Week notes: shiny metal balls

This week, I have had a cold. Some of the symptoms of a cold are also symptoms of hayfever, so it’s impossible to tell what’s what, but, either way, woe unto me.

One of my bicycle pedals has been unedifyingly stiff for a while. This week, I finally decided to act: removed the dust cap with some difficulty, took the thing apart, discovered the whole amazing world of ball bearings and grease inside, cleaned and inspected the shiny metal balls, smeared new grease in the relevant places, put it back together. I’m trying to convince myself that the pedal now spins with a glorious efficiency, putting its mate the other pedal on the bike to shame, but there’s a lingering doubt that it’s changed at all.

I haven’t been watching The Looming Tower, but I understand that it’s good, and I’ve been in the same room as a television showing it. The characters keep taking about “the bureau”, and all I can think of is “I’m closing the bureau… for an hour.”

The disgraced magazine Businessweek had an interview with the chief of WeWork, one of the bellwethers of the next economic crisis. I haven’t read it, but some people on Twitter poked fun at bloke’s highfalutin language:

at WeWork it's not profit, its "community-adjusted Ebitda." And it's not breakfast its "breaking my fast" https://t.co/ZWOA4YKGgI pic.twitter.com/MgkBD4oEnI

— Max Chafkin (@chafkin) 15 May 2019

But is that that alternative to the word “breakfast” really that bad? It does smell a bit like “methinks” – yuck – but really? Maybe it’s a Britishism. Wiktionary has some examples from Walter Scott and George Bernard Shaw. But I suppose neither of them used “community-adjusted EBITDA”.

Week notes

The “volume up” button on my information pad stopped working. Given the recklessness of watching TV in the bath, it was bound to happen sooner or later. It died doing what it loved – increasing the volume. In fact, on the final day it started doing so unbidden, so I’m relieved that the eventual failure mode was inertia, not perpetually increasing the volume. Now I can still adjust the volume – by touching the screen – which is a bit “like an animal”, but I can be a grown-up and cope with the inconvenience.

Not much litter around the territory lately. Perhaps it’s hidden by the newly vigorous growth of vegetation, or perhaps it supports the “broken windows theory” – that visible signs of “crime” encourage more crime, and ergo a lack of visible signs of fly-tipping, for example, discourages fly-tipping. Speaking of visible signs, instead I scraped a thick layer of dirt from a road sign, and propped up another that was resting face-down in some grass – perhaps that’s what I do now.

I did some work. Performance enhancements. How satisfying. Datadog fantastically useful.

Week notes: 100 miles

“The quantified self” is shit, but still I take a keen interest in, mostly, how far and fast I’ve ridden my bicycle. The noted truck simulator driver Limmy this week flirted with the idea of bicycling 100 miles per week, before bottling it and downgrading it to 10 miles per weekday. Pfft! This week, not including some “utility cycling” when I forgot to twiddle with my silly digital watch to make it record the activity, I rode for 100 miles. Last year, it seems this was a regular occurrence, but it’s the most prolific week I’ve recorded so far this year.

Caring about this stuff is somehow acceptable, but there are some things I’m diametrically opposed to. Riding a stationary, indoor “exercise bike”, for example (even though I tried it once and it was a bit fun).

The Trashfuture podcast is slightly irritating, and sometimes has inconsequential inaccuracies about things like the name of a tinned pie brand or the details of concessionary travel passes in Kent, but I was pleased that one of the targets of their lampooning this week was an company that makes a deluxe internet-connected stationary bicycle.

There are some particularly weird things about the Peloton Interactive, Inc – they’re highly valued, and one of their key innovations is offering interest-free loans – but I’m just unreasonably irked by anything like a big hamster wheel. It’s far better to be outside, in the rain, inhaling hydrocarbon fumes, maybe incorporating some other economic activity. For example, my bicycling this week meant I got to eat a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich and see a steam train.

Living my best life.

Some local elections happened. In voting for local councillor, it’s difficult to say anything very nuanced about breakfast or anything. According to local press, our victorious local candidate’s top priority is preventing the erection of mobile phone masts, whereas the chap I voted for thinks affordable housing is more important. (Get you a man that can do both!) But apparently I was sending a message about breakfast. Ugh.

Week notes

This week, I have dealt with a backlog of emails. By “dealt with”, I sometimes mean “deleted” or “archived”, not “replied to”. I didn’t use to understand the plight of people who get lots of emails, but now I do. I don’t even get that many emails, but, now that the novelty of getting emails has worn off, it’s so easy to let the backlog pile up.

