. But overall, they just never get played. I listen to 12″ albums now and again, but singles with one track on each side I just never really listen to.

I set about listing some of these on discogs.com and ever since then I have been selling one or two a month with *touches all the wood* no real issues. I had purchased from Discogs in the past with no issues, so it’s pleasing to find that the other side of the process is just as painless. Discogs also helpfully gives you an indication of the asking price for most releases, based on previous sales.

It’s also been the perfect combination of things for me: I have some niche, weird stuff that I no longer really care about, and Discogs has connected me with buyers who do care about it and would like to pick some of it up. Most are not that valuable. But Discogs has made it easy for me to find a buyer and to transfer it from one home to another where hopefully it might get a bit more love.

It’s nice selling stuff to fans and collectors. In fact, one of my first sales was to someone who hosts an overnight radio show in Estonia, which is just great. They’re exactly who I want buying my old 7″ singles.

I wonder if listing things on ebay might be better for certain items, particularly as, by default, Discogs doesn’t show photos of the item in question, just the metadata associated with it and the grade the seller gives it in their opinion. Ebay would at least allow me to add more photographs and details about my particular copy. But when I remember selling stuff on ebay, it just feels like such an effort. Discogs lets me just upload a bunch of stuff and leave it on sale until someone wants to buy it. Easy peasy.


Not much else to report this week.

I spent a bit of time in the Wayback Machine museum of ye olde interwebs the other day, poring over one particular website that I followed back when I started following websites. It was a personal website slash blog, and the owner seemed to have had it online for only a few years. I have no idea what happened to them after the website went offline, and I often wonder where they are now.

Part of me wants to do some digging and try and find out. Part of me just likes the neat open-and-shut case of it and is happy to leave it as a time capsule I occasionally peer inside. I think I’ll write more about this subject another time when I’ve formulated my thoughts a little better.

This dig into the Wayback Machine also uncovered a version of one of my first websites that I didn’t realise had been mirrored, which was a nice discovery.

I was pleasantly surprised to find I had thought to include a little extra colophonic metadata in the footer, which is something I love to see, and which I must get back into:

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Reader, I still occasionally listen to ‘incubus’ and ‘the living end’.