Festive fortnight notes: 18-31 December 2023

Steady on, a winter stroll, complications.

Hello! Last notes of the year, covering two more of my 4,000 weeks

Contrary to Twixtmas banalities I know exactly what day it is and when my bins are being collected, and resent the tendency of adverts and radio DJs to reduce us all to such pull-string phrases! See also audience clap-alongs, under any circumstances. Resist the herd mentality! Happy New Year, unique humans! 

Slow fade, flashing, steady on

There were two work days before I stopped for Christmas. My energy by that point was like a string of fairy lights on ‘slow fade’, desperate to cycle through to ‘steady on’ festive mode. But I had three meaty things still to do – a budget setting meeting, a video call with a Board member, and finally a reception at 10 Downing Street co-hosted by the PM and BFI to celebrate UK filmmaking creativity. 

The Number 10 shindig was amazing and a privilege to attend, but I was too tired to enjoy it tbh. I really stumbled over the finish line this year. But I did my bit, chatting to several industry and film body peeps, and got a new photo outside the big black door – 20 years since my first so I blogged all my Downing Street door pics here.

Must relax and do all the things!

I took a while to switch off, starting the holidays with a to-do list oriented approach to relaxing, Christmas prep and packing for 3 days up north from Boxing Day.

Joy gave me this “A Winter Stroll” Jigsaw which helped force a change of pace. It’s still dominating the dining table, about two thirds done – it’s hard! But meditative. I got quite into jigsaws during lockdown because they work better for me than actual meditating, which I struggle to do effectively given the whole no pictures in my head thing. 

I fully got my chill on by Christmas Eve and Day, which we spent at home, just the four of us, with burgers as our main meal and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy (both Joel’s excellent ideas). I had a massive laughing fit on Christmas Eve while playing the names-on-heads game – the kind of laugh where you’re not sure how you’re getting any oxygen. Happy times. 

Holy Pixel trinity

My main present was a Pixel Watch 2, completing the trinity of Pixel phone, earbuds and smartwatch. I absolutely love it – it’s great-looking, comfortable, and I’m digging the convenience of notifications, Google Assistant, payments and navigation on my wrist. 

The onboarding leaves a bit to be desired though – in particular the messy co-existence of Fitbit (which Google bought in 2021 and bundled into Watch) versus their in-house Google Fit. Spent a lot of time in baffling Reddit threads and am none the wiser. Seems like Google don’t even know how they plan to rationalise the two, and their hands are legally tied for a decade. Fair enough, but holy shit it’s confusing and there are really useful features in each that are missing in the other. I’m figuring it out. 

There’s also some messiness from the recent split of Tasks from Calendar – which means you get notified twice on Watch 2 (by both apps) for every task. Am hopeful these niggles will get ironed out in future software releases.

Regardless, I love it – the many cool things about it far outweigh its “complications” – which, to my amusement, is the actual name for little configurable widgets on the watch face.

Other stuff

We met a very friendly pig at the farm cottage we stayed in in Lancashire (this post’s featured image).

I bought a ticket for Interesting 2024 – excited to go for the first time. 

I published the third in my series of Crystal Palace shop reviews

I ranked and published my top films, TV and games of 2023.

I don’t go in much for resolutions – not very agile are they? Restarting this blog was far from my mind this time last year but here we are, one of my biggest life changes in 2023. Nor was helping Joel get fixed up after badly breaking his arm in March, which was a major focus of the year. There’s a lot to be said for just wishing for the ordinary bliss of things being mostly OK. 

But, boring and clichéd as it is, I do intend to focus on my health and fitness a bit more in ‘24, with a more (but not solely) plant-based and cholesterol-reducing diet, more movement (supported by the new watch) and get closer to my ideal BMI. As soon as these Christmas snacks run out, that is.

Found/interesting

Steph is reviving his personal blog – excellent. It really, really does feel like old times. 

Via Steph’s now page, pleased to see he and Matt Jukes are evolving Matt’s brilliant public sector digital jobs newsletter into a proper jobs board 

Things I don’t have to do – nice, a bit like the It’s OK poster.

This analogue productivity system looks heavenly. Via Matt Mullenweg (who has too much in his bag) via Dave. But it also reminds me of the Memo Minder in Risky Business.

Belatedly read this excellent post by Martin Lugton on his thoughts for government as a platform. Lots to like here – the clarity of writing, the sharing of emerging thinking, the quality of the ideas themselves. I don’t see why it couldn’t be on the main GDS blog though. Suggests something a little amiss there with GDS’s internal politics or comms strategy. 

This is a nice piece in Rolling Stone…

“Across today’s internet, the stores that deliver all the apps on our phones are cracking open, the walls between social media platforms are coming down as the old networks fail, the headlong rush towards AI is making our search engines and work apps weirder (and often worse!). But amidst it all, the human web, the one made by regular people, is resurgent. We are about to see the biggest reshuffling of power on the internet in 25 years, in a way that most of the internet’s current users have never seen before.”

The Internet is about to get weird again

Knowledge under attack – the British Library’s CEO on their ransomware hack

What could 2024 look like for councils wonders Noel Hatch

Nudging along the government DDaT Product Management career framework – more goodness from Tom Dolan

This 100 tiny changes to transform your life “new year new me” post from the Guardian is actually full of things I might want to do

My.old job in Croydon was advertised with a short window after 2 years being covered on day rate. By the time I left (through merger of senior posts) the Chief Digital Officer title had morphed into Director of Digital and Resident Access. Now it’s “Director of Cusotmer Expereience and Technology” according to the info pack filename, which gives a sense of the internal challenges. I wish luck to whoever gets it (probably the incumbent interim) and hope in spite of budget challenges that digital and tech transformation will continue!

Stefan Czerniawski came up with a fun game [BlueSky link] guessing GOV.UK pages from their related links. That algo might need some work! 

Reading, playing, watching, listening

Mark Kermode in 3D at the BFI (excellent guests including Iain McKellen and Jason Isaacs) and the latest Kermode and Mayo’s Take podcast – which had a nice shoutout for BFI’s SCALA!!! Season

Macbeth at the Donmar starring David Tennant and Cush Jumbo, who were both excellent and I got a lot out of seeing this, having not seen a production for many years. It involved wearing headphones throughout for immersive sound, which sounded like a cool innovation but took more away than it added. 

Unbelievable magic show written and directed by Derren Brown but featuring hired actors. Was unbelievably bad and old hat, plus much audience participation and clap-alongs (ugh!)

Finally got around to reading The Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang – which the film Arrival is based on. Incredible! Intending to now read all the other stories in this collection. 

Listened to Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish’s Christmas podcast, as we always do. Felt it was missing more of a real conversation between these two old friends – was a bit too heavy on the format points and black squadron fan service. But Joe was funny and it was a decent listen on the motorway.

Film wise, it was all about the LOTR trilogy (extended editions) which remain incredible. Plus rewatches of Attack the Block, There Will Be Blood and Life (fun SF with Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Furguson and Ryan Reynolds).  I also saw Anatomy of a Fall and Godzilla Minus One – both absolutely top notch.

Video games: Broken Sword 5 (for snacking and nostalgia purposes), The Wild at Heart, and continuing to make progress on FF7 Remake.

Distractions 

Cut your vent stitches [TikTok]

Hope someone has optioned this news story [Guardian]

20 words, 20 seconds (via WebCurios)

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