Open Thinkering


Weeknote 36/2021

It’s been back-to-school week in the Belshaw household, meaning a change in routines. In parallel, the weather’s started changing; it’s not cold, but there’s been more wind and rain this week. Happily, this seems to have had an effect on the tomato plants I’m growing up the south-facing wall of my home office — several are turning red!

As a parent, my routine depends heavily on that of our kids, so them returning to school has meant less lying in bed reading Foucault, and more getting up and making sure they’re getting ready on time. The kind of reading that’s perfect for this scenario is the writings of authors like Marcus Aurelius and Baltasar Gracián. I read their works on repeat, along with The Oxford Book of Aphorisms. People can disturb me while I’m reading these without me getting too annoyed!

I shared some of my gleanings on Mastodon, with my favourite being this gem from W.H. Auden:

The image of myself which I try to create in my own mind in order that I may love myself is very different the image which I try to create in the minds of others in order that they may love me.

My (former?) therapist would be having words with me if he read this; wearing a ‘mask’ in our relationships with others is not conducive to good mental health. However, sometimes, in some situations, you’ve got to be what other people expect you to be.

Thankfully, after a reasonably-intense Discovery period over the summer, my wife’s user research role is a bit more chilled-out before the Alpha phase starts next month. I’ve been mainly doing work with and for Julie’s Bicycle with Laura. As she explained in her newsletter this week:

Julie’s Bicycle is a “not-for-profit mobilising the arts and culture to take action on the climate and ecological crisis.” They’re going through a transitional period, and the co-op is working to support them. The work is strategy, digital transformation, leadership development, open methodologies and more. Intense brain stuff. I’m getting to nerd out and do design stuff with Mural and Whimsical, two jazzy tools that are making the thinky thinky stuff easier.

I quote this partly because Laura has a better way with words than I do, and partly because of the mention of Whimsical. It’s an amazing tool that I love using, as does everyone I’ve ever shown it to. This week, I got to talk to their Founder & CEO, Kaspars Dancis, as I sent my CV in application for their Head of Product role. (Since that chat, I’ve withdrawn from the application process as they’ve recently taken outside funding. My previous experience of orgs taking VC money hasn’t been great.)

This week, I felt a real brain / body disconnect, especially when it comes to exercise. I try and do some form of exercise every day, with my usual go-to routine including the gym (arms/legs), running, and swimming. This week, my shoulder was hurting at the gym while doing pull-ups meaning I couldn’t finish my routine. On Wednesday, when I went swimming, I was exhausted after 32 lengths. Then, on Thursday, when I tried to beat my previous record for one of my running routes where I do the same circuit twice, I had to give up after one ‘lap’. My lungs felt like they were going to explode, and my calves were telling me they didn’t want to go any further.

I guess this is the tragedy of getting old: the mind is willing but the flesh is weak? It’s doubly-frustrating as I’ve got a fit, sporty, and competitive fourteen year old snapping at my heels. At some point, I guess, I need to look in the mirror and realise that ‘middle-age spread’ is a thing, my hair isn’t going to get any less grey, and those wrinkles are permanent. But not yet. I will not go gentle into that good night.

I got around to writing up part of a podcast interview with Vinay Gupta: Bright green, blight green, and lean green futures. I also continued publishing microcasts at Thought Shrapnel:

If you only listen to one of these, I’d suggest making it #094 as it also references the above blog post.

Perhaps part of the reason I started from a baseline of being tired this week was my wild camping trip last weekend. It was the first time in my one-person tent somewhere other than my garden. I walked 4.5 hours from my house, found a disused and suitably-private bit of field, and pitched my tent. I was woken a couple of times in the night by some kind of animal sniffing around, but I just stuck in one of my earbuds and turned on a relaxing channel of

I never get an amazing night’s sleep in a tent, but it wasn’t terrible. The added bonus was that I woke up close enough to The Running Fox in Felton that I could spend a couple of hours there having breakfast and reading the paper before my family picked me up in the car.

My wife and I achieved 18 years of marriage on the 6th September, but couldn’t celebrate it on the day as she was heading to London for an NHS 111 team meetup. Instead, we’re going away this Sunday night, trying The Muddler for food and cocktails. It’ll only be the second time we’ve eaten inside at a restaurant this calendar year, and I only stopped eating fish in February. So I’m a little unused to going out for meals being full vegetarian. Looks like I’m going to have to get a liking for tofu…

Next will be pretty much a four-day workweek as we’ll not be back from our trip until Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning is our monthly co-op planning meeting, and then we’re diving into work for Participate. The work we’re doing with Julie’s Bicycle, both the strategy work and the tools-focused stuff we’re doing with Outlandish, will dominate the rest of the week, although I do have some other calls for potential projects. It’s likely that the next phase of a Greenpeace project we’ve been involved in will start soon, so I don’t want to fill my days up just in case!

Dithered image of my stealthy tent in a field somewhere.

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