For various reasons, some of the emails are like, “What times are the buses on Easter Sunday?” Over the years, I’ve tried to refine the main source of emails to discourage certain kinds of email I usually can’t answer satisfactorily, but not enough to discourage some. Now, I don’t hold much truck with the idea of a “guilty pleasure” – stop being guilty about what gives you pleasure! – but realising “oh dear, I didn’t reply to this email in time” and binning it is some arsehole behaviour I’m guilty of.

Meanwhile, I have sent some emails to some people, and I’m slightly agitated that I haven’t had a reply yet.

Some people have observed something about YouTube’s “recommendations” feature: “How YouTube Built a Radicalization Machine for the Far-Right”, “YouTube Is Full of Easy-to-Find Neo-Nazi Propaganda”, “However extreme your views, you’re never hardcore enough for YouTube”. I, too, found that after I watched a wholesome and right-on video, something of the ilk of a the constipated lobster guy would auto-play afterwards.

Then I discovered a slightly hidden button labelled “Not interested”.

The eagle eyed will notice that the “Not interested” button there is attached to a lovely compilation of Bob Mortimer’s appearances on the televised parlour game Would I Lie To You?, in which I am not not interested. I couldn’t find any examples of actual Nazis for the screenshot, because one small nudge was all it took for the mighty algorithm to buck its ideas up and stop trying to radicalise me.

Now some of the recommended videos now have titles conforming to an irritating formula, like “David Mitchell HATES the Fondue!!”. Still, it’s all very jolly, and I didn’t even get to the bit with David Mitchell or the fondue.

Week notes: Thurrock


This week, for various reasons, I spent two nights in a liminal small town/large village in Thurrock. My reason for visiting was a short meeting on one of the many industrial estates – hardly befitting such a long stay – and there’s only so much psychogeographic walking past margarine factories one can do, so I spent some of a day in London, where I rode on one of Lime’s electric bicycles – much recommended – and some buses – very on-brand.

Later, back in my lodgings in Thurrock, I realised I’d squandered a golden opportunity to experience Hammersmith Bridge – which is closed to motor vehicles – and to rebel against extinction. Oh well.

In the latest Adam Buxton Podcast episode (recorded last year but released this week), David Mitchell suggests that one obstacle to environmental campaigners being taken seriously is that some of the campaigners are luddites who would be opposed to private transport, etc even if they weren’t environmentally damaging. I feel like that’s just the sort of opinion columnists like Mitchell have to make up to a deadline for an amusing column in the Observer, but let’s pretend to make it seriously for a moment.

In a typical article, the purple-faced Telegraph writes: “But while [ace exponent of the Extinction Rebellion movement] Mr Boardman-Pattinson rallies against climate change, he has taken at least three skiing holidays in recent years, and has posed for photographs in front of the leaning tower of Pisa. He was unavailable for comment.” If David Mitchell is correct, the fact that Boardman-Pattinson has been an enthusiast of air travel means his concern about imminent disaster should be taken more seriously: he’d love to be on another aeroplane to Pisa, but instead he’s campaigning, just because he’s rightly alarmed that we’re doomed and governments aren’t doing much about it.

On the way home, I enjoyed an episode of 99% Invisible – which, foolishly, I’ve not listened to much before – which reminded me a bit of something I covered here once. Apparently the episode was a “crossover” with the critically acclaimed Reply All, which evidently is another podcast I ought to enjoy.

Week notes

What happened this week?

I’ve been avoiding the ongoing news shitshow to a some extent. To be precise, to such an extent that it took me until this week to start worrying that my hair might look a bit like a mixture of that of some dishonourable scrotes – Martin or Hoey, I’m thinking of. This week, the penny dropped, so I cut my hair – my own hair, myself, using an electric thingie.

Now my head is more aerodynamic. Maybe there are some tufts around the back, but it would be impossible to tell without rigging up a system of mirrors, and “out of sight, out of mind”. None of the people who’ve stood behind me have mentioned any tufts, and I’m sure they weren’t just being polite.

I’d said “avoiding”, but I made an exception for Giles Wemmbley Hogg Goes Off… Article 50, my cultural highlight of the week. It’s OK.

I did some bits of work. One of the bits was trying to draw more accurately wiggly maps of bus routes, after some surly complaints about the current jaggedy ones. There’s a handy tool I started to use to match thinly dispersed coordinates to roads, but it smartassedly avoids bus lanes – with only law-abiding motor cars in mind – which is the opposite of what I want to do. So I’ll have to try something else. Cool story.

