Week 11: Probable woodcock

  • A big family week, with a few visitors and a Mother’s Day outing. Rowan hit a really nice show-off streak in the middle too, before teething took the wind out of her sails. Teeth are the pits.
  • Monday evening I joined a local ‘father’s circle’, a little event for eating with some random dads and chatting about parenthood. Lots about the setup I quite liked – seven people being open and vulnerable over terrific food. But the casual homophobia and gender essentialism of the… I want to say compere? …was toxic bullshit.
  • If I google ‘soft dads’ I’m not going to get the results I’m hoping for, am I?
  • [some tedious whining about the Bulb/Octopus switchover]
  • Friday was full of workshops and checkins at FT, testing the language for the Product Lifecycle and starting the longlist for the Product playbook. Plenty of typing falling out from those.
  • Rowan’s added some new animal noises to her repertoire. My favourite is the “-ihbit, -ihbit” she does for frog (accompanied by the hopping gesture I use when we read Dear Zoo).
  • Phil, Alice and Russell’s 145th birthday was fabulous. Hope they make it an annual thing.
  • Saw a pair of Mandarin ducks and a woodcock in the park today. Quite the result.

Week 10: Lob balloons

  • A remote all hands for the product folks at FT this week. Useful to run through the project so far, hoping it sets the scene for the product principles and the start of the guidance in a few weeks.
  • Also spent a decent chunk of time with Lindsey reviewing the principles and getting lined up for the next chunk of typing. Took the current draft to JK, the Chief Product and Technology Officer there, and got a couple of good steers on next steps. In all it’s been good to get the ideas poked at this week.
  • On her way home from the childminder Rowan enjoys pointing out planes and the moon. The latter played a blinder this week, bright and round before the snow rolled in.
  • A friend on an MA mentioned I’d been referenced in a paper he was reading. I can only assume it was something Richard did at the Harvard Kennedy School.
  • Amazing weekend with Rowan, who was absolutely buzzing at an older child’s birthday yesterday. Fully zooming off into the crowd to lob balloons around and pick up confetti. She’d been yelling in the turbine hall for the best part of an hour before that.
  • Today got along to Toad Day at the Centre for Wildlife Gardening. Saw my first ever newt! What a time to be alive.

Week 9: Something insightful

  • Tear-free drop-offs were short-lived. Poor little pickle.
  • A couple of presentations at the FT this week, alongside the redrafting. Nice to flex that muscle again; thinking out loud refines my thinking.
  • The more reading around product frameworks I do, the harder I’ve come to side-eye the use of the word ‘bets’ to describe feature development. First off, I can’t help but feel the product itself is the bet, not a small element of it. That lays bare that the language is merely there to add some frisson of excitement to product development, that building a prototype is somehow daring or cavalier. It shouldn’t be a gamble; teams should be learning at a scale appropriate to the risk. That doesn’t mean ‘don’t try new things’, rather ‘be as bold as you like, just learn if you need to back out sooner rather than later, pals’. Last off, I feel like the gambling metaphor’s a bit on-the-nose for the VC-backed context it’s typically used in.
  • Met with Andrew on Thursday. The week after next marks ten years since the beta-release of the Service Standard. Currently the thing I’ve been involved in that’s had the biggest impact, I reckon. Wonder if Andrew or Richard will write something insightful reflecting on that.
  • Side note: the service manual is still in beta. What a weirdly timid thing.
  • Friday was the first day we earned more from electricity generation than we spent. Yes, it was by about 15p, but I can’t help feel that’s good going for a gloomy March day.
  • I realised Saturday morning that when I hear the phrase ‘horses for courses’ I picture dinner plates rather than races.
  • Went to the Natural History Museum on Saturday. Little one loved it, and got thoroughly overstimulated by all the people and colours. Whisked her to lunch before a meltdown (Comptoir Libanais on Exhibition Road is much better than it needs to be). Came home with a cuddly dinosaur puppet.
  • I wonder if she thinks the animatronic T-Rex is alive?

