Friday, 31 December 2021

The year that was, 2021

Good grief. Astonishingly, 2021 was a year that happened. Even better, it ended. As I start writing this post, I am honestly struggling to think of anything I've done this year however long-term readers will know that that is exactly the point of this annual post. I also don't write about work (until I do) which is going to be a big deal this year. So, with that in mind, what HAVE I done this year that isn't all Deep Rock Galactic and Dark Souls 3?

  • 13 posts on this blog (14 including this one) - seventh consecutive year of a post per month
  • another year of the Year in Pictures site - this is the seventh year and we're up to 33 photographers
  • 264 contributions on Github - down on last year, but better than I expected
  • started writing a new D&D setting
  • got back into gaming (including finally understanding the appeal of and completing Dark Souls 3)
  • made a point to read a lot more than 2020 - important since I've lost my train journey reading time
  • did a lot more cooking - both learning and keeping it regular
  • attended a cooking class (and learned about sauces)
  • learned a bit more video editing - made a birthday video for Matt and a tour of my Valheim home
  • increased exercise and felt it actually start to do something
  • made a colour changing potion
  • learned how to use a multimeter
  • bought some lightsabers!
  • finally started building some LEGO
  • upgraded my home network with a UniFi Dream Machine
  • made a book
  • extensive Instagramming
  • loads of photos on my Flickr stream

Resolution count - 6.5/10. It's getting better, but I'm aware I made them easier this year as I was expecting a tough year...

Looking over these, I am once again pretty amazed I got anything done. However I notice most of these kicked in towards the end of the year, when Significant Events happened (more on that later). This could be classic memory bias, but I've spent some time thinking about it and this does seem to be a fair reflection of the year. I really did very little other than work for the first seven or eight months of the year.

So, speaking of work... Every year I say some variation of "this year has been too much about work but next year will change" and every year it gets worse. This year has been no exception - work has been all-consuming in a whole variety of different ways. However, this year I can genuinely say I've made a change. I left my job in the Civil Service. I've written about it before, and I'm sure I will do again so for now I'll note that it was a tremendously emotional decision and I have since realised quite how burnt out I really was. Since then, I've also set up a company (Third Way Digital) for all your digital leadership consulting and engineering needs and have taken my first steps working with a few different places.

And now for 2022. I'll say again (again) that next year will not be all about work. However, if I'm honest, I just don't know. Self-employed consultancy is a whole new game for me and maybe I'll be working really hard all year? Maybe I'll have nothing but time? I'm not sure which I'm hoping for, but a balance would be nice.

Other than work, I think it's time for some changes. We've all been stuck inside, looking inwards and not engaging with each other enough for nearly two years and for me that needs to change. I want to be looking outward this coming year. Whether it's in person, or via video call, I want to be more involved with other people in a healthy and constructive way. If you know me, expect a call.

I also want to be more creative. The last few months of 2021 saw me recovering and starting to indulge in creative projects. I want to keep that going and increase it significantly. I used to do a lot of making and I want to find that space again. I was set a challenge:
"I dreamt that you had built a mechanical light up version of the old school Channel 4 logo, which was on display somewhere, but as I was looking at it and going "omg Tom made this why didn't he tell us?!" a curator knocked it over and it smashed."
Good idea dream-me. However you're making me look bad, so you're going down.

My new year resolutions support these, however more than anything I want to find and restore my sense of wonder. I am naturally a pragmatic cynic, however until this year I've also retained a sense of wonder for the world. This year I think I lost it - or at least misplaced it. However what was lost can be found. That's 2022. From that restores an interest, and a general zest for life.

Let's do this.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

A Christmas PSA

If, like me, you sometimes brave the horrors of the local Waitrose supermarket then you may find yourself stuck behind increasingly long queues of people. While it is lovely being around grumpy people during a pandemic, there is a shortcut to getting out.

You'll need a Waitrose card. Head over to the completely ignored QuickCheck stand then scan out a handset. 20 seconds of scanning your stuff later, you can waltz up to the entirely unused QuickCheck checkouts, scan your handset, pay and head for the door.

If something doesn't scan, you can convert the terminal into a self checkout for that item. Or indeed most of your items if you're really feeling like trolling everyone around you.

Either way, it is much quicker than the queues and leaves you with time to bask in the naked hatred of all those you've just walked straight past. Glorious.

Other supermarkets are also available.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Responsible Building

This has happened before, but it continues to amuse (and scare) me when a decent quote or blog post crosses my desk and when I look up the author it turns out to be me of the past.

Today I was sent a statement about sustainable and responsible building, which I am mostly reproducing here for the sake of posterity:

For me, building responsibly means thinking about the future by making careful and sometimes difficult decisions in the present. What we build today should be simple and documented, because tomorrow we are going to need to understand it. What we build today should be designed well, because tomorrow we are going to need to add features. What we build today should be well tested, because tomorrow we are going to need to modify it with confidence. 

It also applies to our working practices. Are we pushing ourselves to the point of future burnout? Are we building too much, beyond what we can maintain? Are we showing respect for ourselves and those who come after us? Ultimately, are we proud to invite new people into our working environment?

The quote was originally on the Inside GOV.UK blog back in 2017 and comes with a picture of a (sadly much thinner) me looking sweet and naive, before being ground down by The World for four long years.

Would I change anything here? Not much to be honest. The points are foundational rather than hugely challenging. They talk about people, although I would invert the priority these days. The only thing I missed was the environmental impact of any built systems. So good job, past me.

There is also the topic of ethics in software engineering - something I've written lots about, but not posted because I'm struggling to get it down in a coherent way. The original context of the question did not really invite comment in that area, but a more general statement about responsible engineering should definitely discuss whether one should do something, as well as whether one can.

Anyway, this is a short post mostly to capture that quote here.