Open Thinkering


Weeknote 39/2021

Dithered image of Baltic Flour Mills sign (Baltic Art Gallery, Newcastle)

I’m only managing to put time aside to sit down and write this late on Sunday afternoon, which is unusual. With one less adult around Chez Belshaw, this weekend has been a whirlwind of sports, shopping, birthday celebrations, and chores.

I can’t complain, especially as I don’t have to do this solo parenting thing very often or for very long. My wife, Hannah, is down in Devon spending time with her family and attending an NHS Digital team meetup. Our kids are at the ages (14 and 10, respectively) where they’re reasonably independent and helpful, so it’s mostly just a logistical challenge. I think I’ve passed the test so far!

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday, so we surprised him by going out for a meal between my son’s County football trial and his basketball match. We’ve been round at my parents’ today for Sunday dinner, which was nice — and also means two fewer meals for me to cook…

The main non-work hassle this week has been the ongoing saga with Northumbrian Water. In a nutshell, our terrace of houses has a shared back lane. We notified the water company of a leak more than six months ago, and when they came out last week they informed us that it must be on our property. Our insurance company then instructed another company to dig up the ground between the back lane and our kitchen, whereupon they found that the leak was actually outside the boundary of our property. So Northumbrian Water have been back out to replace all of their equipment, but are still registering a tiny leak. This is homeowner hassle I can do without.

Work-wise, I’ve been helping WAO client Julie’s Bicycle with recruitment for a Product Lead position by screening candidates. I wouldn’t want to do it as a job, but I do enjoy talking to people when recruiting as you find all kinds of interesting and awesome people. I’m hoping that they manage to get someone in position soon.

Laura, who’s now away on holiday for two weeks, released the second episode in Season 2 of The Tao of WAO podcast. The focus is on ethical design, and our guest is longtime collaborator and friend Jess Klein. Laura and I recorded a third episode with just the two of us this week, but I need to listen to it back and decide whether we need to have planned it more…

Talking of listening and watching things back, the Northumberland County Council online meeting I’ve been waiting for to speak at turned out to be a washout. On the day of the event, people who had signed up were sent a Zoom link and also told that there would be no opportunity during the meeting to either turn our webcams on or unmute. Power to the people. I’ll watch the recording at some point. Maybe.

Other than the Julie’s Bicycle work, I’ve been working on some stuff with Participate. Our Trello board for the Keep Badges Weird project is public, so anyone can see the awesome designs that Bryan made for KBW badges! I’ve also had a very nice catch-up with a couple of people and attended a Catalyst event marking the end of National Lottery Covid emergency funding. I reckon I’ve been involved in about eight funded Catalyst projects over the last year, most of them through the co-op. Not only have they been impactful for all involved, but I really enjoyed being part of them.

I’ve only written a couple of things this week:

Last week, I don’t think I mentioned that I managed to ‘brick’ my daughter’s Android tablet by trying to update it to Android 11 via LineageOS. To be fair, having done this type of thing many times before, it’s only because Xiaomi do stupid things with permissions around locking the bootloader. I’ve tried a deep flash USB cable; I’ve even tried taking the back off and shorting a couple of pins as mentioned in a random XDA Developers thread.

All was not lost, however, as pretty much the only game my daughter plays with her friends is, of course, Fortnite. As this is very much a multi-platform game, she’s been able to play on the PS4 when my son isn’t on it. But I also had a brainwave on Friday, and realised that the NVIDIA GeForce NOW cloud gaming platform can connect to the Epic Games store. The upshot? She can now play Fortnite on the dining room computer, and she actually prefers it to playing on her tablet. I’ve promised her I’ll consider buying a Nintendo Switch for Christmas (yes, the OLED one, obviously).

While we’re on the topic of games, I decided to buy FIFA 22 via Stadia this weekend. I’ve played every version of FIFA since it came out, and recently have waited until Black Friday each year to purchase it while on sale. This year, however, I’ve enjoyed playing games via Stadia on our fancy TV that I decided to buy it for that platform. Apparently, a lot of PC gamers have switched to Stadia as HyperMotion, is only available on the PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and Stadia.

Next week, my main focus is on making sure I keep all of the balls in the air and the plates spinning. I’ve got the same kind of client work as the previous couple of weeks, but Laura, my main partner in crime, is away. So things are likely to be a bit quieter. And that’s OK.

Image from a photo I took of the Baltic Flour Mills sign on the side of the Baltic Art Gallery, last Sunday.

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