February things

  • Shape Island, AppleTV+ – Wowee, this is a beautiful show. Rowan was captivated from the off (not least because we have Barnett and Klassen’s Circle in her bookshelf). She’s too young for the jokes or the morals of the show to land, but I love that it plays with a range of ambiguous emotions. Big fan.
  • Search Party, Season 1, iPlayer – Enjoying this. Well, often cringing at this. But having fun watching this play out. It’s a slow-burn for us (watching in the evenings, after Ro’s asleep) but I’ve heard people say good things about it for years and am enjoying finally getting to see it.
  • Dopamine Land – This is the first of the instagrammable art/installation/experience things I’ve gotten along to that isn’t tied to, say, Christmas or a walk outdoors. Took Ann’s niece and nephew along as a Christmas present and it was a delightful trip. Rowan loved the room full of ‘trees’. In fact, Rowan loved just about the whole thing, which was a surprise given that it was a space flip-flopping between different kinds of big sensory triggers. I’d say going in with children is probably the best way to experience it, but going through drunk probably works too.
  • Gilesrecent blogging – Thinking and working in the open, now blending with contributing resources in the open. I’m so consistently impressed by Giles work, and am ending this month a bit inspired by him too. I want to reach towards that attitude to working.
  • The Red Hand files, Nick Cave’s mailing list – Etienne put me onto this… a year or so ago? Maybe longer? But it’s one of the few things that pop into my inbox I’ll prioritise reading. A very direct connection to the thinking, anecdotes, posturing and creativity of a pretty renowned musician. Feels like something from an older internet, one I never really used.
  • Richard E Grant’s episode of Off Menu – I tried resubscribing to Off Menu and I found listening a real slog: every guest seemed swamped in the ‘bantz’ and I just felt cold. But this episode from last year was terrific. Such a warm guest, who embraced the boisterousness of the format without being lost in it. I was totally charmed.
  • Shrinking and Hello Tomorrow!, AppleTV+ – Both are absolutely fine television. Neither feels like they’ve landed exactly what the tone ought to be. It’s nice to just watch things, sometimes.

Week 8: Walk in

  • Pancake week. Tuesday’s crêpes were pretty pretty bad, but Sunday I made some chunkier ones with orange zest that absolutely rocked.
  • Friday I had a morning meeting at the FT. I decided to walk in. It’s just shy of 7 miles from home. It was a grey morning, chilly but not drizzly. Figured I’d get breakfast along the way, try and bump into some green spaces and otherwise just put some miles in, something I haven’t done for months (except to facilitate Ro’s naps).
  • I made for Peckham, on the assumption I’d find a coffee shop open there early enough for me. The view from the hills was lovely, and made for a miserable cameraphone photo. Peckham common was interesting though: I hadn’t thought of it as ‘marshy’ before, but with the hills leading to it I wasn’t surprised how many sumpy bits I could see through the fence. Old Spike was about the only place open before 8. Given I’m almost entirely a decaf drinker now ordering a filter was a roll of the dice. It tasted a bit… burnt? And strong. I developed a teeny caffeine tremor over the next hour.
  • I crossed at Southwark Bridge. I’d just kinda assumed I was heading for London Bridge, so the view was a lovely surprise. Tide was ebbing, but the sun came out full blast and bounced off all the office blocks and the sulky river. Overshot at the end and found myself at a not-quite-liquidated Paperchase. Three notebooks later I looped back to The Wren and got breakfast.
  • The meeting went really well.
  • Got a game of Warcry in at Bad Moon. Also finished my first painted model of the year. Not a bad hobby week, all-in.