Week notes: dust

I appear to be writing these week notes every eight days. And why not? By the way, the events of “this week so far” are off limits, and from now on by “this week” I mean what most people would call “last week”. It’s definitely a solid idea, and definitely not going to end with me struggling to remember the events of increasingly long-ago weeks.

Like a microcosm of the “review of the year” content content producers produce around the ends of years – most of which is necessarily finished before the end of the year being reviewed – a lot of online people publish their week notes before the end of the week. I confess that I was among them two weeks ago. It irks me slightly – what if something important happens just before the end of the period of time? But people act as if it doesn’t really matter.

My other concern is that reviews of the year or week might focus unfairly on the most recent portion of the year or week, as its events are fresher in the memory. A solution to that would be to write notes gradually, over the course of the year or week. I would rather act as if it doesn’t really matter.

The most compelling notes of any week are bound to involve the rubbish I’ve found dumped at the side of the road. This week, I made the unprecedented find of a discarded bottle of Huel (“hipster gruel”), the nutritional powdered food some are calling the British Soylent. I suppose it follows that a consumer attracted to the convenience of Huel is also too busy to locate a bin. But does the product’s appearance on my local grass verge indicate a mainstreamification of meal replacement dust, a gentrification of the neighbourhood, or both?

I mustn’t be the first to observe that “Huel” sounds a bit like the sound of being sick. Soylent, meanwhile, really is named after the fictional Soylent Green, which was made out of fictional people. I remember enjoying the theory that Soylent was part of an unconventional marketing campaign for an upcoming Soylent Green film remake, but that theory has been discredited and there’s no sign of that film.

I did some work. There were some nice tweets about my work. I’m sure I’ll do some more work next week (this week).

Week notes: week notes

Week notes are a thing I do now. I have enjoyed reading the week notes of a small number of strangers on the internet, mostly published on their own IndieWeb sites, and why shouldn’t I join in?

Last week, the process of reflection made me realise I’d managed to do a pleasing amount of work – a valuable process. This week, I appear to have done less – which is healthy too. I have done some other things.

I took some photographs. They were better than last week’s. Great!

I picked up some rubbish from off of the sides of some roads. Like, I’m fond of saying, a pound shop David Sedaris, or Ian McMillan. Those BBC radio stalwarts use special equipment – “grabbers” – but I’m not that serious yet. I do recommend rubber gloves1, and a basket to which is attached a bicycle, and a plastic bag clipped on with clothes pegs. Sunday was a particular purple patch: the strangest item for a few days (a ¾ full box of croissants) dumped near a ford, and then I finally captured my white whale (a lager tin that had taunted me for weeks, embedded in a hedge) using a large twig.

It reminds me a bit of the postmodern Stone Clearing With Richard Herring, which is not my cultural highlight of the week, but remains a podcast in the list of podcasts I listen to. Gathering litter is only slightly more worthwhile than Herring’s hobby of the ancient art of moving stones from a field to its perimeter. Rampant capitalism and air pollution are more serious than fly-tipped food and drink packaging.

I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’ve been encouraged by the Daily Mail–backed “Great British Spring Clean” campaign, which is at least not as bad as 2016’s “Clean for The Queen” (ugh).

  1. Disappointingly, the Co-op’s fairly traded rubber gloves are much worse than the Marigold brand. 

Week notes: Bono's house

This week, it has been mostly windy. Still, I managed a to ride on a bicycle two decent distances without being blown into a hedge. Maybe it’s at times like this that the memory of sailing lessons – tacking and jibing, etc – comes in useful.

I went past Bono’s house.

Blickling Hall

Photographing buses and coaches in rural places is an endless source of fun, but the results were all rubbish this week. Oh well. My excuse is that it’s hard to stand up and hold a camera straight in high winds.

I managed to do some work. Here’s a bug I thought would be intereresting to write about here, but quickly realised wouldn’t. Sometimes I need to make the computer calculate the bearing/heading/direction of a bus, to make the little arrow on the big map point in that direction. I do so with some trigonometry I copied and pasted from somewhere, and it works – but recently sometimes it hasn’t been. In a half-awake state this morning, it dawned on me why not: sometimes it’s calculating the angle between two identical pairs of coordinates, because somewhere I’m making the computer compare a string representation of a datetime with a datetime, and they’re never equal. A classic mistake. Cool story, bro.

My cultural highlight of the week is the stylish thriller Deutschland 86. So far, it is stylish and thrilling. It reminds me I can’t remember much of Deutschland 83 now, but does that matter? I don’t think it matters.

January and February 2019