Week 7: Lone snowdrop

  • A lone snowdrop has popped out.
  • Some daffs followed later in the week, but a fox stomped them before I got a pic. More are coming though. The ones in the back seem almost neon, but I think that’s because of the contrast to the grasses.
  • Lots more typing this week, building on feedback to the draft principles at FT. Also started out on the other guidance docs. I have nothing smart or insightful to say about typing time. Sometimes there’s a flow, sometimes I just have to get bullets down to take ideas out of my head. Last week was a mix of both.
  • Took the little one to see The Highway Rat at the cinema on Wednesday. I spent most of the 20minute runtime chasing her around the aisles on my hands and knees. Loved it.
  • Thursday night was our first bedtime without Ann around this year. I was nervous because it’s been ages, but it was a delight. I felt so present, and we both enjoyed chomping paneer, reading stories and watching In The Night Garden… the whole evening genuinely felt like a treat.
  • One lunch I walked past a little cluster of ashes and rubbish from a tiny fire on a verge. The only recognisable objects were half a tennis ball and a part-melted Cliff Richard DVD. I’ve decided the fire was started by an upset youth who’d just received a letter from the All England Lawn Tennis Club, rejecting their application to be a ball kid. If you have an alternative explanation, write in.

Week 6: Heavy colds

  • We had a wee family holiday in the New Forest. Gorgeous, crisp weather. Plentiful wildlife. Hotel with a pool. Really lovely.
  • As is tradition, Ro and I instantly came out in heavy colds.
  • A short week at FT, getting a set of draft Product Principles into shape. Coming back from the weekend away the weaknesses in v1 were all pretty loud. With Lindsey’s guidance I moved through versions 2-4 fast on Thursday and Friday. It now says a lot more with far fewer words.
  • Got solar panels installed at the end of the week (8 on the roof, with a battery). I’m sure I’ll spend an hour or so obsessing over the leccy bill at the end of the month. And the next few, probably. But that’ll pass, and then it’s just how the kettle works.
  • The folks who installed them insisted on referring to the roof as ‘upstairs’.
  • We’re still negotiating the two-nap/one-nap boundary. Weird just how much it upends the day. We structured huge chunks of the last six months around those two naps. Dropping to one nap… in some ways it’s liberating. But my brain is also telling me “With two naps you had the chance to ‘Go to’ and ‘Come back from’ places. Now you can only ‘Go to’ places. How will you ever get home? Will you have to stay overnight at Westfield?”
  • The cold persists

Week 5: Nine generations

  • First tear-free drop-off for Rowan. SHE’S ALL GROWED UP etc etc
  • (I’m willing to make jokes about her going to university, but not yet ready to refer to her as a toddler instead of a baby.)
  • Worked from Bracken House at the top of the week. I was shocked how quiet it was in town. Apparently this is how Mondays and Fridays are now.
  • A couple of days at Mum’s to close out the week. Got Ro some shoes from the shop I used to go as a kid, and where Mum used to go as a kid, and (probably) where Grandad used to go as a kid. The shop’s been run by the same family for nine generations. I think it’s probably the only place I’ve shopped in my life with any kind of heritage.
  • I’ve come to the conclusion that Rick Rubin’s PR team have set up an ARG for his new book, and that I’m the target audience.

January things

  • Trying this for films, books, telly, art, podcasts and whatever else I want to track outside of weeknotes
  • Atlanta, seasons 3 & 4, Disney+ – Still mulling on this one. It’s strange to watch this many episodes of a prestige show in 2022/3 and come out the other side noting that none of the characters grew or changed all that much. It’s just been about seeing these people negotiate their (trippy, low-key magical) lives. Most of the time that’s been plenty excellent, but I zoned out a few times when the a-plot didn’t hook me. Stand-outs were ‘New Jazz’, ‘The Homeliest Little Horse’ (largely for the punchline), ‘Andrew Wyeth. Alfred’s World)’ (maaaaan I’ve loved watching Brian Tyree Henry) and ‘It Was All A Dream’ (some beautiful moments for LaKeith Stanfield). That finale maybe best sums up the arc of the show: these people are moving towards calm, but there’s a lot of chaos to wade through to get there.
  • Harley Quinn, season 3, All 4 – So, when I read superhero comics it was mostly the Gotham-centred stuff, and I grew up watching the Animated Series. I point that out because I have absolutely no idea if this show would be any good for anyone who didn’t have those touchstones. The jokes skewer tropes I’m steeped in and the animation is deliberately stoking nostalgia for the old “dark deco” toons. That said, I think ‘Batman Begins Forever’ is an outstanding way to lampoon the looping origin story all superheroes are stuck in – the MCU would be a lot smaller if any one of The Avengers started recommending therapy to their friends.
  • Jeremy Healy’s ‘Escape to the 80s’ mix for 6music – Listened to this in the early hours of a bleak Thursday morning and it lit the house up. Definitely entering my ‘kitchen disco’ era.
  • Broken Spectre, Richard Mosse, 180 The Strand – Big video art. The documentary aspect of this pulled me in much deeper than the juxtapositions. Than the art of it, essentially. Basically, I could have done without the microscope footage and a bunch of the effects. I left it feeling pretty heavy, having moved through anger and outrage into the leaden helplessness that so much about the climate crisis leaves me with.
  • ‘Sunrise, Sunset’, What We Do In The Shadows s4 e10, Disney+ – Didn’t really enjoy this season to be honest, but it was a surprisingly emotive finale. Anything going for a ‘they grow up so fast’ hook will probably hit pretty hard at the minute.
  • Causeway, Apple TV+ – mainly watched this for Brian Tyree Henry, but I thought Jennifer Lawrence was great on this too. I was taken with this, but it’s tough to recommend… it’s pretty predictable, and more like a play than a film. But the tone felt great; soft and cold at the same time. Bonus points for being sub-two hours.
  • Our Flag Means Death, iPlayer – downright corny, occasionally funny. Fine, really. I’ll keep watching because I love that cast.
  • Reservation Dogs, season 2, Disney+ – unambiguous love for this show. The young leads got more room to play out their internal conflicts, and it felt like a less distracted season than the first. Willie Jack’s focus episode (“Offerings”) was my favourite – I think it hit the sweet spot in showing the presence of ancestors in the lives of folks on the Res. I love that connection to the ethereal comes with age in this show. I’ve grown up in a storytelling culture that repeatedly shows ‘engaging with intangible things’ as a childish thing to be left behind. Even Discworld’s meta-story is about the death of fantasy in the face of capitalism and industrial exploitation. This says different; only with maturity can you connect to the ghosts of the past.
  • Shortcuts, ‘Fatherhood’, BBC Sounds – for which I’m the target demographic. Jodie’s intro resonated hard, as did both of the feature stories. Related: dads are shit at talking about fatherhood! I am, in a lot of circumstances, also shit at it.
  • Song Exploder, ‘The Commander Thinks Aloud’ – reached the end of my podcasts and went back to this old favourite from 2015 (Henry recommended the episode shortly after release). This episode stands out for a couple of reasons. The song’s strength is one for me. I think it’s emotionally resonant, and clearly a lot of thought went into how that resonance actually transmits in the track. The second is the description of how the drummer Matt Chamberlain transformed the track. A proper display of expertise, well told. (Fair warning, John Roderick since went viral as ‘Bean Dad’… and turns out to be Not Good)

Week 4: Decaf coffee directory

  • First week at the FT. An eight week project with Product to kickstart some guidance for Product Managers. The format’s still emerging, and should take shape over the next few days.
  • Got a potted history of the FT teams from Alice on Thursday, after which I felt the most ‘I know Kung Fu’ I’ve felt in a long time.
  • (In other ‘former colleague’ notes… I never expected to picture Liam Maxwell as a low-grade Jack Ryan, but that’s the image the LA Times article about Amazon’s extraction of Ukraine’s data stores gave me.)
  • Wren, around the corner from Bracken House, does a great decaf. I feel like there should be a decaf coffee directory, listing places that don’t just have a stale tub of the stuff they eke out over months.
  • In Rowan news, she started “singing” along to the tune of one of her toys this week.
  • Also! Ann and I were discussing a friend behaving like a bad baby while Rowan was toddling about in the kitchen. On hearing this, Ro wandered out into the living room, got The Elephant and the Bad Baby out of the bookshelf, and brought it to me to read to her. This was both extremely cute (!) and a stark reminder she understands (some of) what we’re saying.
  • Plenty of interesting things in the GW preview at the Las Vegas Open, none of which I want to buy. A great outcome all round!